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Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia)

 Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia)


First rule of the wild: never take your eye off a predator. You never turned your back on wild dogs, even comatose ones. Unless what was coming at you was more dangerous

Clare Delaney is a veterinarian tasked with releasing a team of wild dogs back into their natural habitat. But things go horribly awry when a group of men arrive on the scene, hijacking the mission and taking Clare hostage. Clare finds herself in a dangerous situation where both the lives of her beloved dogs and her own life are at riskbut shes determined to escape.

A calculated assessment of the men who are holding her captive leads her to believe that one of them might well be her way out. Hes obviously concerned for her welfare and doesnt want to see her hurt, unlike the others, who seem to view collateral damage as something to be expected. Clare hopes that by seducing this man, whom she nicknames Alpha, she might be able to increase her chances of escape.

But Clares calculated plan begins to unravel when she begins to feel something for this man, who seems to respond in kind. Deeply conflicted over her emotions, which may be real, or may be some sort of manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome, Clare eventually makes a break for itonly to be left wondering what might have been.

Its a challenging promise for a romance novel, even one that falls into the romantic suspense subgenre, and Ill admit that I had serious difficulty in allowing myself go along for the ride in this one. The author does suggest fairly early on that theres more to Alpha and his role in the mission than Clare suspects:

But he wasnt here to win awards for chivalry, he told himself, shoving a kitchen chair out of the way as he passed through.'Youre here to secure the shipment. There was a reason hed been assigned this job, a reason he was working with men he couldnt stand on a project that turned his stomach. He was the best. And the best should be able to multi-task. Get the assignment done while minimising collateral damage.

But even so I found it incredibly disturbing to watch the two get together in such a situation, and to watch Alpha (or Simon, as we later on learn his name to be) take advantage of Clare. Even if he isnt the evil kidnapper were first led to believe, hes still in a position of power, and no matter that the two are ostensibly consenting in their actions, this just isnt the case.

To be fair, the author does go to great lengths to show the emotional conflict of both characters, and Clare does receive counselling to help her deal with the ordeal. But Im afraid that I just cant accept that a relationship that has its origins in the victim-captor binary can possibly be something to identify with or cheer for, and this undermined my enjoyment of the book.

The vast majority of the story occurs some six months after the kidnapping incident, and things really do pick up from herethe plot takes all manner of suspenseful twists involving false identities and betrayals that will keep readers on their toes, and I found the latter two thirds of the book quite enjoyable. Logan does a good job of drawing the reader into her vividly drawn setting, and Clares passion for her work comes across very realistically.

However, the relationship between Clare and Simon, which picks up again at the six-months-later mark, continued to bother me. No matter the trials they face and the discussions they have about their feelings for each other, I just couldnt bring myself on board with it at all. For me the relationship just feels so deeply unhealthy, and smacks of a coercive abuse of power.

Perhaps if the narrative had begun after Clares escape, or their first romantic encounter had occurred after this point, then I might have been able to set aside my misgivings. But my appreciation of both the novel and the relationship (the former being hugely influenced by the latterthis is a romance, after all) was utterly clouded by Simons actions during the kidnapping. I just cant trust a guy who takes advantage of a hostage and says stuff like:'The pleasure of possession flared in him. He wanted her marked, wanted the world to know she was his. I dont care how much you say youre in love with her, buddy, youre an abusive weirdo.

At the prose level, I found things a little uneven as well, particularly in the first third of the book. The abrupt sentences do lend a sense of urgency, but at the same time result in a stilted read. Sentences like Stomach acid threatened and she swallowed it back and'Contrite grey eyes rose and'brown eyes fixed on his left shoulder, the color now high in otherwise ashen cheeks abound, and the strange dropping of possessive pronouns and determiners makes for a choppy read. Its a writing style that Ive noticed is quite common in romance, and particularly in romantic suspense, and I have to say that its one that doesnt work for me personally.

Thematically, the concerted effort to draw parallels between the behaviour of wild animals and the kidnappers/Simon felt a little too blatant as well. Although theres certainly something to it, I just felt that this might have been done a little more off-the-record, rather than with an unambiguous series of paragraph-to-paragraph comparisons.

In all, I enjoyed the suspense element of this book far more than the romance element, which I found to be disturbing despite the authors best efforts to deal with the issues surrounding it. The Zambian setting is intriguing, and Logans passion for nature and wildlife shines through, but Im afraid that this one wasnt for me.

Rating: star Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia)star Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia)blankstar Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia)blankstar Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia)blankstar Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia) (okay)

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See also our interview with Nikki Logan

Other books by Nikki Logan:

 Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia) Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia) Book Review: Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan (a romance set in Zambia)

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  1. This is really interesting, Stephanie. Our lines are all in different places, arent they? I havent had a chance to read Wild Encounter yet, but I remember having a conversation with someone about Anna Campbells first novel that dealt with some similar issues. The person I was talking to could not get past the element of coercion in that relationship. Whereas other people I know LOVED the darkness at the heart of the romance and found the eventual happiness redemptive and more satisfying as a result. Ill have to read Wild Encounter now and see where I fall!

    • Stephanie /

      Fascinating point, Imelda. I suspect that Wild Encounter will divide readers in the same way. I did appreciate the redemptive efforts of the characters, and do respect that Logan emphasised the characters ambivalence over continuing a relationship precipitated in such a context, and that she also made a point to include counselling as a minor plot thread. But although I might be able to go along with this in a mainstream novel, in a romance novel I want to be able to fall in love with the characters and their relationshipand given the subject matter of this one, I personally couldnt. Like your friend, I just couldnt get past the coercive side of things.

  2. I havent read this book, but I dont think I could get past the dynamics of this relationship either Stephanie. I dont mind a hero who is protective and even a little bit arrogant but if hes controlling and theres a clear power imbalance in the relationship it just doesnt sit well with me.
    Good, fair review though- thanks for sharing.

    • Stephanie /

      Im the same as you, JayneI can deal with (although Im not a huge fan of) an alpha male, but theres a difference between being arrogant and taking advantage of someone in such a challenging situation. I think part of the issue is that in mainstream fiction the reader doesnt necessarily need to be on-board with the romance between two characters, whereas in a romance novel its the readers belief in the relationship that largely determines whether or not the book is successful.

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