Innocent Virgin, Wild Surrender
by Anne Mather, contemporary (2010)
Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.30, ISBN 978-0-263-87867-7


You know of those stories with romance heroines visiting a fabulous island resort only to snare the handsome resort owner as a husband by the end of the day? Anne Mather's Innocent Virgin, Wild Surrender is exactly that story. While Rachel Claiborne may get her groove on in the island of St Antoine, her beau doesn't turn out to be gay or anything that melodramatic. It's worse: he could very well be her mother's much younger lover.

You see, Rachel arrives at St Antoine on her father's orders to locate her mother. Sara just upped and left a while back, fleeing to St Antoine while claiming that she's looking for a Matt Brody, someone Sara knows from way back. Rachel understandably jumps to the conclusion that Sara must be having an affair with this Matt fellow. Matt turns out to be the hot owner of the resort where Rachel is staying, and while she knows she must resist, our 30-year old virgin can't help getting carried away by the whole sun, sand, and hot man combo...

Innocent Virgin, Wild Surrender is a misleading title for this story, but that's good, because Rachel may be a virgin but she is not "innocent", everyone's favorite romance novel euphemism for "stupid". Indeed, she's as confused as I am about what she is supposed to do in St Antoine, heh, and her efforts to make sense of things show that she has a pretty good head on her shoulders. When she finally runs away from Matt, she has a very valid reason to do so, and it has nothing to do with the "I know he doesn't love me!" melodrama such heroines are so fond of.

That's not to say that this story is sensible. This one is more like a soap opera as Rachel ends up discovering all the skeletons in her family's closet. It's ridiculous how Rachel's father deliberately withholds some crucial information about Sara and Matt until very late in the story. Sending Rachel into a wild goose chase in St Antoine sets the story in motion, true, but his actions don't really make sense. But that doesn't make as much sense as Matt deliberately letting Rachel believe that he is sleeping with her mother just to make her jealous. I don't even want to know what he is thinking to even come up with that plan, I tell you. Of course, it goes without saying that Matt is not sleeping with Rachel's mother. The plot twist is actually better than that, trust me - it's straight out of a long running plot arc in that soap opera in the 1980s, Dynasty.

Meanwhile, poor Sara ends up being a confusing mess of a cartoon selfish mother, while for some reason the author wants me to view Rachel's father in more favorable light when that man treats Rachel very much like a trained dog. But they are part of the campy tapestry on which this story takes place, so in a way, I don't mind these characters too much.

Innocent Virgin, Wild Surrender at the end of the day is an unexpectedly enjoyable read. The chemistry between Rachel and Matt sizzles and Matt is that rare hero in this line who isn't a creepy sex fiend Neanderthal (okay, he's a bit of a creep in his attempts to make Rachel jealous, but he could be worse, much worse). The soap opera elements are enjoyable in a campy manner, but I suspect that some readers may find them too campy. After all, this story is straight out of a soap opera.

Beautiful scenery, two lead characters who don't seem like brain damage walking, and campy melodrama that is more entertaining than cringe-inducing... why yes, I actually like this one!

Rating: 85


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