Love in the Wild is a box set of three books by Saloni Quinby. The stories feature a small cast of recurring characters and kicks off with the get-together of our romantic leads, Earl Eli and John, and follows the developments of their relationship across the other two books.
Knock On Wood
When English librarian, John, decides to put to rest his friend’s claims of a big Sasquatch roaming the woods of Maine, he never expects to fall head-over-heels in love with his guide. But there is no helping the spark of attraction John feels for Earl Eli the moment the two men meet. For his part, Earl Eli is conflicted. He could just lead John to the site of the alleged Bigfoot encounter. But he could also have some fun with an obvious city boy chasing mythical beasts.
John and Earl Eli trade more than a few barbs over the existence of any Sasquatches. The tension between the two men quickly turns to passion. Together, John and Earl Eli make fireworks that rock both their worlds. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. For one thing, they never imagine that a made-up legend would put either of them in danger. But soon, Earl Eli is sporting stitches from a rock to the face, thrown by something neither one of them feels comfortable identifying. For another, John’s imminent return to England threatens to turn a growing attraction into nothing but a few nights of earth-shaking sex.
On the Prowl
Though only a few months have elapsed since John and Earl Eli were last together in Maine, they are desperate to see each other again. Not even the best phone calls are any substitute for a man at your side. So when John’s friend raises the spectre of another mythical beast, this time in England, John immediately reaches out to Earl Eli. And to John’s surprise, Earl Eli is all too willing to fly across the pond.
Unlike in Maine, both men are privately sure that what they feel for one another is real. They just aren’t convinced the other returns the same feelings. John is especially worried he doesn’t measure up to Earl Eli’s standards. Adding fuel to that fire of insecurity is the fact that a local groundskeeper seems to hold John in particular contempt while getting cozy with Earl Eli. What’s more, John can’t actually participate in the hunt every day on account of work. Taken together, John fears there is ample opportunity for Earl Eli to replace John.
Ghost of a Chance
It’s been nearly a year since Earl Eli and John met. Not much time has passed, but a lot has changed for the two men. In addition to their upcoming wedding, John is having growing pains getting used to life in rural Maine. It helps fuel some of Earl Eli’s misgivings that they made the wrong choice in settling down in America. But when some unexpected good news comes from John’s emotionally distant father, things start to fall in place. So much so that an impromptu invite to an old cabin on the coast serves as a tempting prospect for a honeymoon. Plus, the cabin is said to be haunted. Earl Eli and John are back in familiar woods, literally and figuratively, in the cabin. They both experience brushes with the paranormal and a run in with a pair of would-be burglars makes for a most unforgettable honeymoon.
The paranormal events of these stories are, to varying degrees, tempered with non-paranormal explanations.For me, it was interesting to see Quinby pair these two sides of the same coin so consistently. Both the Sasquatch in book one and the big cat in book two share this quality. I was filled with anticipation about the big reveal in book one. John comes to America with a relatively open mind—more inclined to disbelieve, but not willing to write off the idea entirely. Earl Eli is similar, but having grown up in the very woods where the hunt is taking place, he’s more skeptical. The big cat in book two is similarly framed, with everyone unable to outright accept a pure paranormal explanation…but also unable to definitively prove that paranormal forces are not at work.
I think this “have it both ways” effort fizzled in the first story. After Earl Eli and John have their “big encounter,” it unfolded in a way that gave credibility to both camps and lacked any follow up. Often, I am thrilled when authors commit to leaving things open ended. That said, in Love in the Wild, I was stunned that Earl Eli and John are seemingly completely disinterested in getting any closure on what they encountered. Even when they return to the same place where they had the encounter, there is no speculation or talk about it. It’s like it almost didn’t even happen.
This sort of mixing of real and fantasy repeats in the second book, too. The main antagonist (apart from the introduction of maybe competition for Earl Eli’s affections) is a big cat rather than a creature of pure speculation. Where the first book seems unable to commit to paranormal or mystery, book two feels firmly in the Scooby Doo camp…all the markings of a paranormal event but, once the truth is revealed, all the inexplicable things suddenly make sense. I think the third book combines these two disparate approaches most successfully, blending paranormal with real world mystery to best effect.
Apart from the mix of fantastic and practical threads, the main theme throughout the series is the romance of Earl Eli and John. It starts off as physical attraction and, personally, I think there is a bit of an excessive focus on how much sex they have. It’s like they can’t go half a day without dropping trou two or three times. These intimate moments didn’t go very far to grow their relationship or the plot in my opinion. They run particularly hot and cold in the first book, with Earl Eli almost vicious in his assessment of John for the longest time. It felt sort of like an inexplicable whirlwind that these two would decide to get married when they do—at the end of an argument, no less. By this point in time, they’d spent probably a grand total of maybe four weeks together in the same place and time. The bulk of their relationship building happens off-page, and the opening and events of book two just seemed to raise the question over whether or not they would actually make it.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty run of the mill set of stories. There are high tensions between our two leads, but that never seems to prevent them from getting it on. Although I thought the physical intimacy stopped adding much to the character development or plot, readers who enjoy spicy scenes will have a lot to enjoy in that regard. I also think fans of paranormal stories may appreciate the author’s efforts to combine reality and fantasy with increasing effectiveness the further in the series you get.