Dear Ms. Cohen:
Your book, Driving Him Wild, came to my attention when it was announced as one of the RNA nominees for best category romance of 2007. As Sarah from SBTB notes, the lovely Harlequin folks decided that they would change the title for us Americans to His For the Taking. Driving Him Wild was a much more apt title and I kept wondering throughout the story how the heroine in the book was EVER for the hero’s taking.
But aside from the title, this was a very surprising Harlequin Presents. First off, the heroine is the one with money. Zoe Drake finds Maine forest ranger Nick Giroux, sitting outside her great-aunt Zinia’s Park Avenue apartment. Nick believes that his father, who left his family 16 years ago, is hiding out inside the apartment and he is not leaving until he gets inside. Zoe is partially turned on by Nick’s aggressiveness and partly creeped out. After all, Nick is a gorgeous specimen of a man. On the other hand, it is New York.
Zoe explains that she is there to get the clothes that recently deceased Xinia wanted to be buried in. Zoe gives in to Nick’s pleas and lets him inside to look around. He finds nothing but Nick provides a good distraction for the pain of the loss of the one family member that seemed to accept Zoe for who she is. Zoe does not fit in with her immediate family. Her sisters are all successful, petite, and traditionally beautiful. Zoe is the ugly duckling – larger, a cab driver with no meaningful ambition. She dreads family get togethers because of her inability to measure up.
Nick’s family loss happened years ago. His father’s abandonment led Nick to become a caretaker. Ordinarily, his choice of women were much like the animals he was saving – small and helpless. Zoe is anything but he is attracted to her nonetheless. Nick is determined to find his father and sticking close to Zoe, his best clue, seems like the perfect way to muddle around the City.
While I appreciated the themes of the book that family is what you make it and you are not made by your family, I thought that some of the character drawings, particularly of Zoe’s family were heavy handed. The sisters, in particular, were unlikeable, full of pettiness and self absorption. Zoe was actually, for all her outward independence, seemed really in need of Nick’s care. Physically she wasn’t his normal “type” but emotionally she wasn’t much stronger than the wounded NYC pigeon that Nick decided to save.
Nick wasn’t much better. He had been living in the past, unable to make a committment because he was paralyzed emotionally by his father’s abandonment. His inability to deal with this made him project onto Zoe feelings and intentions that she didn’t actually have. One problem I found with this was the speed at which Nick fell for Zoe and then was perturbed by her lack of immediate capitulation which he then viewed as a rejection. Sometimes, I felt like the emotional arcs and revelations were dealt with a heavy hand and that took away from the meaningful character development.
Overall, though, this was an unusual Harlequin Presents because it did not deal with the billionaire businessman and an extravagant locale. Instead, the strength of the book was the extravagance of the emotional exploration. B.