Wild Heart
by Lori Brighton, historical (2009)
Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0865-1


Wild Heart is a little different from many other 19th-century historical romances set in England, and therefore, you can imagine my disappointment when I can't bring myself to champion it enthusiastically. The execution of the story is too problematic for me.

Ella Finch is a nobody. An orphan picked up by Lady Buckley into service, Ella eventually became the companion to Lady Buckley's daughter. When Lady Buckley's daughter no longer needs a companion, she passes Ella on to Lord Roberts, who needs a governess for his, er, problematic ward, a future earl. Ella expects to find a kid at Lord Roberts's castle, so you can imagine her shock when she discovers that Lord Roberts hadn't been exactly truthful about his situation and that Leo Roberts is definitely a grown man with a dangerous appeal for women like Ella.

Readers will quickly learn that Leo deliberately keeps silent and acts like a nutcase because he's secretly trying to discover the people behind the murder of his parents back in India. Leo had been left for dead in the jungles of India, but he survived despite the odds with the help of your average Indian native stereotype who always willingly plays the servant and punching bag for the virile English hero. Now Leo is back in England, and he wants revenge. Ella is a complication he doesn't need right now.

A big problem here is just how much the plot is driven by Leo's unbelievable and apparently limitless capability for stupidity. From being so self-absorbed that he leaves Ella in grave danger while moaning about his own rear end to unnecessarily refusing to tell Ella anything even if it's a life or death situation, this man is ridiculous. I try to be understanding, given that he had experienced a traumatic episode in his past, but eventually I can't take it - him - anymore.

For once, I have no problems with the heroine's personality and character. But I don't understand how Ella can fall for this man. He does nothing but to humiliate her in front of people, mock her in public, growl at her like a brute, and generally behave like a caveman devoid of manners. Perhaps she has a soft spot for charity cases, but if this is the case, I don't see how this marriage can last. The differences in their social standing aside, Leo is simply terrible at communication. He doesn't show any sign that he respects her. Heck, he can barely behave himself in society, so I can't see why any sane woman would want to marry this... thing. How is this romance going to work? I just can't see it. Ella's role in this story is severely limited by Leo's refusal to tell her anything - she can't be anything more than a damsel in distress as a result.

There are some paranormal elements in this story, but those elements aren't integrated well into the story. For a long time, this story could have functioned very well as a straightforward historical romance. There are also some pacing issues, with the more action-packed scenes packed late in the story in a rushed and unsatisfying manner while the rest of the story ambles around in its own sweet pace and time.

I wish I can recommend Wild Heart enthusiastically for its different heroine and premise. But every time I think of the hero, I can only shudder and take a deep steadying breath before wishing that it will be a long, long time before I come across another overgrown caveman brat like him in my books.

Rating: 69


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