SOMETHING WILDER by Christina Lauren

From the publisher:

The “reigning romance queens” (PopSugar) and New York Times bestselling authors of The Soulmate Equation and The Unhoneymooners present a charming and laugh-out-loud funny novel filled with adventure, treasure, and, of course, love.

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 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.

From the author of the “heartfelt and funny” (Publishers Weekly) sensation The Unhoneymooners, this page-turning adventure full of second chances, complicated relationships, and the breathtaking beauty of the American Southwest will take fans on one wild ride.

“Writing duo Lauren Billings and Christina Hobbs strike gold again in this thrilling contemporary romance set in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Equal parts exhilarating puzzle-filled adventure and steamy second-chance romance, this cinematic wild-west rom-com is a must-have.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Fans of Christina Lauren, known for their delightful rom-coms, may be surprised by this shift into the world of adventure romance. It should be a pleasant surprise, though, given that the story is fast-paced, exciting, and still full of that classic Christina Lauren swoon (in between the danger, occasional violence, and plot twists). Lily and Leo’s romance is plenty steamy, but the real star is the landscape, which is described in sweltering, dusty detail. A vivid escape that’s perfect for romantic thrill-seekers.” Kirkus (starred review)

https://amzn.to/3zJZRJM

I’ve included two quotes from starred reviews in authoritative journals because I didn’t love this book. I don’t always agree with other reviewers, so I think it only fair to show another point of view.

This was no rom-com, the subgenre of romance that these authors generally write, despite what Kirkus said. A rom-com is light and frothy and most of all, funny – the “com” in rom-com stands for comedy. This was also labeled as “adventure romance,” a subgenre I’m not familiar with at all. To me it was romantic suspense, which I enjoy now and then. The suspense is definitely there; it is enough to keep the pages turning for sure.

My issue with this book is the romance and the main characters. There is very little in the way of character development. We learn that Leo and Lily spent a couple of months together ten years earlier, and somehow they are still madly in love. They’ve not been in touch nor seen one another in that time, so I just found it very hard to believe. This is a second chance love story, and usually I like those, but I didn’t buy their story and I didn’t feel especially drawn to these characters. If I’m not invested in the characters, I’m not invested in their story.

I did like the setting a lot. The basic plot is Lily is eking out a living by taking tour groups on a treasure hunting adventure through the Utah desert. Her father, Duke Wilder, was a world renowned treasure hunter, and Lily has all his maps and uses them to help her tourists find “treasure.” When Leo shows up with his friends, he is just as shocked to see Lily as she is to see him.

The premise of the book is that Butch Cassidy hid much of his bank robbery earnings throughout the Utah desert, and Duke supposedly knows where, so people want to come on these tours. However, the group with Leo’s friends are sketchy at best, and that’s where the suspense comes in. Unfortunately, the characters are very one dimensional including Leo and Lily.

I put this book down several times – I think I read four other books while reading this one because I just couldn’t get into it. It probably would have been a DNF for me if it wasn’t by Christina Lauren – I have loved all their books until this one. I understand they wanted to try something new, but for me it was a disappointment. Please see starred reviews above for a different point of view!

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SOMETHING WILDER by Christina Lauren. Gallery Books (May 17, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1982173401. 384p.

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