The Rich Girl Goes Wild
by Leah Vale
(Harl. American #936, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-16936-1
The Rich Girl Goes Wild would be more aptly titled “The Rich Girl Gets A Life”, as this is the story of a woman who gets dumped on and buries herself under the guise of another personality in order to save herself from sorrow, only to be saved by her true love. Yes, this is a plot we have all seen before. Thankfully, in the hands of Leah Vale, it is an ultimately entertaining and very satisfying romance.

Ashley Rivers, daughter of the owners of Two Rivers Industries and heiress to a fortune, is the family social secretary. Growing up an adventure-loving teen, she has buried herself in the more serious role, thinking she is taking her mother’s place in the family. Her mother died of cancer several years ago. Shortly before her mother’s illness, a man who had convinced her he loved her, only for her to discover he wanted her money and the advantages that money could bring, duped Ashley. She has hardened her heart, swearing she will never be so stupid again. She has resigned herself to never marrying.

Entering the scene is a hunk of a man, tracking mud from his mountain bike into her lovely mansion of a home. Ready to throw him out, Ashley discovers he knows her brother, Harrison, from Harvard. In fact, this friend is Wilder Hunter MacDougal V, a billionaire bachelor fleeing from an aggressive fortune hunter. He decides to hide out at his friend’s house under the guise of a nobody named Mac Wilder. Harrison goes along and Ashley is left in the dark.

This is another well-known plot trick and yet, after getting over my initial irritation, I enjoyed how the author uses it in an advantageous approach. Mac is free to tease, flirt and otherwise be a charming man without concern about his reputation or restrictions. He realizes early that Ashley is more than the staid spinster she professes to be. He sets out to give her a chance to live once more as the sister he had heard about, affectionately called “Ash-Bash” by her brother.

Mac is harboring some secrets of his own, and is a man in need of redeeming. Ashley is just the person to reach under his armor and reach his hardened heart. Mac’s family legacy is that the MacDougals love only once. He had a sweetheart from college who died in a car accident, and he believes he has lost his chance for long-term love and family.

Mac is a charming hero, with a lot of depth. Ashley has many layers to shed and as she rediscovers her true sense of self, I found myself liking her more and more. My only caveat is that the reader must get past the fact that these two have really held onto their feelings of doom for their future a little too long. Burying your feelings to avoid hurt is one thing, but seven and ten years, respectively, is a little extreme.

Vale makes the story one that a reader can get engaged in rather easily, and that is the saving grace. The sexual tension builds nicely, right alongside the appreciation of the other qualities that are blooming. Both Mac and Ashley discover things about themselves through their relationship. And they are smart enough to realize these traits are ones they like and can thus embrace even when apart. And there is a nice twist in the end that allows both of them to break through barriers so that both are renewed. This is no one-sided love affair.

Romance is the essence of this story, with Ashley learning about her wants and how those coincide with a man’s without diminishing her pride. Mac, a man with a selfish reputation, realizes that he can be selfless and still enjoy life. Both talk about their feelings and confront the other. How refreshing!

Ignore the title, get past the predictable nature of the plot set-up and enjoy the antics of these two well-written characters. The Rich Girl Goes Wild is romance, pure and simple.

--Shirley Lyons

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