The Wilde Side
by Janelle Denison, contemporary (2004)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0361-6


Janelle Denison's The Wilde Side is pure popcorn and cheese fluff, from the unbearably cheesy last name of the hero - Wilde - to the contrived series-romance premise. It has decent sexual tension especially for a story where the main characters are the romance equivalents to Big Mac and French Fries.

Ashley St Claire is a rich heroine who wants to please her Daddy. Her social life is typical of a heroine who is never given a chance to be human by the author: every guy wants her money, everyone else is a bore or slime, boo-hoo-hoo. So on her thirtieth birthday, she's going to work on having a one-night stand with the methodological precision of an surgeon hoping to conduct a lobotomy in pitch darkness. Which she may as well be doing - conducting a lobotomy on herself, that is - of the joyless way she is going about to get laid is anything to go by. I don't know how a one-night stand is going to improve her constitution as she's obviously not the kind to play the field, but I've long stopped overestimating the intelligence of a heroine found amidst the pages of a very formulaic romance novel.

Scott Wilde and Two Very Prominently Placed Sequel Baits are playing pool at some Macho Man Hangout (did someone call the Village People?) when in walks Ashley hoping to find a man to turn her from Neurotic Betty to Carrie Bradshaw. Scott and Ashley have sex and then she flees soon after to San Francisco (oh yeah, she's going to enjoy a healthy social life there) to try to make Daddy proud with her some more. He follows, but can he love again as he has been burned by love before? Can she find love too? After some predictable external conflict and tedious preprogrammed behaviors by the both of them, of course they do.

The Wilde Side is written in a calculated way to become the second book in a bestselling family series. Nothing about the story feels new or refreshing, nothing about the characters come off as memorable or even unique to the author - Ashley and Scott could have easily come out of any one of the category romances published under the Harlequin Temptation or Silhouette Desire line. The only difference this book has between the books of, say, Lori Foster is that the name of the author on the cover is different and there is a slight difference in writing style. But character development-wise, plot development-wise, this book is bland and generic to the core.

The author also can't get the male banter thing right this time around.

"Lordy, she has a body that makes me want to fall to my knees and beg."

"More like howl like the dog you are."

"Whatever works to get myself a treat or two."

Outside of badly-written adult movies, which guy speaks like that?

Anyway, who's to say that writing calculated books to make lots of money for the author is in any way a bad thing, at least from an economic perspective. But from a reader's point of view, the author inserting even a little innovation and freshness in the story can't hurt, surely?

Rating: 60


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