Title: Something Wilder
Author: Christina Lauren
Release Date: May 17, 2022
Synopsis: Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.
Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.
But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.
Hmm, mixed feelings on this one!
Let’s start with the good.
Something Wilder contained all of the charm, hilarity, and fun that Christina Lauren’s novels are known for. It was an exciting, entertaining journey from start to finish, with many shocking twists and turns along the way.
I really liked how Something Wilder went in a much different direction compared to Christina Lauren’s past works. The thing is, this book feels much more like a western than your typical rom-com novel. The characters spend the bulk of the book on a high-stakes treasure hunt way out in the wild west, completely removed from modern civilization. I had no problem with this, and was even pleased to see Christina Lauren try something so new and refreshing. Surprisingly enough, the reason I can’t give this book more than three stars was actually the romance, which fell flat for me in every way.
For starters, I hate hate HATED how Leo and Lily were already in love when we were introduced to them at the beginning of the book. All we’re told is that Leo fell in love with Lily over the five months he worked on her father’s ranch, but that they were ripped apart after a sudden tragedy occurred in Leo’s family. My big issue is that we didn’t get to actually SEE Leo and Lily fall in love… no romantic tension, build-up, or angst… NOTHING. The story begins AFTER the two of them fall for each other, and honestly, how is that any better than the dreaded insta-love trope? Because of the lack of build-up in Leo and Lily’s romance, I had absolutely no investment in their relationship. It felt so under-developed to me, and I didn’t care whether they wound up together or not.
Not only that, but I also found Leo and Lily to be extremely under-developed as characters. And repetitive. I hate to say this, but all of Christina Lauren’s male and female protagonists are started to feel like carbon copies of one another. They could have literally swapped Lily with Jess from The Soulmate Equation or replaced Leo with Elliot from Love and Other Words and I prooooobably wouldn’t have noticed.
Honestly, this might be my least favorite Christina Lauren book out of the five I’ve read, but that’s not as bad as it might sound, considering I’ve never rated a book of theirs any less than four stars. I was really disappointed by the characters and romance in Something Wilder, to be sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a light, entertaining read that had an exciting, refreshing storyline. Overall, I had a good time reading it, and isn’t that what matters most?