Something Wilder by Christina Lauren
May 17, 2022, by Gallery Books
Review by Angela
I’m still not absolutely sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it starts out with the classic Christina Lauren charm with interesting characters, strong friendships, and lively banter. On the other hand, it is quite a bit darker than this writing duo’s other novels. Labeled as an “adventure romance”, Something Wilder is big on the drama and mystery, but some of the character’s behavior and responses left me shaking my head in exasperation.
Something Wilder begins by introducing Lily Wilder, daughter of treasure hunter and adventurer Duke Wilder. Lily has spent her entire childhood decoding puzzles and hearing about the mysteries of long ago bank robberies and hidden gold. Duke apparently did a whole lot of adventuring and not enough raising his daughter. Readers also meet Leo, who showed up at the ranch Lily’s family owns to work and ended up falling in love. But their forever promises didn’t last, and that’s when Lily’s life really goes to shit.
Fast forward to the present day when Leo is ready to take the annual boys’ trip with his two besties and finds out they are going on an adventure vacation. Hiking, camping, decoding a treasure map and hopefully finding the gold left by Billy the Kid. Along for the ride is an acquaintance who frankly, made my skin crawl from the moment he stepped on the page. All is good until Leo realizes that the person leading them into the unknown is none other than his once forever love, Lily Wilder.
This Lily is a hardened outdoorswoman who takes no shit from anyone. She and her assistant take on vacationing groups looking for a little adventure, with the hopes that they can make enough money to buy back Lily’s ranch. She isn’t too happy when she realizes Leo is in this newest party, but she’ll do her job nonetheless.
I think this book started out as a classic Christina Lauren romance, introducing all the main and secondary characters, revealing their backstory and what I *thought* would be the main conflict. Second chance romance is my jam so I was all in, especially when Lily and Leo got that first look at each other after so long. But then something happens…
The villain of the story is revealed and he literally goes off a cliff and falls to his death. Which causes all kinds of angst among the remaining characters as they decide what to do about it.
This event changes the course of the novel and that’s when I realized what the actual conflict would be. And while I understood the reasoning behind the decision to go after the treasure I couldn’t get past some of the behavior of a few of the characters. I just couldn’t. This book changed from a fun romance, full of adventure with maybe some ‘past love, why did you leave me’ romance into something much darker. Yes, there is a lovely romance between Lily and Leo, and I even appreciated that they got their misunderstandings out of the way early on, but I still couldn’t get my mind off of the big event and how everyone reacted to it. Some of their choices didn’t make sense to me.
The other thing I DID like is that there is a nice HEA at the end, with the romance wrapped up nicely. I mean Leo, Lily, and I deserved that happily ever after all that we’d been through. As a side note: if I ever find myself in need of a partner during a treasure hunt I’d like a Leo on my side.
In the end, I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love Something Wilder. I’m sure I’ll be in the minority as this author duo has a huge following, so maybe this is a *me* thing. I am glad Christina Lauren is branching off into different sub-genres of romance, and am looking forward to whatever they put out next.
Final grade- C