A Little Bit Wild
by Victoria Dahl, historical (2010)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0483-7


By the time you read my review of Victoria Dahl's A Little Bit Wild, you probably have felt some of the tremors that resulted when some readers got hold of this book first and almost had an apoplexy when they discovered that the heroine Marissa York is not a virgin. Worse, she willingly has sex out of wedlock to some man she doesn't love - which she does when the story opens. This is one of those stories with a problematic heroine who experiences character growth as the story progresses, and due to Marissa's non-conformity to the romance heroine code of conduct, this book is a very polarizing read.

Curiously enough, I also have problems with the heroine's sexual behavior, although probably not in the way you may imagine. But first, let me give a summary of the plot so that I can then put forth my thoughts in a context that makes more sense.

Marissa jumps into bed with Peter White, a cousin's friend who catches her eye because he has nice muscular thighs, only to discover that the man is rather lacking in the finesse department. Worse, Peter likes her enough to arrange for the two of them to be discovered by her brother in a most compromising manner, so Marissa finds herself in position where she has to marry or else. Jude Bertrand, a friend of her brother, happens to be around when the dramatic rend-and-tear session is going on. He likes Marissa, so what the heck, he offers to marry her since she refuses to marry Peter White. The rest of the story see these two trying to get to the point where they finally realize that a marriage together may work very well after all.

My problem with Marissa is that her sexual appetite, which is definitely refreshingly unconventional for a romance heroine, comes with a big parcel of guilt and regrets. Therefore, she isn't that unusual: she would have been a romance hero if she didn't have a vagina. Just as how romance heroes are often described as rampantly promiscuous but desperately unhappy because all that sex isn't filling the empty spaces in their souls, Marissa is portrayed as someone who feels disconnected from the people around her and therefore lonely. Her angst is believable for someone of her age and stature, but I feel that it is a shame that her sexuality is portrayed as part of the angst bundle.

Marissa spends a very large part of the story behaving like a completely spoiled brat, and she and Jude must surely be in the running for the award of the couple with the worst communication ability ever. Jude is a nice guy who is very tolerable of Marissa's antics, until eventually she pushes him way too far and loses him. Of course, she realizes that she wants him just as she'd lost him. But much of their drama could have been avoided should both characters, especially Marissa, stop to talk to each other for once. Still, I can't blame Jude too much here as Marissa really treats him poorly at various moments in this story.

A Little Bit Wild is, in a way, an admirable effort because it is clear to me that the author intends to have her characters grow and learn life's lessons the hard way, but still, the execution feels to me a little too dependent on bickering and wrong assumptions. Because the story feels at many places too contrived for its own good, I find it too easy to put down this book, especially when the novelty of the heroine's sexual attitude wears off shortly into the story. I think I know what Ms Dahl is aiming for here, and I can appreciate what she is doing, but the story still leaves me unmoved on the whole.

Rating: 73


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