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REVIEW: Wild by Margo Maguire

Dear Ms. Maguire:

006166787001lzzzzzzzI’ve been meaning to read you for a year or so but I haven’t gotten around to it until recently. This book intrigued me, though, and I thought it was the perfect place to start.

When Anthony Maddox was 10 years old, he was lost on an African Safari. His father searched but could not find him, eventually going home and dying within a year of his return. Anthony’s grandmother kept up the search by offering a large reward. Twenty-two years later, while he was sick, two adventurers came upon him in a valley several hundred miles inland. The story of Anthony’s loss in Africa was legendary and coming upon a white man in this territory made the adventurers think of his story. They questioned him and are provided enough information to believe that he is the genuine lost heir.

In some sense, this was a captivity romance, but only in reverse. Anthony is captured and taken back to England where he is to learn to act, speak and comport himself as a gentleman worthy of the title, Earl of Sutton. If he cannot convince the House of Lords that he is Anthony, then the title will be stripped and likely given to someone else.

The problem is that Anthony’s emotional arc begins with him narrating his love for Africa but the path back to Africa seems easy enough.

But he had become part of Africa, and it was surely part of him in a way that England could never be. He belonged in his tropical valley, with its tribal people and fresh game, with its flowing waters and open sky.

When questioned about his past, he gives accurate answers. If he truly wants to return to Africa, why doesn’t he just lie about it. If they believe he’s an imposter, he’ll get a ticket back to his tropical valley. But the story needs Anthony in Africa so he ponies up all the right details to make others believe in him.

I felt like I was always questioning whether it was authentic. For example, Anthony speaks perfect English. I suppose that the excuse was that Anthony had a Bible left by the missionaries that he carried with him at all times and that he lived in England until the age of 10. I wasn’t necessarily convinced, particularly when you go to the trouble to insert the occasional African phrase here or there. (was that even his tribe’s dialect?). To a degree, the African insertions reminded me alot of the faux Scottish accents that characters are given via the usage of dinnae, cannae, and kin. This passage took place the day after his landing in England:

“You cannot imagine the violence of the downpour and the resulting mayhem on the boat. In the chaos, I-” Grace saw the flexing of a muscle in his jaw as he hesitated. “- I fell overboard.”

At another juncture, Anthony’s courtship/seduction of Grace is interrupted by another suitor and Anthony thinks to “throttle him.” His “barbarism is based on physicalities. He doesn’t wear shoes and he often acts on his lustful impulses toward Grace.

Grace Hawthorne is the companion to Anthony’s grandmother, Lady Sophia Sutton. She owes a great deal to Lady Sutton and therefore when Lady Sutton asks Grace to be Anthony’s tutor, Henry Higgins, if you will. The two are pushed into close, secreted quarters as Grace privately tutors Anthony on deportment, political structure, recent history, and the like. Anthony focuses on learning all that he can and defeating the challenge to his ascension to earldom because he has little love for his challenger (but then he really, really is going home to Africa).

Anthony’s real longing for Africa isn’t due to the appeal of his valley, but it is the fear of being abandoned. He has believed for years that his father left him and even when confronted with a differing story, that need to be self sufficient in all things is something that can’t be shaken off like bad manners.

Grace is grateful to Lady Sutton for taking her in. She has no money or position of her own and a lady’s companion to someone as decent as Lady Sutton is much as she can aspire to. She’s been abandoned too, in a sense, by her the deaths of her parents and the desertion of a suitor who couldn’t take Grace and Grace’s ailing mother. She has a certain sense of inferiority that allows herself to be manipulated into the uncomfortable situation with Anthony and then, when she succumbs to Anthony’s seductions, she believes herself to not be worthy to be his mate.

It’s possible that I don’t have enough imagination for this story, that I cannot simply be swept away without questioning this detail and that. Both the character arcs had a nice feel to them, although I thought that Anthony’s near constant physical attraction to Grace a bit overwhelming in this situation. I’m curious to read another book by you to see if I would have the same consistency/believability problems. This one, though, in my notebook is a C.

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers (couldn’t find it at the Sony Store).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

21 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 06:23:33

    Sounds like Tarzan meets The Far Pavillions to me. The amazingly well-spoken orphan boy would have put me off before I got to the rest of it, I think.

  2. Anika
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 07:53:20

    This sounds an awful lot like Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes – but without the Apes.

