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Thursday, January 6, 2011

On the Wild Side by Gerri Bowen

On the Wild Side (Regency Romance Anthology) by Gerri Bowen
Publisher: Highland Press
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Paranormal, Holiday
Length: Full Length (236 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Regency England has no idea the Wilde family possesses a bit of the old, wild blood--blood from the Shenti, Dennene, Pelldari, and other such folk. This makes them a little special, gifted in different ways, drawing to them people like themselves.

The former Major Trevor Wilde, now the Earl of Ardmoor, takes a keen interest in connecting those couples who belong together.

On the Wild Side is a Regency anthology of six stories, telling the tale of love and romance and hopefully, a happy ever after.

Run through regency England with the Wilde family!

Something Wild

I liked the main character, Lady Madeline, immediately. Madeline is a woman desperately trying to adhere to the expectations of proper society, but her wild blood makes things difficult. As she tries to set a good example for her nieces and nephews, she has little outbursts of feeling that were quite entertaining.

In addition to trying to tame her wild blood, Madeline is nearly forced into an unbearable marriage. Just at the right moment, a man from her past reappears. During her only season in London six years ago, Madeline met Robert, the Earl of Spode, a man she’s never forgotten. The two immediately feel a connection, but the path to their happy ending is not clear. Robert must first get Madeline’s unwanted suitor out of the picture, and also win the approval of Madeline’s brother, Trevor Wilde, the Earl of Ardmoor.

Ms. Bowen does an excellent job of setting the tone for the anthology with this first story. In Something Wild, I was introduced to Madeline and Robert, both of whom are very nice characters who delight in meddling in the romances of their friends and family.

I did have one small issue with the story. Though Madeline and Robert had met six years earlier, they were barely acquaintances. While I realize that space is limited in a short story and that there is something to be said for love at first sight, I do wish that Madeline and Robert would have had time to get to know one another before deciding they were going to get married.

Ardmoor was the most interesting character that I met in Something Wild. Throughout the story, he retains a bit of mystery. He confines himself to his room most of the time mourning the loss of his leg in battle. While Ardmoor comes off a bit gruff at times, it gradually becomes clear that he cares deeply about his family and by the end of the story is pulling himself out of his depression. I found myself smiling as Ardmoor shouted “inventive curses” as he learned to walk with his peg leg. I looked forward to reading more about him in the other stories.

Sweet Sauerkraut

While the romance in Sweet Sauerkraut doesn’t directly involve anyone in the Wilde family, it does involve Ardmoor’s close friend, Nick Wharncliffe. At first I didn’t particularly like Nick. His motivations for finding a wife are purely selfish. He is responsible for his five nephews or monsters as he calls them. Nicke simply needs a wife to cook for and take care of them. He even needs a wealthy wife because he needs money to make repairs on his home. Nick doesn’t seem to care who the woman is as long as she meets those credentials.

However, when Nick is introduced to Beth Reese, he finds that he actually develops genuine feelings for her. Beth loves to cook and plans to use her culinary talents to win over Nick’s unruly nephews. The more time Nick spends with Beth, the more he likes her. He even encourages her to enter a cooking contest and suggests that she come up with a recipe with sauerkraut as the main ingredient. I gradually warmed to his personality as I watched him fall in love with Beth and genuinely support her independent efforts.

Beth was a very likable character from the start. Her passion for cooking and determination to distinguish herself by winning first prize in the contest set her apart from other women in her class. I also admired her perceptiveness. She isn’t fooled by Nick for a moment. She immediately sees through his attempts to conceal the temperament of his nephews and takes matters into her own hands by insisting on meeting them. I have no doubt that she’ll not only be able to manage Nick’s nephews, but Nick as well.

Joy’s Christmas Wishes

When Madeline married Robert, Joy, Madeline’s niece, immediately decided Emily, Robert’s sister, would be perfect for her father. Joy makes two Christmas wishes. The first wish is that her father wouldn’t sail any more. The second is that her father, Geoffrey DeBohun, would marry Emily. Joy has a bit of the wild blood in her, which just might make her wishes a bit more potent. Joy’s first wish comes true, but will her second?

Emily and Geoffrey are immediately attracted to each other. Unfortunately, Robert has been promoting a match between Emily and Geoffrey’s brother, the Earl of Wickerdun. Despite their attempts to fight it, the chemistry between Geoffrey and Emily is too powerful to ignore. Will this forbidden love tear a family apart?

