Jane Shoup
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Diversion Books
Release Date
August 2013
Action/Adventure Romance, Historical Novel with Romantic Elements, Historical Romance, Mainstream fiction

In 1908, on a mission to find a new breed of ape in central Africa, an unfathomable thing is seen – a wild, white man, living amongst gorillas. Local villagers call him matokeo ya utafutaji kwa, the untamed one, and claim he has lived in the jungle most of his life. Before joining the expedition, renowned photographer, Sullivan Vinson, researches how this is possible and discovers an ill fated undertaking from two decades earlier when a group of missionaries was massacred. Sebastian Shafer, the only child in the group, was six at the time.

While an experienced team of hunters and trackers search for matokeo ya utafutaji kwa by day, he watches them by night, especially Sully's 21-year old niece, Arianna Day, who accompanied him. He comes to believe she is meant for him, and so he takes her captive. She is quickly rescued, but not before he claims her for his own, body and soul. Sebastian is taken into custody of a team that includes anthropologist John Emerson. As he begins working to reclaim language and social skills, Ari returns to England and tries to fit back into her old life. She knows it's logical to accept Marshall Derringer's proposal, but the thought of Sebastian haunts her.

Amidst the backdrop of London in the summer of 1908, as the Olympic Games are hosted and the Franko-British Exhibition is held, Sebastian, ‘Zan', returns home. He and Ari are drawn together again only to be ripped apart because of social convention and Marshall Derringer, who is determined to have her. But Zan is not the only one with an untamed heart.

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Aug 14, 2013   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
146 people found the following review helpful
Since Tarzan was one of my favorite books growing up, I was thrilled to read Jane Shoup's re-working of the classic plot. Though I did have some issues with the structure of the story, she presented an interesting story full of fascinating historic detail and insight.

Arianna Day has always been something of an outsider, an American living in England, having been raised by her beloved uncle. Her love of adventure and travel have made her something of an oddity among her peers, but nothing will stop Ari from joining her uncle on an expedition to Africa where a team of hunters and anthropologists are searching for a new species of gorilla—and a wild white man who is rumored to live wild in the jungle.

Though a seasoned traveler, nothing can prepare Ari for her first sight of the wild man, or for when he captures her from camp, believing her to be his mate. Despite her terror, Ari also feels an inexplicable connection that goes beyond language. When the wild man is captured, and Ari is sent back to England and her expectant suitor, everyone assumes that her life will continue as before. But Ari has been irrevocably changed by her experiences, and when the wild man, once known as Sebastian Schaffer, returns to England, she will be forced to choose between the life she has always known, and a love that defies all the rules.

I found all the characters in this book very engaging, especially Arianna, who is wonderfully brave and outgoing, but also very human. I could fully sympathize with her struggle to be true to her heart and to make others happy, as well. For all her beauty and freedom, Ari's life has not been an easy one, and her status as an outsider was very well described, making it easy to understand what drew her to the jungle and to the wild man who lived there.

Sebastian's ability to survive and adapt is remarkable, and made him a fascinating character. It did seem that he recalled language and social interactions very quickly, and became acclimated to modern life with an ease that was almost jarring, but I did appreciate the fact that his inner struggles and self-doubt were explained so clearly. Those qualities, and the details of his past that slowly emerged over the course of the story, made him a very human and very sympathetic character, despite his initial strangeness.

Though I wasn't quite comfortable with some aspects of the scene in which they first meet, it is evident that there is a special connection between Ari and Sebastian. I think the way that first scene was handled was understandable, but I'm not sure it added to my sympathy or understanding of them. However, it became wonderfully apparent once they were reunited in England that their relationship was something unique. The difference between their honest, emotionally-fused interactions and the social games that others play were patently evident.

However, after their initial scene together in the beginning of the book, Ari and Sebastian are separated for a great deal of the story. I enjoyed the details of their lives and excursions, but I wanted to see much more of them together, to feel that connection, or at least to be reminded of it more often. It is true that Sebastian's thoughts are frequently of Ari, but there is so much detail about Ari's life, her friends and their family and the world of London in 1908 that the pace of the book slowed significantly until they were reunited.

From a historical perspective, the details that were included about life in England and the 1908 Olympics were very interesting and provided a colorful backdrop to the events, as well as providing an interesting contrast between Sebastian's existence and Ari's. A good deal of research went into crafting this world, and it shows in every scene.

Though uneven in places, Jane Shoup's romance hits many strong notes, providing excellent historic context and two deeply emotional characters whose bond is irrefutable. This book offers an interesting spin on the legend of Tarzan, but has a spark of creativity that is all its own.
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