The clever, cheeky opening of Victoria Dahl’s A Little Bit Wild lulled me into believing I was in for a light-hearted Regency romp with a scandalous but redeemable heroine. Which, would have been fine with me. Wonderful, in fact. I love a good romp. But, A Little Bit Wild is so much more. Page by wonderful page I was drawn deeper into the hearts and minds of two of the most complicated characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

The heroine reminded me, in part, of Austen’s Emma. Like Emma, Marissa believes she understands How-the-World-Works and blissfully unconcerned by effects her actions have. Also like Emma, she is at once both sympathetic and maddening and she matures very much against her own will. Not only does the reader have the pleasure of seeing her mature, we get the chance to feel with her as she learns the difference between the pleasures of her blossoming sensual nature divorced from true feeling and the torrid passion that explodes as she finds her true nature exposed, but blissfully accepted. Take this lovely passage:

 “Marissa put her fingers to her lips as if she could hold in the emotions that pressed at her throat. Excitement and fear and joy and regret…an intense combination. In that moment, she felt almost as if she were being chased. And as if she wanted to be caught.”

As well wrought as Marissa’s transformation is, the hero places this book firmly on my top keeper shelf. Jude is sexy and engaging as the not-quite-handsome or refined but intuitive & confident foil to Marissa. I was already in love with his character when Ms. Dahl deftly changed the game. I didn’t see his crisis coming and when it did, my heart utterly broke for him.

The moment of realization for the heroine was fraught and anxious and dark–perfect and justly rendered for a heroine used to getting her way. And, by that time, I was so connected to both characters I had forgotten all their flaws and was turning pages with an internal please, please, please let them feel happiness.

Let me just say, A Little Bit Wild is as satisfying as a romance can possibly be.

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