On the outside looking in, Chorus Grace’s life looks amazing. He has a successful career as a romance author, is married to a stunning man, and lives in a dream house by the sea. But appearances are deceiving. No one but Chorus knows how sour his marriage to Hilton Grady has become. Night after night, Chorus waits anxiously for Hilton to return knowing that if he puts so much as one finger out of line, Hilton will berate him or beat him. Chorus views his home office as a sanctuary, the only place in his own home where he feels safe while Hilton is away at work. It should have been completely unbearable, but for the last year, Chorus has found solace in the arms of a man named Jules. Kind and attentive, Jules is everything Chorus wants in a lover, in a life partner. If only Hilton would grant Chorus a divorce…or just…disappear.
Unbeknownst to his husband, the business Hilton Grady has built from the ground up is floundering. He views the struggling company as the pinnacle of unfairness, after Hilton himself worked so hard to build it up and keep it going. Unfortunately, no amount of wining and dining has attracted new clients with pockets deep enough to save the company. That his husband also wants a divorce just when things are getting tough sets Hilton on edge. But then Hilton hits on a way to save if not his business and marriage, then at least save himself. To see his plan come to fruition, though, he needs to pull off the ultimate disappearing act and he just might be able to do it with the help of a new friend.
The Wild Ones is a contemporary romantic suspense set mostly in Britain. The cast of characters is primarily limited to Chorus, Hilton, and Jules. The first and arguably bigger chunk of the book features Chorus as the protagonist. However, after one big twist in the plot, Hilton becomes the main character. This shift in perspective didn’t really work for me, though. It felt like ages I spent reading about things from Chorus’ point of view–how fearful he was of Hilton, how relieved he was with Jules, how trapped and helpless he felt. When the story switches to featuring Hilton rather than Chorus, it was jarring to say the least. One positive, I suppose, would be that even with Hilton as the star in the latter part of the book, he didn’t manage to redeem himself. He came off as an abusive, ugly husband through Chorus’ eyes, and his own narrative just reinforced the image that he is a small, selfish man only interested in himself.
Personally, I wasn’t very taken with this story. Jameson does a good job sketching out Chorus and Hilton, but they ultimately never popped in three dimensions. Chorus mostly peaked as a survivor of spousal abuse, nervous not because of the conditioning and grooming he’s been subjected to, but because of how he and Jules decided to address said abusive spouse. Meanwhile, Hilton is nothing more than a villain to Chorus and when Hilton becomes the leading character, his actions only reinforce what a selfish ass he is. On top of that, I thought the prose was so very dry. In one scene, rather than build suspense through a careful exchange Chorus must have with a police detective investigating an incident that involves Hilton, there’s just a lump of a paragraph that literally states Chorus “begged with empty pleas” that the police could help Hilton. In short, scenes that revolve around our three MCs feel bound by their narrowly defined existences and scenes that could build and develop some of the drama feel like squandered chances.
The highlight of the book for me was the twisty plot. In hindsight, it feels like the characters and the writing all take second priority to laying the groundwork for the plot to work. In some regards, Jameson pulls it off. I feel like there were some reasonable surprises. However, it was a bit disappointing that the characters seem to immediately sense when their lot shifts. Their suspicions tempered the surprise of one of the twists because the character was already starting to question things himself.
Overall, I thought this story was far stronger in building a technical situation for plausible plot twists. The execution left a lot to be desired, in my opinion. The characters felt bland, like they only existed in a single mode that could be summarized in one or two adjectives. This blah-ness felt extra noticeable to me given how tiny the cast is at just three real characters. For fans of brilliant police work or procedurals, most of that is glossed over and if you examine the paltry details presented on page, I think you’ll find the idea that anyone pulled off any of the, well, daring-do in this book pretty remarkable. That said, if you’re interested in books that depict surviving abusive relationships, unreliable narrators, and a bit of a revenge, then you may find a few things to like about this story.