  3. DS
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 08:06:24

    Haven’t read the book, but I wonder about the barbarism/throttle thing. It sounds like a 19th century western idea of what someone raised by an African tribe would be like. At least Tarzan had the excuse that he was raised by apes.

  4. vanessa jaye
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 08:48:32

    I think I’ll pick this one up simply because I love the Tarzan hero trope, but the only one I’ve come across was the excellent Wild At Heart by Patricia Gaffney.

  5. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 09:30:01

    I don’t think you ever forget a language you spoke for ten years. By this age, it gets increasingly difficult to pick up a second. It would make sense for him to be rusty, however.

    I also love Tarzan heroes. I like that cover, too. : )

  6. Elly Soar
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:21:50

    @ Jill – You certainly can forget a language spoken for 10+ years, particularly when those 10 years are your early childhood. This is a problem difficulty with older child international adoption – children come home speaking their native language but while they are learning English in their new homes they go through a period of languagelessness (not the actual term which I forget at the moment) which can generally last several months wherein they completely lose the first language but haven’t yet learned English. This is a major obstacle when attempting to have the child tested for services in the new school – testing in either language is inadequate to determine whether the child is experiencing language learning issues or has actual special needs. Despite efforts by many adoptive parents to maintain the first language, most international adoptees lose that language within a period of 3 months to a year. See articles like http://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory.com/Article/Cognitive–Language–and-Educational-Issues-of-Children-Adopted-from-Overseas-Orphanages–Part-II/39

  7. Larisa
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:32:07

    Have to agree with Anika’s comment. While I love this type of story, this one sounds like a direct rip-off of Greystoke, particularly the portions that take place after he’s returned to England.

  8. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:59:49

    Elly,

    Interesting article. Thanks for the link! It does say that children who can read and write in their native language are less affected. And, I think by “older children” they mean non-infants. I would venture to guess that most international adoptees are younger than 10.

    For a 9-year -old child with age-appropriate literacy skills in his/her native language the process of losing language may take longer, but still within a year the functionality of the language will be dramatically diminished

    Fair enough.

  9. sula
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 19:43:28

    What elly said rings true with me. My fiance is from Africa and had a cousin who moved to Canada when he was about ten. The parents had some weird idea that speaking their native tongue at home would hinder him from becoming fluent in English, so they only spoke English at home. When the cousin was about 19 and went back to Africa to visit, he couldn’t speak his native language. My fiance remembers sitting with him and watching him cry because he felt completely adrift and unable to communicate with his extended family. Sad stuff. :(

    As for the book, I’m always interested in books set in Africa but really tired of them being populated by European heros. Can we have some African heros, plz? kthxbai.

  10. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 20:43:27

    Sula, thanks. I stand corrected.

  11. Evangeline
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 03:40:12

    I’m offended by this book because we are in a post-colonial world and the title “Wild” coupled with a plot about a European lost in the Congo who is discovered and needs to be “civilized” takes us back to the Victorian era. But I guess, an anthropologist, I really dislike the use of non-Western societies as a short-cut for “outsider” status for characters, and placing Europeans in those countries to find “freedom” from “oppressive” society–all the while their “freedom” has historically come at the cost of the autonomy of colonized peoples. I’m not into revisionist history, but I would kill for greater sensitivity of these matters in romance. “Wild” is just one more book in a long line of romances where non-Western cultures are used to inject “color” into the plot.

  12. Sherry Thomas
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 12:17:44

    I came to the States when I was thirteen.

    And now I am approximate the same age as the hero in this book.

    I never stopped speaking Chinese–my mom lives in the neighborhood and I see her daily. I can read novel-length works in Chinese and can write letters with the help of a dictionary.

    But I’m not sure I can speak at this level of diction in Chinese today.

    “You cannot imagine the violence of the downpour and the resulting mayhem on the boat. In the chaos, I…” Grace saw the flexing of a muscle in his jaw as he hesitated. “… I fell overboard.”

    I’d probably say something like

    The storm was really bad. And everything was crazy and confusing. And I just fell off.

    Because what happens after a while is that you start to think in your new language. I do all my thinking in English, and have to mentally translate from English to Chinese for more complex ideas and expressions. And while I do agree it’s unlikely you will lose a language completely, it is very, very easy to lose vocabulary.

    However, the escape hatch for the writer is that the conversation took place not immediately after the hero was rescued, but after he lands in England. Depending on what year this took place, he could have taken four to six weeks to get out from the Interior of Africa and make it back home, during which time he would have been speaking with other English speakers who are no doubt eager to help him recover his full English speech.

