Friday, May 15, 2009

The Wild One

Denise Eagan
Historical Romance
Zebra Books - 2009

The Wild One is Denise Eagan’s second book, her second book to be published. She began writing at fourteen. Typical of so many good novelists, she began young, worked hard, trained for a real job (accounting, she graduated from a college from which my husband holds a degree), gathered her obligatory trunk full of reassuring rejection, continued writing, joined Romance Writers of America, won a contest, and soldiered on to a two-book contract with Kensington (while being a mother, wife, and homemaker). I’m tired just thinking about it. The Wild One is the second of the two and a sequel to her first, Wicked Woman. Yes, hers is that old familiar story: Overnight sensation!

She mentions that The Wild One came to her in pieces, scene by scene, most often out of order. That is a sign she’s a gut writer, one who lives the story as she writes, letting the winds of inspiration drive her to unplanned destinations. The gut is the writer. The head is the editor. When the writer learns to let the first roam free and keep the second in check, the result is usually a deliciously surprising story. And that it is.

Jessica Sullivan was a beautiful, serious actress. She had no interest in men because her husband had abandoned her while she was in labor with their child. As if that weren’t enough, her child died when he was two days old. She continued living as a married woman because she couldn’t afford to divorce the man who abandoned her. But that was not the beginning of life’s destruction of her self worth.

Because she was serious about her craft, Jessica didn’t fit well with the other actors in the troupe who used the stage to advance their sex lives. She didn’t “play” with men because she thought that was morally inappropriate. But more importantly, her experience with men showed her they couldn’t be trusted. At a deeper level and in spite of her moral convictions, she felt that life was just passing her by.

Not only that, she had asked the director of the traveling players to set apart a portion of her weekly salary so that she could repay a debt to her brother, but he was a man, too, and true to her experience, he gambled away the money he was supposed to be saving for her. Her view of herself kept getting lower. She tried so hard and yet never succeeded. In addition to that, her family had disowned her. Her self-worth was hitting bottom.

Could the tall, dark, handsome, and rich Lee Montgomery keep it from hitting bottom. Since this is a romance novel, that’s reasonable to expect, but he had his problems, too. While he came from a wealthy Boston family, his success at gambling fed his desire to never settle down He didn’t want his family’s money if it also required him to be a proper Bostonian. Besides, there was this actress who had caught his eye. Her name was Jessica Sullivan.

Then she was wrongly accused of murder and was on the run. To top it all off, her estranged husband showed up and kidnapped her. She thought her life was over and the thought didn’t displease her. Would Lee Montgomery spring for the ransom? She figured not. Psychologically, she had hit bottom.

But, let’s not forget this is a romance novel. While it starts out more slowly than I like, Eagan crafts well drawn, engaging characters. Their depth made them fun to be with and drew me into the story. When the pace took off in the last third of the book, being intimate with the characters made the read more rewarding than most.

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