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    THE WILD CHILD by Mary Jo Putney (see her website)

    Ballantine, 1999/2000

    Years before, Meriel's family was destroyed in a bandit raid in India. She was so traumatized that she has not spoken since. Years later, back in England (during the Regency period), Meriel has become an adult, but she spends her time creating weird works of art with flowers and is generally considered insane. Still, she is an heiress and hence marriage-bait. One of her uncles has arranged for Kyle Renbourne to court her while the other uncle is out of town. Kyle has other business and asks his twin, Dominic, to handle the courting.

    Dominic needs to be bribed, but once he is bought, he intends to stay bought. If he thinks Kyle is crazy to want to be stuck with an insane bride, that is Kyle's lookout. What Dominic doesn't count on is Meriel's sensual appeal, the way she can express herself without words, or the unwanted love he soon begins to feel for her. When Meriel's second uncle shows up and sends Dominic away, he knows he must act--even if doing so would destroy his brother's faith in him.

    In this prequel to CHINA BRIDE Mary Jo Putney (see all reviews of novels by this author) has taken standard romance devices and woven them together to create an engrossing and powerful whole. Although the plot follows predictable lines and stretches the reader's credulity with its use of coincidence, Putney's strong writing style rises above these limitations. Dominic, in particular, is and convincingly motivated and a highly sympathetic character (which would have been a challenge to a lesser writer given that he is wooing a woman under false pretenses). Putney's writing conveys sensuality both in its characterization of the relationship between Dominic and Meriel, and in its descriptions of the lush countryside that both of them love.

    Three Stars

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