Christine Janssen





Wings E-Press, June 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Damien Sutherland is trying to learn to live in the world of sobriety. His need for human connections, and his ache to atone for past misdeeds, leave him a wide-open target for people on the make. He has assumed the role of Big Brother to the anti-social Dane Landis, whom he secretly believes may be his son; and Dane is perfectly happy to get what he can from the arrangement.

After being involved in a traffic accident with young Amy Burke, Damien wants to do something for her and her family, but Monica Burke, mother of three teenagers, is suspicious of his motives. Amy is far too attractive to let an older man get near her. Monica doesnít know that Amy has her own agenda, and she doesnít realize how much her view of Damien is skewed by the trashy behavior of her dead husband. Eventually, even a motherís fierce protectiveness must give way to the facts when they become plain enough.

Author Christine Janssenís major success in WILD NATURE is her depiction of teenaged family life. I am sure many mothers of teens will get a shudder of recognition from the chaotic experiences of the Burkes. All the little ploys, dilemmas, and hormones gone wild are recognizable and true to life. Damien and Dane become caught up in the turmoil of Monica and her children Amy, Sarah, and Jared. Damien finds Monica irresistible, and Sarah, with the frank friendliness of a Downs Syndrome child, is impossible to disappoint. Dane, brought into contact with the Burkes, also begins to open up. Damienís brother and his wife, entering the Burkesí orbit late, seem a little too good to be true, but are welcome anyway as beacons of sanity and warmth in the daily bedlam.

Most of the way through WILD NATURE, I was wondering why it is labeled a Suspense book. The main suspense appears to be, how much trouble will Amy cause? Until you read it, it will also be a mystery how group members manage to find time for some tantalizing sex scenes among the rest of their activities. Other than that, WILD NATURE is a straightforward book, with no attempt to plumb the depths. We simply arenít told everything until the author decides itís time. There is a very big surprise saved for last.

WILD NATURE is all about people, and Janssen effortlessly fills her book with the people you could meet any day in any upper middle class community. Inga, Monicaís business partner, could have just walked out of the shop next door. You know itís all too likely your son is hanging out with Burrito at the mall, complete with clothes you hope he wonít be caught dead in. The farmers at the town meeting all look and sound like farmers at any semi-countrified town meeting. The authorís eye for people will keep her books worth reading. Giving a little more build-up to the suspense would probably capture her a larger audience.

June 2003 Review


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