What’s a famous man to do when he’s famous for things that never happened? For things that paint him as a public personality when he’s so much the reverse? Adding in the complications from a heroine who wants absolutely no part of a man so much in the public eye that he seems shameless creates quite the conundrum. Such is the contrary, fun and complicated romance between Alaric and Willa.
This novel is definitely character driven because it’s a push/pull between what the heroine expects a future husband should be and a hero who wants to be what she needs but is stymied by something that he truly can’t control. It’s like Lord Wilde is a rock star of the Regency period. Woman steal the bricks from his home, they want to tour where he supposedly trod as a child – they are obsessive and frenzied romantic fans of a man who is a larger than life hero. Because of all that unwanted attention Alaric has become a man wary of a woman’s intentions, until he meets the most unusual and fascinating Willa. I enjoyed when they met but I really liked how he slowly realized that she wasn’t a sycophant. In fact the heroine is the complete opposite and she kept him at arm’s length. Well, she tried to but eventually she spends enough time with the hero to see the man underneath the fame. The reason why she has that time to explore and delve into the man named Alaric is what endeared me to their romance – I was charmed, entertained and thoroughly invested in seeing them come together and fall in love.
The weird twist comes from the dynamics of both heroine and hero having alternate personalities. Ms. James found a unique technique to explore a romance between two people that seemed so different but are in truth very much alike. Sure, they fight it and that’s half the fun but how everything gets resolved is cheeky and adorable.
Just in case a reader thinks it’s all seduction, light hearted problems and fluffy prose, the author does include a villain to spice things up. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this person was not only going to be a problem, I even guessed quite correctly the method of diabolical intent and delivery. Even knowing that didn’t detract from my enjoyment because it’s always the presentation that can make or break a scene and I’m glad to report that Ms. James employed a clever and impressive solution.
As for secondary characters, there is quite a few that made an impact, not only in Alaric and Willa’s romance but as couples themselves. Parth and Roland stand out the clearest. Roland for his bad clothing taste, and Parth for his sour grapes personality towards the heroine’s cohort in crime made both of them kind of comical yet the author did hint at serious depths so there is definitely more to learn in future books. I am certainly looking forward to the discovery. But my absolute favorite characters were Sweetpea and Hannibal. What a fascinating pair and definitely assets to the heroine and hero.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t wax poetic about Alaric and Willa finally succumbing to that wonderful buildup of repressed passion they both inspired in each other. Those were well written, inventive, and quite enjoyable. Just make sure to have something cool to drink for a few of the scenes – they were a lot hotter than I expected causing me to blink a few times. Whoa.
All in all, Wilde in Love is a historical romance treat. The antics that surround the fandom of Lord Wilde, the adventurer, made me snort and snicker quite a few times. I think the final scene was done with flair, style and was greatly amusing. I believe that fans of Ms. James will be quite pleased in meeting Alaric and Willa. They were a fun couple and I’m glad I met them. I can’t wait to see whose story gets told next. I hope it’s as good as Wilde in Love.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.