Private investigator, Steve Wilde has been frequenting Liz Adams' coffee shop nearly every day for the last month. Each time their eyes lock across the room, there is a spark of electricity in the air. Liz senses the bad boy in him which makes her blood run hot, but she's already had one failed marriage to a guy like that and has no interest in a repeat performance. When Liz's cousin goes missing after accepting a "date" with one of her phone sex clients, Liz decides to enlist Steve's help. She had already made a plan to get a job as a phone sex operator at the same company her cousin worked for, in an attempt to get information on her cousin's whereabouts, so Liz and Steve start a sting operation to get invited to one of the company's exclusive sex parties. Knowing that the attraction between them is bound to burn red hot when they are working so closely together, Liz gives herself permission to have one last fling with a "bad boy" before settling down with someone more stable. Steve turns out to be all she could ever possibly want in a man and more, but will Liz be able to let go of the past and finally live for herself rather then everyone else around her?
Wilde Thing is a super-hot contemporary romance that definitely touches on the erotic with a little mystery on the side. The book, without a doubt, focuses in on the steamy love scenes with the mini-mystery and relationship development taking a back seat, but all things considered, it was still a pretty good read. With the heroine working undercover as a phone sex operator in an attempt to find her missing cousin, she and the hero (a private investigator) tend to go through a circular cycle of having phone sex and then living out those fantasies in person each night. In between, they manage a few getting-to-know-you moments during the day. Then it starts all over again, until they finally get the information they need to locate the errant cousin. The love scenes and the story in general were well-written, but I have to admit that I could have done with a little less sex and a little more character, relationship and plot development. Overall though, Wilde Thing was fairly enjoyable.
Steve is an ex-cop who was sidelined by a bullet and decided to become a PI instead. He's a successful businessman with strong family connections. One failed marriage has left him none too interested in a serious relationship, but that all changes in a heartbeat when he gets to know Liz. He frequents Liz's cafe and has been admiring her from afar for over a month before she approaches him with her case. Out of the three Wilde brothers I met in the first story of the Wilde series, Steve had appealed to me the most. In the beginning of his own book, he initially seemed pretty arrogant, and I thought he might hit that borderline of being a little too alpha for me. However, he quickly proved otherwise. It was kind of fun to have Steve being the one to fall for Liz and then pursuing her, and I have to say he had a lot going for him. He was intuitive of her needs and feelings, charming, protective, a skilled lover, and best of all he respected her as his equal in every way while trying to help her understand that the things which happened in the past weren't her fault. I certainly can't deny that Steve was a pretty appealing hero.
I liked Liz for her sense of responsibility, her loyalty to family, and her determination to pull herself up by her bootstraps when life handed her a raw deal. However, I totally agreed with Steve that she took all those things too far, allowing what other people thought to essentially run her life and keep her from accepting happiness when it was within her grasp. I couldn't help but be rather frustrated with her when she was about to let a great guy like Steve get away, just because of her over-inflated sense of responsibility. I also didn't think the author explained her relationship with her first husband sufficiently for me to really understand her cautiousness with Steve. Liz's first husband was essentially described as a deadbeat womanizing jerk who liked to run up huge bills he couldn't pay, leaving Liz in the lurch for his debts when he died in a car accident. Steve had a classic bad boy image, riding his Harley and living on the edge a bit. He also initially told Liz he wasn't looking for a complicated, long-term attachment, but otherwise, he never gave her any reason to think that he was at all like her ex. If anything, it was pretty obvious (at least to me anyway) that Steve was a very stable guy who exhibited the same deep sense of loyalty and responsibility that Liz had, and he also treated her unselfishly with kindness and respect. This being the case, I couldn't quite grasp why she kept thinking of him as a "bad boy," and ultimately, her arguments on that count rang rather hollow.
Other than the overabundance of sex that I mentioned earlier, there were two other things that kept this book from earning keeper status from me. The first is that the romance is one of those typical "insta-love" plots that seem so common in contemporaries these days. Although Steve and Liz had been admiring one another from afar for a month, they didn't really know each other until he took on her case. Of course, they fell into bed their first night on the job, and fell in love within a week, a scenario which I can never quite seem to find believable. In fact, there were a few other instances where the timing of various events seemed a little off. The second problematic thing for me was that once Steve and Liz gained entry to the Ultimate Fantasy sex party, and located the woman they'd been looking for, he went off alone with her to get information, leaving Liz by herself. I could see the trouble coming as a result of that folly from a mile away. It was quite simply a TSTL move on his part (he could have just as easily pretended he wanted a threesome, taken Liz with him and gotten the same result) and in my opinion, extremely out of character for this protective alpha. To me, this plot point seemed like a flimsy excuse to create a little trouble and lead into yet another steamy sex scene which to my way of thinking was unnecessary and didn't really add much to the overall story.
Other than those two main issues, Wilde Thing was a generally fun and sexy read. Readers get another glimpse of Steve's brother Adrian who becomes the hero of the fourth Wilde story, The Wilde One (Bad Boys to Go anthology), as well as an introduction to Steve's partner, Cameron, and cousin, Mia, who become the hero and heroine of book #7, Too Wilde to Tame. There is also a passing mention of Mia's three brothers, Alex, Joel, and Scott, who become future Wilde heroes too, as well as a visit with Steve's brother, Eric and his lady love, Jill, from the first story of the series, Something Wilde (I Brake for Bad Boys anthology). For the most part, I've enjoyed Janelle Denison's writing style so far and look forward to continuing with the Wilde series soon.
Note: This book contains some fairly erotic content including phone sex, "edible" sex, and light bondage. The hero and heroine also visit a sex party (as part of their investigation) where just about anything goes. While there, they become "accidental" voyeurs and engage in sex themselves in a semi-secluded public area. In my opinion, everything was tastefully written, but all this could definitely make some readers uncomfortable.
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