by Phoebe Conn

December 2003
ISBN: 0-8439-5300-4
Reviewer Graphic Button Leisure Books
Mass Market Paperback

Imagine living in one of the most beautiful ranches in Fort Worth, Texas, surrounded by loving family and friends, and engaged to a wealthy businessman. Eliza Kate thought she had the perfect life until the dark stranger, Jonathan Blair, rode into her life. Jonathan had planned a quick visit to a dear friend before he headed to California to live his days and nights mourning the loss of his young wife and son. He never expected to ever care for another woman until he set his eyes on the beautiful niece of his best friend. Eliza Kate had been around many men since she ran the ranch while her father and uncle fought in the Civil War. She knew how to handle them and was ready to kick out this one who was relaxing in her favorite spot by the river. But, she was equally thunderstruck, and soon discovered she was quickly falling in love with the dark handsome stranger who knew her father, and who her uncle bragged about from the war.

The chemistry was instantaneous between the two characters and all too soon, they were having clandestine meetings in Jonathanís bedroom after dark. I donít usually like to see characters fall into bed so quickly, because I like some romantic tension and obstacles to cross before the characters unite. It appeared there was going to be some, because Lamar, Eliza Kateís father, had an ugly secret that only Jonathan knew, and wanted the young man out of his home. Also, Eliza Kate was almost engaged to Fletcher, who I thought would suspect what was going on at the ranch and try to get rid of Jonathan. So just when I was wondering what was going to separate the two lovers, I was shocked to see that the author simply stopped talking about their romance and started another one.

Before I knew it, I was reading about the war-torn, broken and aging uncle Lawrence, who was having an affair with Flossie Mae, a madame from the town brothel, posing as the owner of a hat shop.

There are many problems I had with this affair, besides the abrupt halt of any action between Eliza Kate and Jonathan. I couldnít relate to Lawrence as a romantic figure, especially since I was comparing him with Jonathan (no contest). I thought it was sick that a brother was manipulating another brother, even though he thought it was for his own good, (to build his self-esteem). Flossie Mae never was an endearing character, despite the author's attempt explain that she was a young widow and had to no choice but to run a brothel. Also, couldnít get passed the fact that she was the lover of two brothers. I agree with Lawrence when he was found out who she was and was furious that she lied to him. Her character was too sneaky and selfish and not at all likable. I didnít even care when Lamar beat her up.

I donít know why authors spoil a good story by introducing a sub-plot that doesnít rate being in the same book. Rather than spend pages about the romance between Lawrence and Flossie Mae, I missed reading more about Jonathan and Eliza Kate. I do, though, like sub-plots that are intertwined between the lead characters. I would have rather read more about the escapades of Ricky, the lively younger brother of Eliza Kate. Or even more about Fletcher, the so-called fiancee of Eliza Kate, who didnít appear to be concerned that an incredibly handsome man was staying at Eliza Kateís home. It seems to me that more should have been made of Fletcherís character in the beginning and middle of the story, rather than at the end. After all, the two were very competitive. What happened to gambling competitions or shooting matches?

By the end there was the inevitable happy ending but it was a hollow feeling. The story had started out so promising. All of you that are fans of Ms. Conn, like myself, will enjoy the beautiful love scenes and setting between Eliza Kate and Jonathan, although I wish there was more dialogue because what little she writes is well done. I hope the next time Ms. Conn writes about two characters with such great chemistry and promise that she continues their story of Wild Desire.

Reviewed in December 2003 by Suemarie.

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