| || |
Title: Wild Encounter
Author: Nikki Logan
May Contain Spoilers
A wildlife release mission in Africa turns deadly when the convoy is hijacked by smugglers, and veterinarian Clare Delaney is taken hostage. Terrified for her life and her animals, the intrepid Clare establishes a rapport with the man she believes is the criminals’ leader, and reluctantly finds herself under his protection…and falling hard for the enigmatic man.
Alpha-to-the-max Simon deVries sees right through his sexy captive’s attempt to seduce her way to freedom. So when their simmering attraction flares into true passion, it takes them both by surprise. Now he’s torn between completing his secret mission and letting her escape without telling her his true identity. He knows if he lets her go, he will be risking his career, his life…and his heart.
This is the first Dead Sexy title that I have read. I am not normally a big romantic suspense fan, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because the field is becoming so crowded that I have no clue where to begin? Wild Encounter hit my radar because I recently enjoyed another Nikki Logan book, and because of these three words: African Wild Dogs. Yup, that sealed the deal for me. I think they are the coolest canines ever, with their mottled splashes of color and gigantic ears. I was hoping that the dogs would have more than just a cameo appearance, and was delighted when they did. The romance was even engaging, though Clare and Simon had a tough act to follow, sharing the limelight with the dogs (just kidding!).
Clare is in Zambia to release a pack of wild dogs, an important step in preserving the species in their native African habitat. The convoy is hijacked by ruthless thugs, and Clare has to put aside her fear in order to survive her awful ordeal. She is immediately drawn to the man she nicknames Alpha, and she puts her life in his hands. As he protects her from the vicious men holding her captive, she finds herself falling in love with him. A desperate bid for escape has her fleeing the farmhouse where she gave herself to Alpha, body and soul, and soon the ordeal is just a nightmare for her to work through. On a return trip to reclaim the dogs and release them at the wilderness preserve they were originally destined for, she has to relive her worst nightmare. Alpha is back, only now he’s in her camp, masquerading as her bodyguard!
The first half of the book details Clare’s kidnapping and captivity, and there are many parts of her ordeal that I found disturbing. Maybe this is why I don’t read much romantic suspense. Clare is physically abused by her captors, kicked and hit with brutal force. Only Alpha keeps her from being viciously raped. All of this was a bit too intense for me, so it’s a good thing the whisper of those African wild dogs kept me turning the pages. Clare relies on every bit of bravery that she possesses to outwit the smugglers and escape, but not before she finds herself desperately in love with Alpha.
Back home, Clare has months of therapy to endure. Does she love that guy, or was she suffering from the effects of Stockholm syndrome? Does it really matter, because the odds of ever seeing him again are about nil. Clare realizes that her infatuation with him is probably due to the nightmare she survived. The suffocating fear just stirred up emotions for the one kidnapper who was nice to her.
When her wild dogs are relocated, Clare is resigned that she will have to journey back to Africa and face her fears again to recapture and release the dogs as originally planned. But when she sees Alpha, aka super spy Simon, in the field camp, she freaks out. Justifiably. This tsunami of terror was one of the most moving scenes in the book. Clare thought she had put all of that behind her, only to find herself right back in the middle of danger. It takes a lot of courage on her part to accept that Simon is who he says, and not a cold-blooded murderer sent to finish the job he botched back at the farmhouse.
I enjoyed the last half of the book more than the beginning, and I think it’s because I could actually breathe again. I wasn’t as concerned that Clare was going to be victimized, though I knew that sooner or later the past would catch up with her. Since she was aware that Simon was a good guy, she was able to start working through her messed up feelings for him again, to try to put them into perspective, knowing that he wasn’t going to try to kill her. That awful week in the farmhouse also haunted Simon, and I liked that he was just as messed up about it as Clare was. He is a strong person, but having to live with violent, murdering scum for his case scarred him, too.
Wild Encounter was a nice introduction to Entangled’s Dead Sexy line. While I don’t believe kidnapping stories will ever be a favorite of mine, I am interested in reading more suspense titles. Clare and Simon were both likeable characters, thrown together in frightening life and death situations. I don’t know how Clare managed to keep from keeling over from a heart attack. Really. I think I had about 3 mini heart attacks for her!
If you are interested in learning more about African wild dogs, please visit this website. You can also visit them at several zoos, including Battle Creek’s Binder Park Zoo.
Review copy provided by publisher