Lauren, Christina. Something Wilder. Simon & Schuster, May 17, 2022 ISBN 1982173408 384 pp. $22.99
This departure from Christina Lauren’s romantic comedy oeuvre is an unputdownable adrenaline-fueled rush. In typical fashion, a past flame reappears and the passion is reignited. Lily Wilder, daughter of a famous rancher, expedition leader and amateur treasure hunter, lacks the funds to buy back the old homestead. She was in love once, for five months, with a sweet city boy who returned home to care for his injured mother and never called, wrote, or returned. She fills her time with horses and hookups. Leo Grady, love of her life, shows up ten years later with three friends for a canyon trip she and her friend Nichole are leading, and both Lily and Leo are utterly shocked.
Lily puts on a good (staged) show, following in the footsteps of the infamous bank and train robber Butch Cassidy, with her clients solving puzzles and ciphers as part of the tour. Things go wrong when one of the party reveals he want to treasure hunt the missing fortune for real.
“I feel like we’re in The Goonies,” says one of the characters about halfway through. It’s an apt comparison: there is a property to be saved, a pivotal map, puzzles to be solved, a budding romance, two groups of loyal friends, Reddit-fueled incels instead of the Fratellis, a high speed chase, and a kidnapping and escape. The sparks between Leo and Lily are palpable, and the romantic bits will speed up your pulse as well. The canyons of Wyoming are rendered in wonderful sensory details and the ending is satisfying, if predictable.