Since becoming a book blogger, I’ve stopped reading the blurb for the newest ARCs from my favorite writers. Most of the time that’s not a big deal, but this time? Oh, was I in for a surprise! Was it a good surprise? Read on to find out what I thought of Christina Lauren’s Something Wilder.
May 17, 2022
Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.
Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.
But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.
So, I think Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings sat down one day to discuss their next book and it went kind of like this:
“I want to write something different. Something unexpected.”
“I know what you mean. Something totally different. Something that will surprise our loyal readers and maybe even us, but still a romance. Just more off-beat. Something wilder.”
“Exactly! Something Wilder!”
Why yes. This reader was completely surprised by Something Wilder. And not always in a good way.
A decade ago Lily Wilder and a lovesick city boy, Leo Grady fell in love at the Wilder Ranch. An accident seemed to set off a domino reaction which separated Lily and Leo and now, once again, they are looking at each other and realizing that the intervening years might have been a placeholder.
Lily runs a camping excursion that’s supposed to be for fun, but this latest one is getting slightly out of hand thanks to the appearance of Leo and a member of their excursion group, Terry, who is vying for most obnoxious human being on the planet. Events begin to unravel while the group is camping, forcing the adventure into a matter of life or death.
Something Wilder is my least favorite Christina Lauren novel so far but not for the reasons that other reviewers might pinpoint. I loved Lily and Leo’s rekindled romance because I do believe that a strong enough connection can and does last so this didn’t seem unrealistic to me. What didn’t work for me was the point when everything went horribly wrong because I felt like this entailed a huge emotional shift, a tonal shift, if you will that didn’t quite happen. What makes a book like Romancing the Stone written by Joan Wilder ( 😉 ) work is that it doesn’t hesitate to be a tongue-in-cheek swashbuckler while Something Wilder seems to be working for sincerity and humor, which goes AWOL the moment something tremendously serious, let’s say like death, happens. Also, there’s a little bit of the dumb bunny situation that I mostly see in suspense, etc., where a couple is in danger, but decide, hey, let’s have sex now anyway. And, for my last little observation: Why is New Mexico excluded from the United States? (Hopefully a typo (or something) corrected in the final version.)
Now, did I hate the novel? No, not by any means. I enjoyed reading it but expected/wanted more. I actually found some of the scenes with Lily and Leo to be a bit boring when I wanted zing and swoon. They are cute and about as opposite as people can be, which doesn’t always make for an entertaining couple.
I enjoyed the puzzles, the treasure hunting, Leo’s brain, the sweet potato Walter, the sidekick Nic–and sometimes wished she were the heroine instead of Lily. I enjoyed the car chase and wish there had been more like that. That scene had the right tone.
I so wanted to LOVE this book. Ah, well. You can’t win them all. I will say, though, that if you’re wondering why I have given it a high rating it’s because a less-than-stellar Christina Lauren novel is still better, more interesting, readable, and enjoyable than most other romances on the market and that’s the way I rate books.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 out of 5 butterflies