    And I do know for a fact that I speak somewhat more elegant Chinese when I stay in China for a bit. :-)

  13. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 13:38:18

    I came to the States when I was thirteen.

    And now I am approximate the same age as the hero in this book.

    I never stopped speaking Chinese-my mom lives in the neighborhood and I see her daily. I can read novel-length works in Chinese and can write letters with the help of a dictionary.

    But this is totally different from what transpires in the book, where the kid is left with no English-speakers to help him maintain the language (or at least that’s the impression I get from the review).

    My best friend is half Turkish, and while he spoke Turkish quite fluently as a kid (when he spent a lot of time there) he speaks almost none now (and understands even less).

  14. Sherry Thomas
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:13:35

    Karen,

    If you read on you’d see that was my point exactly. That even with my practice, I cannot speak Chinese at that level of diction.

  15. Sherry Thomas
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:14:11

    Oops, Kalen.

  16. The Discriminating Fangirl
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 23:40:50

    I think Evangeline makes a good point, that this book is using Africa as the Other. It smacks of colonialist thought, that the Dark Continent is full of savages who practice barbarian customs, yadda yadda yadda. This part: “His “barbarism is based on physicalities. He doesn't wear shoes and he often acts on his lustful impulses toward Grace.” (not sure where that quote ends) reinforces the idea that the white man raised by tribal people is obviously going to be less civilized and might even *gasp!* hump the heroine’s leg in public or something. Because he’s a barbarian. Like those tribal Africans.

    I haven’t read the book, but the idea leaves a bad taste in my mouth. :(

  17. MCHalliday
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:31:05

    If he cannot convince the House of Lords that he is Anthony, then the title will be stripped…

    In 1829, titles could only be deprived through a bill of attainder by Parliment and only for treason or a felony.

    … and likely given to someone else.</blockquote

    Due to Letters Patent, a title can only be passed to a legitimate heir or it becomes extinct.

  18. Jane
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:33:19

    @MCHalliday I might have been too vague in my review. There is a legitimate heir if Anthony is not “proven” to be Anthony. The idea was that if he wasn’t cultured, the house of lords would reject him using his uncouth state as evidence that he was not who he said he was.

  19. MCHalliday
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:33:36

    Hey, the blockquote didn’t work…S/B:

    … and likely given to someone else.

    Due to Letters Patent, a title can only be passed to a legitimate heir or it becomes extinct.

  20. MCHalliday
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:04:46

    Jane, you’re fast! Thank you.

    The hereditary successor of the title could have presented a civil case against a possible charlatan. On the other hand, the House of Lords could not deprive a title for suspicion of anything but treason.

  21. kaigou
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 04:34:02

    (Sherry, your self-translation had me laughing out loud. Seriously.)

    Colonial and imperial issues aside (though they’re big enough that they’re hard to put aside, honestly), and focusing simply on the language, I don’t think it’s impossible to have the basic structure of a language return quite rapidly assuming you’re in a state of total immersion.

    Let’s say someone had a 10-yr old’s vocabulary until the age of 10, and then remained at that level for the next three or so years until the language faded and the new language took over. If a boat-trip is anywhere from four to six weeks and the only language around is English, the brain is going to kick into high gear. It doesn’t have any choice. It’s that, or not communicate at all, and having some rudimentary English buried in there, it will adapt much faster.

    If, however, there’s someone on the boat who speaks the second language, it’s a fair chance that some personalities will cleave to this rather than allow the immersion to take place — like exchange students who refuse to speak English but will only speak their own language to other exchange students.

    When I was 13, I had a single year of French, and then lucked out & got to stay with a French family for the summer. It took me about a week to become unafraid to speak, and by the second week I was majorly broadening my vocabulary, though my grammar would get wacky at times (and French is far easier on grammar regularities than English, I should note). In fact, the slowest progress was in comprehension, which I didn’t really grasp until well after I was already thinking in French. It was like my ears were still attuned to English, even if my brain was thinking in French. Very peculiar.

    But, even with very rudimentary linguistic knowledge, total immersion can produce some rapid-fire language skills. They just might not be the best, and the vocabulary is where (I think) things will suffer — so if I were to believe someone’s not spoken English in ten-odd years or more, I’d expect the dialogue to look like Sherry’s version, and nothing like the complex sentences I’ve used in this post.

    At which point I’d probably not care anyway, because I’m pretty much over the entire imperialistic great white hope makes it all A-OK trope.

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