Jungle Heat

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Title: Jungle Heat
Author: Bonnie Dee
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Historical Adventure Romance
Length: Novel (306 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: An interesting historical romance that is a m/m take on the Tarzan story.

THE BLURB

Congo Free State, 1888

On a mission deep in the jungle, Oxford anthropologist James Litchfield comes face-to-face with a local legend: a wild man who wanders with mountain gorillas and lives as one of their own.

The chance encounter with the savage, whom James calls Michael, leads to a game of observation and exploration. Their mutual curiosity turns to an attraction—one that Michael has never experienced and James is desperate to deny.

When members of the expedition unearth James’s secret discovery—a living specimen of man at his most primitive—Michael becomes a pawn in their quest for fame.

As their relationship deepens, James is compelled to protect Michael from the academics who would treat him as nothing more than a scientific acquisition and London society, which threatens to destroy their passionate bond…

THE REVIEW

Jungle Heat is the first book by this author that I’ve read. It’s a pretty classic Tarzan tale with a twist, where the jungle man and his discoverer fall in love. While I can’t speak to the historical accuracy nor the controversy over the raping of the southern continents by the British, and though I had a few niggles, I liked the story just fine as a romance. I would now consider reading other books by her.

James is on an academic expedition deep in the Congo jungle when he is saved from a leopard attack by a man who has obviously been raised outside of civilization. Intent on finding the jungle man again, he sets out to befriend, learn all there is about and teach he whom he dubs Michael. Odd One (Michael) has known for a very long time that he is not like the Others, the group of gorillas who raised him. Generally ignored, he is forced to live on the fringe of the clan and is reminded daily that he is different. In Sky Eyes (James), he finds someone with whom he belongs. Although their interaction turns to attraction, James doesn’t want to give in to the desire for Michael for a number of reasons and tries to reject Michael at every turn. James keeps Michael a secret from the rest of the team for as long as possible, but an unfortunate situation forces Michael into the light and into the hands of greedy men looking to make a fortune and name for themselves. Though James tries to make it better, he holds no power on the team and cannot change the course of events. As they make their way back to England, James tries to prepare Michael for what is in store for them.  Michael is intent on having James as his mate, wearing down the other man’s defenses and pressuring a consummation of their relationship. After they arrive in London, James denies further intimate involvement with Michael while trying to make sure he isn’t completely exploited to varying degrees of success, as well as making him ready for his upcoming custody hearing.

Jungle Heat is told via third-person POV that alternates between the two men, which I thought was successful. We are privy to both men’s thoughts, and we are able to clearly see, for example, James’ concern about Michael and his treatment from both the men looking to exploit him and society in general. I thought it was made very clear that both men have felt like they’ve been alone most of their lives — James because of his orientation and Michael because he wasn’t an ape — and that in each other they’ve found what they’re looking for.

I found the beginning of the book especially interesting as James and Michael try to work around their communication issues and James tries to teach Michael. I liked watching the two attempting to work out what the other wants and means, and Michael’s refreshing views on life as someone without the trappings of society as we would have known it at the time.

Conflict comes in the form of that which is external — the greedy bastards who want to exploit Michael — and internally, from James and his concerns over their relationship, and Michael, when he believes that James has betrayed him or is holding out on him needlessly.

There is quite a bit of sexual chemistry between our heroes, especially at the beginning, and the smexxin scenes are pretty steamy. While James is essentially a beta character, Michael is definitely an alpha, particularly after spending the majority of his life with gorillas and watching the at-times taking of mates. He has no social demands to conform to and has no shame when it comes to sex, and has difficulty understanding why he cannot have what he wants. Regarding the romance, I had some concerns about Michael’s understanding of the concept of love — that he was very much about desire and physical needs instead of the emotion behind it — but in the end I bought that these two had a strong bond and were meant to be together.

My niggles:

I felt that there were times that Odd One/Michael — especially in the beginning — used words in his thoughts that I don’t think he would/could have known to have given a name to (i.e. some objects, words for colors, sex). Even with the intelligence Michael obviously has, I doubt he would know what the words “blade,” “blue,” “brown” or “sex” were. For example, there is a sentence in the beginning:

His hair was brown.

