Published by Gallery Books on 17th May 2022
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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.
I’ve always liked this duo’s writing, but diving deep means that I’ll need to settle in for a long, invested read each time I get into one of their books. It’s definitely a great thing, but that also means that I probably don’t have as much head space as I’d like to sit down with one of these reads than I like.
‘Something Wilder’ is a bit more of a departure from their usual cozy, city-bound-type stories: there’s more adventure and mild suspense as we’re all taken for a puzzle-solving, treasure-hunting ride along characters who are wild-cards amidst an awkward reunion between two people who’d loved each other as teenagers.
And as it turned out, there was so much to like about this book, even if I’m hardly a fan of second-chance stories. My tendency to look out for a satisfactory (or at least, acceptable) explanation why the first chance didn’t work out at first and justifying whether the second chance would have even happened at all has always made this trope a sticky one with me, which Christina Lauren partially managed to do, even if I was left sceptical because Lily and Leo wouldn’t have sought each other out voluntarily after all these years without this miraculous desert intervention.
But Christina Lauren juggle the adventure and action quite deftly with some sensitive characterisation, delving deep into Lily Wilder’s fear of losing control of everything in her life as she struggles to keep herself afloat while Leo’s financially successful life in New York seems to be leading nowhere to fulfilment until he returns back to where he started with Lily. The solidness of Leo’s steady and dependable geek-vibe contrasting with Lily’s volatile resilience as they tried to wade through their rapidly-changing circumstances stood out most of all, but I did think that they moved on together pretty quickly for their HEA to suddenly appear out of the desert sunset.
Still, I needed a mental change of scenery and ‘Something Wilder’–for the fact that it was so different from what I’ve read lately–provided just that for me. Right place, right time, right read.