A Little Bit Wild

Victoria Dahl
August 2010, European Historical Romance (1847 England)
Zebra, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 1420104837

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

A Little Bit Wild is truly a conundrum. The writing is solid, the story kept me turning the pages, and the characters, for the most part, are well written. But, my gosh, the heroine must be one of the most TSTL women I have ever come across. The poor hero gets the extremely short end of the stick with Miss Marissa York, whose raging horniness supersedes every rational bone in her body.

We meet Marissa under a man named Mr. White, impatiently waiting for him to finish his…business. Her brother barges in on them, and demands that the two marry, a prospect that leaves Mr. White very happy (he is in love with her), and Marissa less enthused. Because Marissa was plain old drunk at the time, bored, and more than a little curious about sex, she decided that White’s elegant thighs would do the trick and began to do some sexual reconnoitering. She has no intention of marrying him, especially now that she knows he’s terrible in bed.

Her brother Edward is adamant, and drags his friend Jude Bertrand into the picture. The acknowledged but natural son of a Duke and a French courtesan, he agrees to marry Marissa. Why? Because he’s met her a few times before, likes her wicked, wild streak, and figures he might as well marry a good and wicked woman. He is not elegant and beautiful, and Marissa doesn’t like his appearance at all. Eventually, she realizes that just because he’s “ugly” doesn’t mean that he can’t turn her on, and she slowly comes to agree that marriage to him may not be so bad after all.

To say the least, Marissa is not likeable. Being unapologetically lusty is bizarre enough, but being an idiotic drunk who takes little responsibility for her actions is inexcusable. Double standard or not, I didn’t like it when she reveals she has dallied with more than a few men for no particular reason - luckily this eventually comes back to bite her in the butt. She only enjoys the finer things in life, including dancing and drinking, and has a huge fetish for elegant gentlemen in tight pantaloons. This would be funny, except she is also terribly spoiled and mule headed. The one slightly amusing aspect about her is that she kind of admits that she’s shallow. At times I felt like she has the intelligence and morals of a gnat.

Poor Jude is reluctantly charming; his initial plan to make her fall in lust with him makes way for the realization that he is actually in love with her. Too bad he’s fallen in love with the shallowest, most confused girl on the planet, who only cares about the fact that he doesn’t meet her standards of beauty. For over 3/4ths of the book Marissa believes that women could only want such an “ugly” fellow for the physical satisfaction he can give, and nothing else. After the kindness and thoughtfulness he shows her, not to mention his quick wit and complete understanding of her true nature, I was astounded by her faulty conclusion. I also began to find Jude’s love for Marissa unbelievable, because she simply is so unlikeable.

At first I thought A Little Bit Wild was going to be a quasi-Beauty-and-the-Beast story, what with the emphasis on Jude’s ugliness and all, and I suppose it is - except it is Jude who has the heart of gold, while the pretty Marissa has a lump of coal for a soul. I admit I may have enjoyed hating Marissa a little, but I also grew tired of Jude’s martyr-like behavior in the name of love. It’s ironically fitting that he’s named after the patron saint of lost causes, because he’s got an enormous one in the form of Marissa York.

-- Emma Leigh

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