Born to a teenage mother, Mia Quentin fears following in her mom's wild footsteps, so she has always tried to be the good girl. She was raised by her grandparents and now pours all her energy into taking care of them and keeping the family business afloat, leaving little time for her art, much less a serious relationship. On a rare weekend trip to Tampa to take part in a local pirate festival, Mia decides to throw caution to the wind and live on the edge before settling in to figure out how to save her grandparents' tourist gift shop from financial ruin. In her quest for adventure, she throws herself into the arms of a dashing pirate, hoping to seduce him into one night of ecstasy but nothing more.
The bank owned by Seth Chandler's company is sponsoring the pirate festival. When one of the actors slated to play a pirate backs out at the last minute, Seth reluctantly agrees to take his place. He is supposed to "abduct" a fair maiden from among the festival goers and carry her off for a day of fun, which will be good PR for his company. Having no interest in getting his picture snapped with a bikini-clad beach bunny, Seth sets his sights on a nice, safe lady who is old enough to be his grandmother, but a beautiful young woman literally throws herself into his arms, foiling his plan and leaving him no choice but to carry her off instead. He takes Mia on a cruise of the bay in his boat, during which she does everything in her power to make him loose control of his desires, but after watching his dad's playboy ways, Seth has no interest in bedding a woman he's just barely met. Or does he? Long after they part company, Seth can't stop thinking about Mia, but when he finally tracks her down, she still stubbornly refuses to give him anything more than a one-night stand. Seth will have to pull out all the stops to convince Mia that they are meant for each other and that he has no intention of leaving.
Wild and Willing begins with the entertaining fantasy scenario of the helpless maiden being "kidnapped" by a dashing pirate and carried off to his lair. Of course, it's all played for fun as part of a local pirate festival in Tampa (the festival as it turns out is real, but it looks like the "kidnapping" was all in the author's imagination) and the maiden was more than willing. Unfortunately, this was about as exciting as the book got. The insta-lust between the hero and heroine which later turned to love and marriage just didn't really grab me, so Wild and Willing ended up being a rather lackluster read.
Overall, Seth was a pretty likable hero. Because of his dad's infidelity and playboy ways, he considers himself to be more of a relationship kind of guy who doesn't really sleep around, but he has had five live-in loves, all of whom left him, citing a laundry list of his faults. He's a successful businessman and a bit of a workaholic. Seth agreed to play a pirate in the festival, because the bank he owns is a sponsor and he thinks it will be great PR. However, he had no intention of "kidnapping" an attractive woman who might tempt him until one literally throws herself into his arms, leaving him little choice in the matter. I liked that he was an honorable guy who refused to have sex with Mia when they'd barely met, in spite of her doing everything in her power to try to seduce him, although he did give in within a few days time. I also enjoyed the fact that he was the one doing the dogged pursuing of her, but there were times when she was being so stubborn, I really wasn't sure why he was being so persistent. She seemed to be giving him so little in return, it didn't feel like it was worth the hassle, but ultimately Seth wanted more than a one night stand or a brief fling. He wanted to take care of Mia and help her, which is something I could totally get behind.
When the story opened, I liked Mia. She seemed to be a responsible young woman who takes care of her grandparents and has helped out with the Beachcomber, their tourist gift shop, for most of her life. She also fears turning into her wild, rebellious mother, so for the most part, she doesn't take chances. Desiring a little adventure, she takes a rare weekend for herself to go attend the festival and places herself right in the path of an unsuspecting, handsome "pirate," hoping to be carried off and "ravished" before having to settle in and figure out how to save the family business from foreclosure. I understood Mia wanting to have a little fun before dealing with something so serious, but I had mixed feelings about how forward she was with Seth, a man she'd barely met. I thought it kind of made her seem like a woman with loose morals even though that obviously wasn't supposed to be the case. I also feel like Mia's reasons for not wanting a relationship were kind of weak. She did have a lot on her plate, but she was connecting with Seth. He cared enough about her to be willing to work with her on the relationship stuff and also wanted to help her out to lighten the load, so I didn't see why she wouldn't want to give it a chance. I'm all for a strong, independent woman, but some of Mia's decisions regarding the Beachcomber seemed to be based on knee-jerk, emotional reactions rather than sound business judgment. The shop was about to be foreclosed on and sold out from underneath them, but she flatly refused her mom's money, because the woman hadn't been there for her most of her life. Then she gets royally ticked off when Seth rearranges the loan with the bank to take the pressure off. Her excuse was that Seth should have asked her first, and perhaps he should have, but it's not like she had many other options. She was also being so stubborn about the whole thing, I'm not sure she would have listened anyway. I did like the bits about Mia's artistic side and her trying to realize her dream of becoming a profitable artist, and I didn't exactly dislike her as a character, but some of her choices just didn't make a lot of sense to me.
Normally, even if the story isn't quite grabbing me, I can count on a Blaze novel to deliver some scorching heat, but even that fizzled for me. The author throws Seth and Mia together without building any emotional connection between them first. During the "kidnapping," she had Mia orgasming from a mere kiss, which I thought was a bit over the top. It was supposedly due to the passionate nature of the kiss combined with the rocking motion of the boat, but I still had a hard time buying that one. Then later, she created some great scenarios that were ripe for deeply sensual encounters but then, in my opinion, dropped the ball. The love scene with the paint could have been so much better if it had been drawn out longer like I thought it was going to be. As is though, there wasn't nearly as many steamy details as I typically expect from a Blaze novel, and without that all-important emotion connection, they, for the most part, fell rather flat.
The secondary romance between Mia's mom, Noelle, and Seth's uncle, Brock was pretty much on par with Seth and Mia's romance. It begins with nothing but a serious case of lust, and then progresses rather quickly to the love stage. Normally, I'm all for supporting players getting some romance too, but in this case, I felt like it didn't add a whole lot to the story and instead, took up valuable page time, during which the author could have been building more character development and romance for Seth and Mia. There were some intriguing aspects to their characters, such as each of their respective fears of becoming like their wild parents, which I thought would have made them fuller and richer, if they'd only been fleshed out a little more. I believe dispensing with the secondary romance could have accomplished that. Noelle and Brock were interesting enough that they could have even been given their own book.
There were some good ingredients here that could have made Wild and Willing a very enjoyable read, but the main thing it was missing was the emotional connection, both between the hero and heroine and between the characters and the reader. There were occasional tidbits of feelings and body language, but not nearly as much as there should have been. If Joanne Rock had cut down on the lust and taken the time to build more romance between the characters, I think I would have really like the book, but as is, I often felt like any emotion was being told to me rather than shown.
Wild and Willing is the first in the Chandler Brothers duet. Seth's brother, Jesse puts in an appearance, during which he tells Seth about how his best friend posed as a female pirate during the festival to "kidnap" him. This becomes the basis for his book, Wild and Wicked. Friends to lovers stories are some of my favorites, so even though Wild and Willing was a so-so read for me, I might have to give Jesse's book a try to see if the author can do a better job with the emotional connection when the characters begin the story with an established relationship.
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