Wild Thing
by Anne Stuart, contemporary (2000)
Harlequin American, $4.25, ISBN 0-373-16845-4


I hate to do this. Wild Thing is a much needed fresh breeze in the stagnant mire of wimpy virgins and secret babies that is the Great Category Romance Plot Anorexia. Unfortunately, its short length means that many, many issues like characterization are swept under the carpet as there are many things going on in WT. WT biggest flaw is its ambitious attempt to tackle a Jungle-Book issue as well as to create a romance and a suspense angle within 250 pages.

Well, Ms Stuart can tell a compelling story, but the best parts are when the heroine is out of the picture. Alas, which is not often.

Dr Elizabeth Holden decides to accept a mysterious billionaire's job offer to study a "missing link" specimen (you know, those ugly cavemen brutes that evolutionists say are the intermediates between Goran Visnjic and Bubbles the Chimpanzee - okay, I'm simplifying things a lot about the theory, but you get the drift) in his remote isle, Ghost Island.

Like any classic heroine who doesn't know better (would you work on a remote island called Ghost Island?), she packs up and discovers lots of Secrets. Like how there are always two villains (Moe and Curly experiencing PMS for the first time) at her tail. Or how the missing link fellow, John, isn't who he seems (and don't worry, he looks more like Goran Visnjic than Bubbles). Or how John isn't actually a missing link, but - well, let's just say nothing is what it seems here.

Thing is, I grow really tired of Liz Holden and the two Stoogey villains soon. Liz is a stereotypical heroine - thinks herself butt-ugly (okay, the nice word is unpretty) but actually isn't, talks to the (supposedly) comatose Tarzanboy because she has no decent man in her life to talk to (reminds me of a Maggie Shayne Viking contemporary), and oh yes, she is darned whiny.

The first half of the story is basically Liz going all aghast at the way Moe and Curly beat and mistreat John the Chimpanzee-Man. Conversation is basically like this:

"Don't beat him!"

"Yeah, says who?"

"Don't hurt him!"

"Girly, buzz off!"

"Stop applying that sedative drug at full dosage!"

"Uh-uh, boss says so."

"Why no one is listening to me?!!! Waaaa!"

Of course, Anne Stuart does the heroine-whining thing better than me, but trust me, the above is the gist of the whole thing. Lizzie definitely hasn't seen enough horror movies. Remote island, two ugly trolls at her tail 24 hours a day, lots of guns and ammo, and she expects this to be some sort of Gilligan's Isle adventure? Get real!

The second half gets a lot better when John shuts that irritating wench up with his lusty kisses, but at that moment, the pace also picks up at the expense of plot depths. I finish the book wondering what that was all about. Wild Thing is too rushed towards the end to make an impact on me and too leisurely when it comes to Lizzie whining and moaning. In fact, I think this book would be better off retitled The Annoying Broad and Her Two Stoogey Groupies.

Rating: 60


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