Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gotta Love Historicals Week: Review of Jungle Heat by Bonnie Dee

Bonnie Dee
Jungle Heat
Carina Press, 2010

Congo Free State, 1880, 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...

Genre & Keywords:
M/M, Historical Romance, Expedition, Anthropology, Savage, Africa/London/Scotland

Why I read it:
I received an ARC from the Publisher, through NetGalley

While on an anthropological expedition in the jungle of Africa, James is saved from a leopard by a savage man. The man turns out to be living among the mountain gorillas. James succeeds in winning his trust and calls him Michael. They develop a friendship and explore their physical attraction until James’ colleagues learn about Michael too, James becomes seriously ill and Michael is captured. The group ships back to England and takes Michael with them, treating him as an animal. Recovered from his illness, James fights for recognition of Michael’s humanity and continues this fight back in London, while he and Michael have to conceal their blooming love.

My opinion in short:
I loved this M/M version of Tarzan. The premise intrigued me but could’ve easily turned into a ridiculous story if not handled carefully. Ms. Dee made it into a unique story that remains erect. The image of Tarzan never popped into my head while reading this book, because the heroes are refreshing, likeable, well developed, three dimensional characters. They have a beautiful and genuine chemistry that had a great appeal. The historical setting, which is not really my favorite, added in this case to the internal conflict of the relationship. I felt involved with James and Michael, from the first to the last page, even at those moments when I wasn’t reading in Jungle Heat. I can highly recommend this novel, especially to those who are willing to take an exotic journey with two sexy and sweet men from the 19th century.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 of 3 flames

What’s more to know about this book:
Both main characters were very refreshing and quite unique compared to those I’ve read about in the m/m genre so far. Now, these are not necessarily qualities I look for in my romance characters, but I found both James and Michael rather interesting personalities to spend some time with. They could’ve easily become caricatures because of the Tarzan-like plot and setting, but thank goodness they had way more depth and substance than that.
James is endearing because of his primness - formed by the social rules of his time - and, on paradoxically, his passion for Michael and his cause. Aside from that he worries about how genuinely Michael’s attraction and feelings for him can be: he’s sure Michael will realize he’s not gay once he sees the first woman. Michael on the other hand has none of those worries. He has no shame or sexual awareness beyond his own feelings, and no social pressure. He doesn’t understand why he can’t show his feelings and he feels conflicted by James’ behavior in public. This relational conflict, which is based on their very different backgrounds and social awareness, is portrayed very well by the author. This compelling romance thrives on that conflict and it’s what keeps me as a reader invested in both protagonists due to the way the author handled it.
The story is told in third person from both men’s point of view, alternating from one to the other. Michael’s POV is, especially in the beginning when he’s still more primitive, rather interesting. It’s easy to pick on little errors as Michael knowing things he couldn’t know, like his own eye color in the next sentence: “He needed to look into those eyes again – eyes as blue as the sky, as blue as his own.” But I choose to focus on the uniqueness of Michael’s intriguing perspective, and maybe it was my mistake to read this type of examples as his own thoughts (although they felt that way rather than an omniscient narrator’s).
With only a little suspension of disbelief regarding Michael’s POV, the choice for the alternating perspectives worked perfectly in this story, since the characters come from such different worlds, literally. It was an intriguing journey into those opposite men’s thoughts and feelings and it resulted in a wonderful exploration of their relationship.
The plot is well developed and rich of unexpected twists and turns. It’s not completely set in the jungle (where the story has a more universal feel to it) but also partly in 19th century London and Scotland and on a ship (where the historical time period has more influence on the relationship). The developing romance between the two protags is the main focus of the plot, but not without them having to deal with threats from other people and society. Luckily they also have people in their team with whom they can fight against the enemy’s team, literally and figuratively. So, there’s enough conflict (from within as well as from outside the relationship) to bring suspense to the story. The ending was happy and satisfying, although I didn’t care too much about the last chapter in which we got treated to a look in the future where James and Michael continued their HEA, it was a bit too sweet for my taste. But it gave the story a nice round closure.
M/M. The sex scenes are very erotic. Especially when the heroes are still in the exploring phase of their physical attraction, the sexual tension is very tangible. After that phase, tenderness and emotions become more and more part of their love making. Then the sex scenes, still hot and explicit, support their growing connection and show their love.
Writing style
Ms. Dee’s writing is lucid and expressive. I didn’t have to make much of an effort to picture the setting or situation in which the characters were. The short sentences were descriptive and clear enough to make an image of the events without having to reread parts of the scenes. I enjoyed it very much that she wrote this story mainly from within both heroes, which helped to see the depth of the characters.

