Jesse Chandler has earned a reputation as a love 'em and leave 'em, ladies man. He always tries to make sure the women he dates know the score - that he doesn't do commitment - but when the occasional partner starts making noises about something more permanent, Jesse can't get away from them fast enough. The one woman he has been committed to for nearly half their lives is his best friend, Kyra, and she's the only woman he would never try to seduce. He does enjoy trying to make her blush though, but he's never really seen her as anything other than a friend until the day she pulls out all the stops to turn the tables by seducing him.
Kyra Stafford has had a thing for Jesse for as long as she can remember. She can barely even think of any other men, but believing Jesse will never be a one woman man, she thinks the best option to get him out of her system is to become one of his one-night stands. Maybe after experiencing his legendary sexual prowess for herself, she'll finally be able to stop fantasizing about him all the time and move on. Dressing up as a sexy lady pirate, she "kidnaps" Jesse from a local pirate festival and barters one night of pleasure for his "freedom." As Kyra quickly discovers, one night with Jesse isn't nearly enough. Even though they didn't fully consummate their relationship, she can't stop thinking about the time they spent together and apparently neither can he. Now he's offering her a long-term commitment for the first time in his life, but can she trust that he really means it and isn't just doing it because he feels guilty about having sex with his best friend?
Wild and Willing, the first book in the Chandler Brothers duet was just an OK read for me, primarily because of a weak emotional connection between the hero and heroine. Despite that, I went into reading Wild and Wicked with high hopes that Joanne Rock could do a better job with this one, because the hero and heroine had a long-standing prior connection as friends. For the most part, I wasn't disappointed in this regard. Having Jesse and Kyra be best friends for fourteen years gave them a much more solid foundation upon which to build their romantic relationship, and I could definitely feel the heat between them in a much more palpable way than I had with the hero and heroine of the first book. However, there were still a couple of other weaknesses that were almost identical to the previous book, which kept Wild and Wicked from being a stellar read for me.
Jesse is your typical playboy commitment-phobe. He's earned a reputation as a legendary lover who never leaves a woman unsatisfied in bed, but who rarely dates them more than once. He always tries to make sure they know the score before getting involved with him, but on the rare occasions that one gets a little too clingy, Jesse is ready to run for the hills. The only woman in his life he hasn't bedded is his best friend, Kyra. Somehow he's managed to stay a committed friend to her for fourteen years and loves spending time with her, but he's never really thought of her as anything other than a friend. That all changes the day she pulls out all the stops in an attempt to seduce him by dressing up as a sexy lady pirate and "kidnapping" him from a local pirate festival. Then he's far too interested in her for his own comfort. I like that Jesse had an honorable side where Kyra was concerned and tried hard to resist her charms. He didn't want to risk ruining a friendship that's lasted nearly half their lives for one night of sex, even if it might be awesome. However, she finally persuades him to give her pleasure in exchange for his "freedom." Even though they don't fully consummate their relationship, that one night with Kyra is better for him than all his other conquests combined. He can't stop thinking about her for the next two weeks even though they're apart. In fact, he can't even think of another woman period, and the unfamiliar jealousy that crops up is just too cute. I love it when a playboy can be brought to his knees by the one woman who is perfect for him. Jesse quickly comes to the realization that Kyra means far more to him than just a friend. He has a hard time thinking of her with any other man, but at the same time, he thinks he's not good enough for her, that she deserves better than a playboy like him. Eventually though, Jesse figures out that Kyra is the one woman he can't live without and sets about trying to convince her that his feelings for her are real, that he wants to date her, and that she wasn't just another one of his one night stands.
Much like the heroine of Wild and Willing, I felt like Kyra was the weak link in the relationship. I admired her pluck in going after what she wanted, namely Jesse, but at first, she's only doing it because she's had a thing for him for as long as she can remember and thinks that getting to experience his sexual prowess first-hand is the only way to get him out of her system. After she's finally had him, Kyra plans to move on to a more suitable and stable man as a permanent partner, not that she has anyone in particular in mind though. In fact, she's never had a serious enough relationship of her own to have ever slept with another man. I liked that Kyra was still a virgin and had fantasized many times about Jesse being her first. It was almost like she had saved herself for him, even if only subconsciously, but on the downside, I didn't care for the couple of references she made to wanting to be rid of her virginity. She also was perhaps a bit too much of a sex kitten for being so inexperienced. Of course, Kyra's well-laid plans go out the window when her experience with Jesse is a bit more intense than she anticipated, leaving her uncertain what she wants. She starts to entertain the idea of something more long-term between them, but believes Jesse will never settle down with one woman. Unfortunately, her emotions ping-pong back and forth for the remainder of the novel. One minute, she seems to be warming up to exploring deeper feelings for Jesse, the next, she's pulling back and having difficulty trusting him in spite of their long-time friendship. To compound matters, Kyra has an independent streak that creates further problems between them as she adamantly asserts her intentions of buying out Jesse's interest in her ranch, even though it means selling a very special horse. I didn't really understand this side of her, because it wasn't like Jesse was trying to control the business or was in any way a real threat to her independence. For a woman who was supposedly very practical and organized, Kyra often didn't seem to know her own mind. In this respect, it would have been nice if she had settled into a little more identifiable emotional pattern. As is, I found it difficult to get a read on her emotions, because just when I thought I had her figured out, she would do something off the wall out of pure stubbornness or would simply refuse to give Jesse a chance. Things obviously worked out for them eventually, but Kyra still had doubts right up until the very end, which IMHO, weakened their HEA.
Another thing about Wild and Wicked which was identical to Wild and Willing was the inclusion of a secondary romance in which the characters get their own POVs and love scene. This time it's Clint, the horse psychologist Kyra hires to analyze the horse she wants to sell, and Greta, Jesse's most recent conquest, who has turned into one of those clingy types he hates. Clint was a pretty good guy, a laid-back cowboy who is amused by Greta's haughty air. Despite the author trying to make Greta sympathetic, she could be rather irritating at times, which made it hard to understand what Clint saw in her. They seemed like oil and water, but eventually, I warmed up to Greta a little. They too managed to find their happy ending, and admittedly, their love scene, which involved a bit of exhibitionism, was probably the steamiest in the book. However, as with Wild and Willing, I would have preferred that the author dispense with the secondary romance in favor of deeper character and relationship development for the primary couple. Blaze novels are short enough as it is without valuable page time being taken away from the main characters.
Overall, Wild and Wicked was a pretty good read. It was better than its predecessor in the Chandler Brothers duet, but still had some weaknesses of its own. If the heroine's motives and emotions had exhibited a little more clarity and there had been more focus on the main couple, it could have been a great read. Even still, the hot, steamy love scenes and cute friends to lovers romance helped put Joanne Rock back on my author watch list.
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