January 2009, European Historical Romance (1820s England)
Avon, $5.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061667870
I usually find Margo Maguire to be a steady and reliable writer, though it's been a couple of years since I read her. However, I found Wild, which read like a cross between Tarzan and Pygmalion, to be a disappointment.
Anthony Maddox is the long-lost Earl of Sutton - lost when his slimy cousin pushed him overboard into a raging river while they were on a safari in Africa. His father, the Earl of Sutton, remained in Africa looking for Anthony for months, only to finally give up and return to England to die of grief. Meanwhile, Anthony grew up in Africa. Twenty-two years have passed and Anthony is now forcibly moved to England by reward-seekers and deposited at his ecstatic grandmother's estate. However, he is a bit wild and needs some civilizing before he can appear before the committee which will decide if he truly is the earl. Anthony needs a tutor!
Enter Grace Hawthorne, young companion to the dowager countess, who is charged to bring Anthony up to snuff in secret, for Lady Sutton doesn't want word of her grandson's presence to get out until he can be presented. Grace and an old family retainer are the only ones she trusts. Of course, this puts Grace and Anthony in many compromising positions and both are soon head over heels in lust.
And this is one of my problems with the book. The lust-think is rampant (though it's not the only thing that's rampant), to the detriment of other aspects of the story. I would have liked to have learned more about how Anthony survived on his own for all those years and seen more of the civilizing lessons. As it is, the details of Anthony's time in Africa are sparse and hazy and the lessons consist mostly of Grace handing down pronouncements of "that is not proper behavior." Grace doesn't cut him much slack for having been away from "civilization" for 22 years, but on the other hand, Anthony was 11 years old when he was lost, not three, so he shouldn't have forgotten everything, one would think.
There were some affecting scenes with Anthony reuniting with childhood friends and learning that his father hadn't abandoned him as he'd always thought, but Grace was a problem throughout, haughty and disdainful of the "savage" for far too long. Her approach-avoidance dance with Anthony was annoying, but then Anthony, who is determined to have Grace even though he fully intends to return to the Congo (and his tree house) after he's killed his cousin, doesn't win any prizes for great hero material either.
I am hoping that this book is just a hitch in Maguire's writing, but adding my grade for Wild with her last two books (which received grades of C- and D+ here at AAR after a string of B's), I'm concerned.
-- Cheryl Sneed
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