Favorite scene/quote:
The scene where Michael allows James to touch him for the first time (to see to his wound). This is from Michael’s POV, he’s Odd One, and he has named James Sky Eyes:

To have this foreign creature touch his skin was beyond description. Powerful warmth shot through him, filling him with heat like sunlight. His cock, which had been growing steadily harder from the nearness of the stranger, began to ache, and he wanted to reach out and touch Sky Eyes in return. He needed to know what his brown hair felt like, to stroke his fingers over smooth skin instead of fur. He wanted to see the stranger stripped bare of the layers he wore on top of his skin.
Odd One held still while the stranger smeared the sweet-smelling stuff on his wound. The area was sore, especially when Sky Eyes pressed against it, but he didn’t care. He whimpered in pleasure and submitted to the tender touch.

Bonnie Dee’s website | Yahoo group | on Goodreads
Buy Jungle Heat here
Read an excerpt here

Other books by Bonnie Dee that look interesting to me:
Seducing Stephen - A jaded rake and a student tumble into bed and into love.
The Gentleman and the Rogue - Lad from the streets meets lord of the manor.
Star Flyer - Two men on a trajectory for an explosive collision.
Hearts Afire: January - Hot firemen and the men who love them.
Undeniable Magnetism - Magnetism draws them together, but only love can forge a bond.
Cage Match - A prince of industry, an imprisoned gladiator -- Cinderella just got hotter.

A complete list of Bonnie Dee’s books (M/M, M/F, Historical, Paranormal, Contomporary) can be found here


  1. I'm really curious what kind of M/M Carina Press would offer. I have Savage Sanctuary to read first but that quote is wonderful Janna! I was scared at first we would get a hollering...vine
    swinging...thumping on chest kind of male *wink*

    I still have three books to buy from Carina press...after reading your review I'll make that four LOL

  2. Hi Janna!

    This sounds a lot of fun. Loved your review. One to look into that's for sure!

    Thank you :)

  3. I read the Tarzan books when I was a kid, so I might have to read this one!

  4. Hihi, finding Tarzan and taking him home, well finding him again, you go boy :)

  5. I've read a couple of the author's other books and really enjoyed them. I've added this one to my wish list. Great review!

  6. Girlie, you rock!!!!! Great job!
    I wanted to pop in to see how you were doing and giving you my love! Hugs galore!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Thank you Janna. I've read differing reviews about this book, but I am intrigued after reading your review :)

  8. Interesting twist on the Tarzan storyline - it sounds like something I'd enjoy reading. Nice review!

  9. @Leontine: Nope, no hollering... vine swinging... thumping on chest kind of male at all, LOL! Luckily! I think you'll like this one from Carina Press :)

    @Sassy: Hey! Good to see you again! :) Thanks. It is a fun one!

    @Chris: The books, really? I'm curious how this one will compare to the books instead of the movie.

    @Blodeuedd: Think about all the things you can teach him about *g*

    @Lily: Good to know! I'll definitely try some of her other books. :)

    @Cecile: It's always great to see you, hon! I'm doing good, been busy at work the past two days, but am finally at home now :) Hope your doing good too! Hugs!!!

    @orannia: I haven't read any other reviews yet. I'm curious what others think, but I can't find them... If you give it a try, let me know what you think? :)

    @Patti: Thank you! :) The Tarzan twist is at least not very common in this genre, as far as I know.

  10. I have read quite a few or Ms Dee's m/f work and most of what you said above ring true in those as well...

    I do like the cover on this one as well.


  11. @EH: This was my first book by Ms Dee, but certainly not my last. I love the cover too.


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