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Something Wilder


Something Wilder

From the powerhouse romance-writing duo known as Christina Lauren comes SOMETHING WILDER, an utterly escapist second-chance romance set in the outback of the Wild West, where outlaw code rules and broken hearts are set free.

Ten years ago, Lily Wilder had it all: she was deep in the throes of her first love with Leo Grady, a math-wiz college student ready to upend his whole life in New York City to live with her in Laramie, Wyoming; a stable, secure future running her family’s guest ranch; and, after years of living in the shadow of her famous father and his elusive dreams, the chance to put down roots and start the rest of her forever. Then Leo’s mother was in an accident, and he raced back home to care for her, promising to call Lily as soon as he landed. The call never came, Lily’s father sold the family ranch and suffered a debilitating stroke, and Lily watched her future evaporate like a desert mirage.

"From the vivid, heady descriptions of the mountains, canyons and deserts of Wyoming to the steamy, history-filled passion between Lily and Leo, to the often hilarious, always unlikely cast of characters, the book is full of surprises, depth and Christina Lauren’s trademark feel-good romance."

Now, a decade later, Lily is still living in her father’s shadow. Duke Wilder was obsessed with the canyons of the Outlaw Trail, a 200-mile area of the desert best known as the refuge and hideout for Butch Cassidy’s gang. Legend has it that Cassidy hid his loot somewhere along the Outlaw Trail, and the treasure hunters of the world are pretty sure that Duke either found it or came very, very close. A brilliant and resourceful explorer, he knew the Southwest better than anyone, and was known for navigating areas that were difficult to chart and maneuver using his own hand-drawn and often cryptic maps.

Lily resented her father’s wanderlust and crypticism, but she now relies on everything he taught her to make a living running a tourist expedition company. Years of leading Prada-wearing bachelor parties and women’s groups through the sagebrush have only cemented one thing in her mind: she wants out of her dad’s old run-down cabin and dusty town and into her own future.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Leo has been living a half-life since his mother unexpectedly died, leaving him the single parent of his teenage sister. He had to get serious fast, using his superhuman math skills to become a code maker and breaker for a top firm. He doesn’t allow himself much in the way of indulgence or romance. The one reprieve from his sterile life is a yearly trip with his best friends: charming, handsome Bradley (never Brad), sweet potato Walter…and sometimes brash, misogynistic, increasingly paranoid Terry. This year, Bradley is in charge of planning the excursion, and the gang couldn’t be more surprised when the party boy himself drops them dead in the center of the desert to go on a team-building, man-making expedition through the Outlaw Trail. And who better to guide them than Leo’s first, only and everlasting love, Lily, along with her best friend, tough-talking Nicole.

As the gang rides through Robbers Roost, French Spring and Hans Flat, completing classic Duke Wilder riddles and team-building puzzles along the way, Terry starts exhibiting strange behavior and an obsession with Butch Cassidy’s loot. Exhaustion mounts, tensions rise, stakes grow higher, and the group of temporary cowboys and girls starts to wonder if it’s possible that Duke did discover Cassidy’s hiding place…and whether or not Lily, trained in solving his complex riddles since birth, might hold the key to finding it.

Meanwhile, an adult Lily and Leo are forced to reckon with the pain of their sudden breakup and how it has informed their lives since then…and their unexpected, earth-shattering reunion. Neither of them has ever recovered from their heartbreak, with Lily pouring herself into ranch work and meaningless sex, and Leo shutting himself off from any chance at happiness. Now that they’re back in one another’s orbit, they’ll need to get used to breaking down their walls, being honest about what they want, and accepting one another as grownups, not the lovesick teens they were 10 years ago.

With a bona fide Wild West treasure hunt underway, a crude and potentially dangerous wannabe-cowboy threatening their every move, and their own simmering passion between them, Lily and Leo must tap into the depths of their intelligence and bravery not only to keep the group intact, but to uncover the truth about Duke’s mysterious riddles and maps and give their love the chance to mature and grow as wildly as it deserves.

If you’ll pardon the pun, SOMETHING WILDER is a truly wild ride from start to finish. From the vivid, heady descriptions of the mountains, canyons and deserts of Wyoming to the steamy, history-filled passion between Lily and Leo, to the often hilarious, always unlikely cast of characters, the book is full of surprises, depth and Christina Lauren’s trademark feel-good romance.

Second-chance romance is a popular trope for a good reason: it allows authors to explore character growth and a real, grownup sense of compromise and independence while establishing a foundation of chemistry that makes for a truly intoxicating blend of emotion and fantasy. But by pairing this trope (which they handle deftly and masterfully) with an absolute romp of an adventure, Christina Lauren has crafted an expertly balanced, nonstop thrill ride…with plenty of longing and heat. I’ve never read a romance novel quite like this one, where the plot stands on its own with or without the love story, nothing feels tacked on or overwritten, and each element elevates and supports the other.

Once again, Christina Lauren has presented a fresh, witty and totally original take on romance, adventure and coming home. A pure escape, SOMETHING WILDER is without a doubt their best novel yet.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on May 27, 2022

Something Wilder
by Christina Lauren