‘Vida Hazzard can see her future: aboard the heralded “Millionaire’s Ship of the West,” she’ll charm the young scion Fitzhugh Farrar, resulting in a proposal of marriage.
But Vida didn’t plan on Fitz’s best friend Sal, a rough-around-the-edges boy with a talent for getting under her skin. Nor did she anticipate a hurricane dashing their ship to pieces, along with her dreams.
Stranded on an island with both Fitz and Sal, Vida is torn between the life she’s always planned for, and a future she’s never dared to want. As they desperately plot a course for home, Vida will discover just which boy can capture her wild heart—and where her future truly lies.’
Beautiful Wild follows Vida Hazzard and her efforts to find a husband (and one husband in particular) following events that have threatened to generate such a scandal as to ruin her chances of ever marrying well. It’s obvious in the opening chapters of the novel that Vida enjoys attention and expects to garner it wherever she goes, and thinks very little about a world that might entertain anything but doing exactly what she wants, when she wants. Her intention in setting sail on an adventure is to make sure that she maintains the attention of the ship company’s heir, Fitzhugh Farrar, and thus ensure that she marries well, into a family that will increase her social status and more than keep her in the manner in which she is accustomed.
For Vida, very little goes to plan. She gets her way insofar as leaving shore, but from then on nothing seems to go as she would wish it. This isn’t to say that things don’t go her way, for, despite the various crisis that befall her, she somehow always appears to be in control of much of what’s happening around her and doesn’t seem to particularly suffer, even after the ship has been wrecked. Vida doesn’t have an ugly personality, but it is rather difficult to root for her when she is still concerned so much about her appearance and romance when she’s in a situation where she should be prioritising survival. She does take a lead in several tasks and activities and shows an eagerness to learn, yet that so much of her focus remains on her two romantic prospects and whether she should perceive other women as a threat makes it hard to connect with her at times. Perhaps it is that her social status has her falling into a commanding position instinctively and without much ability demonstrated? This said, one of the most enjoyable features of the novel is seeing Vida learn what she truly wants and what she has been telling herself she ought to expect, namely that she desires adventure and to be challenged, and that that challenge is not seeking to attract men and their fortunes. The choices she makes demonstrate just how much she has been playing at her role in society; the ease with which she casts it off (though does she still have access to the family money?) is a testament to her willingness to insist on change where it is needed. In Vida’s case, that everyone around her is so understanding is a huge benefit, whereas, for most women, to dare to make such decisions would mean ruin.
Another of the things the narrative takes a good look at is the relationships between women in a society that forces them to be rivals, enemies, and, ultimately, able to orchestrate each other’s fates with a few well-timed words and rumours started. It is perhaps that Vida’s only female ‘friend’ is her maid, who she demonstrates concern for and endeavours to make sure that her choices don’t condemn her, but is this only because she knows her secrets by virtue of circumstance? Camilla is never quite a friend, but a rival and enemy who can’t entirely be trusted, even after all that they’ve been through together (Vida endeavours to see her as a friend, but she still doubts that Camilla would not ruin her, given the chance). With women dependent on men for their status and what freedoms they might ever be granted, it is easy for them to turn against each other simply to try and secure their own futures, a world where they have next to no power turning almost everyone into a threat.
If you enjoy historical romance and YA fiction, Beautiful Wild is a great choice for some Christmas reading and escapism. Thank you Harper360YA for sending me a copy for review!