Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
In Rosemary Rogers‘ The Wildest Heart, Lady Rowena Dangerfield is a beautiful woman who men value for her beauty, wealth, or both.
Rowena was a heroine who intrigued me right from the start. She was indifferent to men. Despite their passion for her, she could not love anyone except outlaw Lucas Cord.
For Lucas, Rowena was willing to renounce her inheritance or even die with him in the perilous mountains. Despite his conflicted past, Lucas was the only man to love Rowena for herself alone.
The Negative Aspects
Although I mainly read romance for the love story, I enjoy experiencing the heroine’s travails. I appreciate seeing a heroine’s struggles through life, as the hero is relegated to the background while the she thrives and matures. In a way, The Wildest Heart is one of those books.
Normally this would be enough for me. But Rogers is too passionate a writer to keep the hero as the mere prize the heroine wins at the end for completing her journey.
On top of that, the book ran too long.
Wicked Loving Lies was longer, yet every page of that novel was packed with action. I couldn’t wait to see what WTFery occurred next. Here the 1st-person-POV hinders the pace here because, naturally, there will be more introspection. The action is lean, the mental musings are long.
When He Loves Two Women
Other than a hero who weeps over his dead wife or lover, the only trope I hate more is a Mama’s boy. Lucas is no Mama’s boy, but he is obsessed and in love with the woman he as a boy thought was his mother. That sticky situation puts him in a weird gray category until the end.
The bewitching Elena is much older than Lucas but doesn’t look it. (Wouldn’t it be nice for once if the sexy older woman actually looked like a sexy older woman rather than preternaturally young?)
Lucas had been a lonely boy raised by the Apache. Later, he wasn taken in by his Mexican father, who had no love for him.
Elena manipulated young Lucas and gave him love when he had never known any before. She taught him to hate Todd Shannon, part-owner of the SD Ranch.
This was all heard second hand by Rowena. If I had seen it through Lucas’ eyes or read about it in his head, I’d have appreciated his story more and thus feel more satisfied overall.
I Needed More Perspectives
If The Wildest Heart hadn’t been written primarily in a 1st-person diary format, I would have loved it for the epic range of emotion and intrigue. It would have been a thrill ride on a par with Rogers’ other great bodice rippers, Sweet Savage Love & the previously mentioned Wicked Loving Lies.
Rowen was the overwhelming focus. As much as I understood and admired her, I needed other perspectives.
It would have been fine if the action was interspersed with Rowena’s diary entries. There should have been other characters’ viewpoints.
That only the prologue and epilogue were written in 3rd-person was a huge mistake. With a novel of such a grand scope, more than just Rowena’s thoughts were needed.
One thing I’m certain about is that Rebecca Brandewyne read this novel, for I can see the influences of The Wildest Heart in Brandewyne’s magnum opus, Love Cherish Me.
It’s all here:
- The grand scope of a western epic.
- The fast-shooting cowboy of Spanish descent who raised among the Indians and speaks with a pronounced Western drawl.
- A black-haired heroine on her way west to an unknown future.
- A powerful, older rancher who demands the heroine’s hand in marriage.
- The rancher’s younger relative who loves the heroine and fools her into thinking he’s a good guy.
Wait, there’s more!:
- The murder trial.
- The scandalous couple united against the world at the end.
- And the epilogue as they head into town with their children, while the townspeople wag their tongues about their past shocking antics.
I adored Love Cherish Me. It’s one of my top 10 or 15 bodice rippers, along with the other Rosemary Rogers romances. The Wildest Heart doesn’t reach that level of adoration.
Why not? For being such a smart woman, Rowena certainly made stupid decisions.
She ignored her dead father’s urgent request to read his diaries as she simply didn’t feel like doing so. Sloth is certainly my favorite sin, but she could have skipped to the end of those diaries and taken a gander at what the brouhaha was about.
Then her dumb mistake of trusting the obviously telegraphed villain!
We gave each other, with our bodies, the commitment that neither of us dared put into words. We mated. There is no other word for it. We were equal—man and woman; neither asking what we could not give…
Now, the Positive Aspects
When it came to Elena versus Rowena, those scenes were awesome. I wanted more Rowena-Elena showdowns.
Two alpha women fighting not just for a man but for power over all. I love a great villainess; she makes the heroine stronger.
As said, I appreciated Rowena’s cold personality, which was her coping mechanism to deal with a crazed life. She was certainly passionate where Lucas was concerned.
It was a pleasant surprise that there was no annoying gypsy dancing on Rowena’s part. A heroine dancing like a gypsy in a Rogers novel is akin to a woman from the British Isles being captured and placed in a harem for a Bertrice Small plot. It’s what they do.
The book’s climax was thrilling as in the last chapters, Lucas and Rowena head into the mountains to flee from her wicked husband and fight off armed soldiers.
The passionate relationship between Lucas and Rowena. This was more passion felt by Rowena than by Lucas. Although I prefer a slightly enigmatic hero, it’s nice to know his feeling for the heroine, too.
Finally, was the wonderful epilogue where we did see Lucas’s thoughts. How much more fabulous would it have been if we’d known more of them? If not thoughts, then to witness his actions firsthand without Rowena hearing of them secondhand.
Final Analysis of The Wildest Heart
The ending did make up for the first third of The Wildest Heart, where Lucas was nowhere to be found. I adored this passage near the finale:
They looked into each other’s faces; searching, renewing, re-evaluating. It was as if, without words, Rowena was saying: “I love you, and I have chosen you. There is room in our lives for other people too, now that we are sure of each other.
The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers was a gripping read, with compelling characters. But it doesn’t rank among the best bodice rippers ever.
|Rating Report Card|
No man can own Rowena Dangerfield–a sensuous, strong-willed lady with a fiery, unchained spirit–though many desire her. She had come to claim her birthright, following her destiny to the sprawling New Mexican frontier…and to the only man who can tame her restless heart.
A handsome half-Apache branded an outlaw–a rebel and renegade feared throughout the territories–Lucas Cord’s body and soul cry out for the beautiful, headstrong stranger who has burst into his world. And neither peril nor the treachery of desperate men will prevent him from taking what he wants…or restrain a rampaging passion as wild and hot as the Southwestern winds.THE WILDEST HEART by ROSEMARY ROGERS