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If He’s Wild
by Hannah Howell
(Zebra, $6.99, PG13) ISBN 978-1-4201-0462-2
If He’s Wild is not a brand new kind of story, but Hannah Howell manages to turn it into a delightful tale just the same with a gorgeous cast of imaginative background characters.

Alethea Vaughn Channing is a sad kind of recluse.  She’s from the notorious Vaughn and Wherlocke family clan, which carries psychic gifts in their bloodline.  Many of the family members prefer to hide in their homes rather than mingle with society.  Alethea married young to a very cold, shallow man, and since his death she’s been a veritable recluse at her country estate.  Alethea sees visions after touching objects, and she has one of a particular man that she’s been seeing at different times for over 15 years. Suddenly, she sees a vision of this man dying in a terrible way and decides that she must go to London to warn him. Alethea’s Uncle Iago travels with her to help protect her, as he believes he might know some of the people that Alethea saw in her vision.

Lord Hartley Greville has garnered quite a reputation as a dandy and a rake, so he’s very surprised when Iago introduces him to his beautiful young niece Alethea at a ball. He wonders if the man has any sense to be introducing the seemingly pure widow to a man of his reputation.  Hartley knows that his reputation has been carefully cultivated, and he’s often seduced women to learn their secrets as a spy for the Crown, but Iago doesn’t know any of this.  Hartley is currently working on seducing a wicked Frenchwoman who may be more than she seems, and he tries to put the sweet Alethea out of his thoughts while he concentrates on his work.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work and because Alethea and Iago have been seen with Hartley, they are suddenly much more involved in the Crown’s secrets than they ever wanted to be.

When Hartley tries his best to protect Iago and Alethea, he discovers that the Vaughn-Wherlocke families are all set to help, and that each member of the family that he encounters are loyal, loving, colorful and gifted characters that soon have him believing in them.  Their various talents are strange and wonderful, but they will all have to work together and hope for the best when Hartley’s little seduction assignment completely blows up and some of them might not make it out alive.

If He’s Wild reminded me a little of Amanda Quick’s “Arcane Society” series, which I give as a serious compliment to Hannah Howell as I’m a big fan of Amanda Quick.  However, it makes the premise and layout of this story one that has been penned before.  I completely understood within the first few chapters how the story was basically going to play out. There were no surprises or big twists that stunned me.  What saved If He’s Wild from becoming boring was that it avoided a lot of the other “standard plotline” mistakes that just nettle the average reader.  The background characters were varied, interesting and contributed to every aspect of the story. 

Hartley was a realistic type of man with great, catalogued reactions to Alethea’s odd clan.  Alethea was a heroine (finally!) who didn’t jump into the crazy/scary action moments of the story because she just couldn’t contain herself.  Alethea’s visions are actually written in a compassionate and detailed way that enrich her character instead of making her seem unbelievable.  As for Uncle Iago, who adds a new dimension of secondary character, I really felt for him and hope that Howell writes him his own story one day soon.

And on a final note, the title seems to have been chosen completely at random.  It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the story.

With some surprises thrown in, If He’s Wild could have been one of the best books I’ve read all year.  However, it pretty much stuck to the script so therefore it’s just another good read.     

--Amy Wroblewsky  

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