Saturday, November 22, 2014

SUNNY - ARC BOOK REVIEW: "Wild" by Jill Sorenson

Wild passion

Zookeeper Helena Fjord has a dangerous job at San Diego’s Wildlife Park. She’s got no time for nonsense, and no interest in handsome, laid-back security officer Josh Garrison. She steers clear of his silly pranks and sexy smile--until disaster strikes.

Natural instincts

Josh has been coasting ever since his Navy SEAL dreams went up in smoke. He’s always had the hots for Helena, but the lady is off-limits. When a devastating earthquake hits, the unlikely pair must work together to secure the park’s borders. With wild animals on the loose, aftershocks imminent, and fires blazing across the city, they face serious peril—and a powerful attraction. Josh vows to protect Helena at all costs. But who will safeguard her heart?

Josh Garrison
Helena Fjord

If you know anything about me professionally or personally, you know I’m into conversations around the topic of diversity.  Last year I went to RT and was disappointed that, but for a very few authors (and you know who you are because we talked for hours), not many wanted to address diversity issues.  It is this kind of book that makes me want to cheer and engage with these issues again.

Diversity is more than looking at issues of race, ethnicity, birth order, and geography. It is also about issues of gender – and that discussion goes beyond sexual orientation.  It is a discussion about what constitutes our understanding of what it means to be male and female. 

You are probably wondering, “What in the world does this have to do with this book?”  It is relevant because Jill Sorenson gives us a different kind of hero in this story - a beta male.

Having recently read the author’s, Riding Dirty, which featured a swoon-worthy alpha male, I was expecting the same when I started this book.  When it became clear that Josh was not an alpha, I became a little dissatisfied because he was not what I expected. But the more I read the story, the more I began to appreciate that I was getting a different kind of character.  Did it ruin the story for me?  Absolutely not.   Once I began to confront my own bias about what it means to be a hero, I began to appreciate Josh’s character that much more. 

What does it mean to be a beta male?  And this being in the romance genre, can he be sexy?

As contrast, let’s start with the alpha male.   For me, like a lion in the animal kingdom, an alpha male implies someone who is physically dominant with a commanding presence.  He is highly protective, supremely confident, and a bit intimidating. He is capable and experienced.

I like this definition I saw in the Urban Dictionary for a beta male that I thought described Josh’s character well:

The betas are wingmen, collaborative and conciliatory. Betas make the best mates. They do more in the house, and probably in the bedroom, because they know how to hasten the greater good. . . .He’s sure of who he is, and not constantly trying to prove his value in materialistic terms....The beta can earn a lot of money, or a little, but the money’s not the thing; he profits because he works well with others.

There’s something rebellious about the beta male; he challenges the social order rather than succumbing to it. The beta male doesn’t buy in to the basest stereotypes about male behavior. . . .

Is a beta male less capable? No.  Josh does not have the most overwhelming physical presence, but he is resourceful, working with Helena to solve problem after problem.  He is also courageous, funny, and sexy.  (Which is saying a lot because this story takes place in a wild animal park after a devastating earthquake.)  Josh’s character made me think about what it means to be manly. 

This is solid story about challenges and rescue.  Our hero and heroine must overcome threats from escaped predators including a lion and lioness and a Komodo dragon.  There is also a secondary story from the perspective of Chloe Garrison, Josh’s sister.  She and her young daughter are caught on the Coronado Bay Bridge when the earthquake happens.  A stranger with very limited English skills rescues them.  In contrast to the high tension of the activities happening at the park, this is a sweeter, more innocent story.  They face their own set of obstacles, but there is tenderness that is very appealing to this tangential story.

There are a lot of reasons to like this book.  I’m always going to give a thumbs-up to stories that get me to think and challenge me to think about the lenses I see the world. 

Jill Sorenson is the RITA-nominated author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels, including the Aftershock series by HQN. She lives in the San Diego area with her family. She’s a soccer mom who loves nature, coffee, reading, twitter and reality TV. Jogging keeps her sane.

Thank you to the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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