This story again Madeline, Robert, and Ardmoor conspiring to bring a couple together. Once they realize Emily’s feelings for Wickerdun aren’t nearly as powerful as what she feels for Geoffrey, they begin to gently encourage the budding romance between Emily and Geoffrey.

Emily is a sweet woman and Geoffrey is very masculine and fiercely protective of his children. However, I have to say that Ardmoor was again the most dominant personality. The other characters needed to be a bit more developed in order to compete with Ardmoor’s colorful personality.

The Passage to Summer

This was probably my second favorite story in the anthology. In it, I found Ardmoor once again meddling in the romantic affairs of others. Ardmoor sends Wickerdun into the “enchanted” woods near his property. There Wickerdun meets Megara, and with the wild blood flowing through their veins, magic is in the air.

One of the things I liked most about this story that I felt was lacking in a couple of the previous stories was that all the characters were very well developed. Even the minor characters, such as Wickerdun’s servants, had distinct personalities that made them come alive as I read.

Wickerdun had been a minor character in two of the previous stories, but he really shines in The Passage to Summer. I loved watching him change from a stiff and formal man with a troubled pass to one who embraces his true nature, wild blood and all. Megara was certainly the right woman to bring Wickerdun out of his shell. She was a wonderful heroine with a sharp mind and a strong sense of self who would rather “run” through life rather than “trot.” She and Wickerdun make a powerful couple.

Another aspect of this story that I particularly liked was that it was the first time that the more powerful aspects of the “wild blood” become really apparent. Megara has The Sight and can see certain things about various people. She also knows without a doubt that Wickerdun was meant to be her husband. The singing wood nymphs also lend an air of enchantment to the story that I found particularly enjoyable.

Only and Always You

Only and Always You is a wonderful story of a second chance at love. Ten years ago, Viscount Harry Seton fell in love with Lady Claire. At the time, he felt that his responsibility was to his family and missed the chance to marry her. She wed another a short time later and disappeared from his life. Now fate has brought them back together. Harry learns that Claire’s horrible husband is dead, but he has one question. Why did she marry such a bad man so soon after his relationship with her ended? Harry knows that Claire is hiding something from him regarding the nature or her marriage, but what could it be?

Harry and Claire try to avoid each other, but Ardmoor and his sister Madeline conspire to bring them together. It is immediately clear that they still have feelings for each other, but years of pain stand between them. Will they put their long held grudge aside and embrace a chance at love?

I enjoyed watching Harry Seton develop as a character. At first, he is very stiff and formal and completely deserving of the nickname, “Ice Water Seton.” As he rekindles his relationship with Claire, he begins to thaw. He throws off the cold demeanor and warms up to everyone around him, especially Claire. Claire was a wonderful heroine. At first she seems timid, but I was pleased to learn that she had was a courageous woman. After learning about the terrible nature of her first husband, she did not wilt. She remained strong and refused to let him dominate her. When confronted with Harry’s horrible mother, again, Claire refused to back down. She spoke her mind with amazing confidence. I found her strength to be very admirable.

A Chorus Singing Love

This was my favorite story in the anthology because after meddling in the romantic affairs of others, Ardmoor finally has a romantic entanglement of his own. Ardmoor once had a brief relationship with Lady Melody Bruin. After The Unfortunate Incident of the summer of 1807, they’ve never spoken to each other again. I won’t spoil the story by revealing what the “incident” was, but I will hint that the wild blood and wood nymphs might have something to do with it. It was very amusing to watch Ardmoor attempt to fight his attraction for Melody after watching him encourage so many others to fall in love. It would seem that Ardmoor needs to follow some of his own advice!

Melody was an endearing heroine. Her innocence and sweet personality serve to balance Ardmoor’s gruff nature. Ardmoor proved again to be a very entertaining character. I can picture him stomping around with his peg leg decked out with ribbons from his niece. I can hear him fumble for words when attempting not to swear around women and children. Throughout the anthology, he was by far my favorite character.

I enjoyed reading On the Wild Side. The stories fit together well, the romances were heartwarming, and several of the characters, especially Ardmoor, were very entertaining. I recommend it to anyone looking for a regency romance with a splash of magic.