Wilde Thing by Janelle Denison
(Kensington, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7582-0359-4
Itís time for every romance readerís favorite game show - What Would You Do If You Were The Heroine?

Letís say you own a trendy Chicago coffee cafť called The Daily Grind and for the last several weeks have been drooling over a hunky new customer. Letís say this customer is the ultimate bad boy - but youíre a little gun shy because of a now deceased, slime ball husband. Letís also say that you live with an impulsive younger cousin, a phone sex operator, who has disappeared.

Letís say you find out that the sexy bad boy is a private investigator and you decide to hire him when the police offer little assistance. You go to his office and proceed to have your first ever conversation with him. It is decided that you will pose as a phone sex operator at your cousinís place of employment. The bad boy proceeds to agree to take your case then admits heís warm for your form. He then leers at you and invites you to sit on his lap. Do you:

A) Slap his face so hard his teeth rattle?
B) Knee him in the family jewels?
C) Play tonsil hockey and nearly wet yourself youíre so turned on?

If you chose either A or B, donít let the door hit you on the way out. However, if you are like our fair heroine, Liz Adams, and chose C, you may want to stick around for a while; Janelle Denisonís debut novel for the steamy Brava line may be the summer beach read youíve been looking for. As for this reviewer, I had a decidedly mixed reaction to all the naughty shenanigans - starting with the above set-up.

Like a guy I dated in college - Wilde Thing lacks foreplay. There is little build-up to the main characters going at it like rabbits. With this story not even clocking in at 300 pages - a chapter or two allowing the characters to tap dance around each other could have gone a long way in building up the tension. The whole start to this story felt like jumping into a frozen lake in the middle of January.

While Wilde Thing starts out on extremely shaky ground - Denison does some things differently in her erotically charged novel that separates it from the pack of normal romance-erotica fare. For one thing, I like her characters. Liz Adams could be anyoneís sister, daughter or best friend. While she has a misguided sense of duty - sheís the kind of gal Iíd like to hang out with. Steve Wilde starts out as the prototypical romance hero bad boy - but Denison softens his image by giving him a teenage daughter he dotes on and a failed marriage that ends amicably. This blessedly means no loathsome ex-wife mucking up the works. It also helps that our bad boy soon finds himself head over heels for our heroine.

The plot of the missing cousin only serves to move the story along - which means going from one sex scene to the next - and Wilde Thing offers up wall-to-wall nookie. When the characters arenít doing it, theyíre either talking or thinking about it. One sex scene in particularly practically melted my glasses off my face.

My original problems with the story set-up did become a dim memory as Denison turned up the steam and delved deeper into her characters. Then I got to the ending. Wilde Thing takes place in one weekís time, and the way the author chooses to end this tale of hedonistic pleasure was just too much for me to swallow. Iím willing to suspend disbelief to a certain extent - but Iím not about to throw it out the window completely.

That said, even with my mixed reaction - Iím largely pleased with Denisonís first full-length foray for Brava. Her likable characters and steamy sex scenes make Wilde Thing compulsively readable. If youíre looking for a hot book to go along with a hot day at the beach, this could be the wild ride youíre looking for.

--Wendy Crutcher

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