Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Jessica Whitman’s vivid imagination is never better shown than in her novel Wild One, where her leading characters are larger than life and her others are undeveloped, probably with the intention of allowing a sharper focus on the leads. The story is implausible but it would be an insensitive reader who expected anything more. The focus is on the romantic in this sort of novel and real life is left far behind.
The characters are so lively that escaping into fantasy is the preferred, in fact the only, way of enjoying the story. Assuming your brain is securely locked away with the everyday and that there is no chance that the intellect will be called on while ever the book is being read, then settle back for an enjoyable read.
Our heroine (bless me! I’ve forgotten her name) has made a reputation for herself by directing a blockbuster movie, no less. She’s mid-twenties but a quick learner. But she is now licking her wounds following a disastrous follow up. She is back in Florida attempting to write a screen play. Sebastian del Campo is a hot polo player but is not as devoted to the game as the rest of his family is. However, he makes up for this shortcoming by playing hard and having liaisons with beautiful women. He meets the heroine – I looked her up (her name’s Kat) – and just as you knew would happen two worlds collide and our protagonists are between the sheets, again and again and again.
Now the plot – such as it is – could go no farther unless a new element is introduced. A totally original idea would be to have a grandmother who had led a scandalous life. You wouldn’t call it by such a pejorative term, and since Sebastian is a polo player, calling her a trailblazer in polo would be every bit as acceptable as calling Kat ‘down-to-earth’ and refreshing.
So, the inevitable happens. Sebastian talks at length about his grandmother’s escapades and Kat records them (while administering plenty of sex to keep Sebastian’s facile tongue refreshed). Then, away we go! Sebastian is banned for a few days while Kat writes ‘furiouser and furiouser’ to produce a scripted play. Sebastian goes away to read it, likes it (you didn’t see that coming, did you!) and what do you know, discovers a hidden talent – he wants to produce Kat’s new blockbuster.
Which he does. The leading female star of the day likes the part and insists on playing the lead, Hollywood falls in behind Kat and the leading lady falls into Sebastian’s bed (as of course you would expect her to do). But it’s all a big misunderstanding! Kat and Sebastian discover the sheets once more and all’s right with the world again.
I would hope that Jessica Whitman set out knowingly to write a novel in the glamorous, scandalous, romance-filled, empty-headed tradition. I suspect she did. They are fun to write, quick to produce, and favour the younger than thirty adult female reading public. What young woman, weary from the daily grind of caring for a boisterous family, does not want a man like Sebastian? What man would not dream of a Kat in his life? The tradition meets a need, and a sale is born.
“Fun, sexy and entertaining, this novel is about taking a risk to follow your passions in life – and love” – and who am I to disagree? I can even hear the cash register ringing.
by Jessica Whitman
Allen & Unwin (Arena)