I would have thought he would have said something like “His hair was the color of mud,” like he does in other parts of the story (“hard water—a mirror [James] called it”).

Lastly, something minor that jumped out at me: in the scene that brings James and Michael together for the first time — a leopard attack — the author refers to a big cat as a jaguar. Jaguars are only found in the Americas (southern North, Central and South).

OVERALL

Those looking for a historical romance involving two people from very different worlds coming together should pick up this story.

13 thoughts on “Jungle Heat

  1. Leslie

    I have enjoyed other books by this author, and also the two historicals that she wrote with Summer Devon, so maybe I’ll give this one a try. Thanks for the review, Lynn.

    L

    1. Aunt Lynn Post author

      If you have like other books by her, you will probably like this one as well. I have read that fans do it like.

  2. Wave

    Lynn
    Excellent review. I was wondering how Michael would communicate and you hit the nail on the head by some of your niggles. It takes years for someone to learn the English equivalent to grunts, so how would Michael know colours and other words, without a very long time being tutored either by James or formally at school.

    Good point about the jaguar. I know South America well and you are correct, unless things have changed and the breed migrated to Central Africa. :(

    1. Aunt Lynn Post author

      Thanks Wave. The issue with Michael and the words happens even before he begins to communicate with James in any way, so there wasn’t even an opportunity for him to learn them at all. He is very intelligent and learns quickly, but there is no way, imo, that he would know to think “He needed to look into those eyes again — eyes as blue as the sky, as blue as his own.”

  3. Will K

    Lynn, thanks for another insightful review. I’ve had my eye on this book for a while (an m/m jungle romance!?! whoo-hoo!) and now think that it’s time to finally buy.

  4. jw

    A bad review actually made me buy this book. I had read & enjoyed other books by Bonnie Dee so when I came across a review that really tore this one to pieces, I was curious to see if it could possibly be that bad. Well, the answer of course is that it’s not. I enjoyed it very much.

    It’s true that there’s an issue with Michael expressing himself too well in his internal thoughts & observations (I didn’t notice it so much when he spoke) but I just went with it because it was worth it to get his side of things. Reading what he realistically would have been thinking would’ve grown very tiresome!

    1. Sirius11214

      Probably same bad review made me buy this book as well. It is the fourth book by this author that I bought and the one which I found the least enjoyable unfortunately. I had less problems with romance which has white British man POV actually not talking about horrors of british colonialization than with the fact that I just did not feel chemistry between two protagonists. In fact I very rarely do not finish books, this one I did not finish. Oh well, I definitely loved her two Regencies which she wrote with Summer Devon and I for the most part enjoyed her futuristic romance so I will definitely consider her other books in the future. I enjoyed your review though :)

      1. Aunt Lynn Post author

        Hi Sirius. I love that all of us readers are different and although most of the posted have liked it, it doesn’t work for everyone. Since I haven’t read anything else by her, I can’t compare, but can see your point. I think that my comment about Michael’s desire for James, as opposed to feelings of love, tie into that.

    2. Aunt Lynn Post author

      Good morning JW. I’m glad you liked it. I, too, stumbled the negative review I think you are referring to. One thing about negative reviews: it will make some people do exactly what you did — buy it to see if it is as bad as is said. They generate buzz and interest. Although the review — one person’s opinion — is perhaps not what the author is looking for, it definitely benefits them in a way.

  5. Emily

    I really like this book too, and find it very romantic. (And sexy!) Although I can understand your niggle about the language Michael uses in his thoughts, I’m glad the author went that route. Because if she hadn’t allowed him to use any words in his thoughts before he learned English, she wouldn’t have been able to portray his point of view until midway through the book. I especially love those early scenes of Michael’s, when we get a wild man’s impressions as he encounters humans, weapons, and all the trappings of civilization. Another aspect to the story that intrigues me is James having to teach Michael to keep their homosexual relationship a secret.

    1. Aunt Lynn Post author

      Hi there Emily, and thanks for commenting. In some ways, I liked the first part of the book better than the second in that I, too, found the “Michael learning” sections interesting.

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