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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Wunderland by Scarlett Se Leva is your standard “poor girl-rich boy” fall in love against the odds and spend their lives fighting their families’ rejection of the idea. Simone, it seems, has known Ryan Mulligan her entire life and has loved him for most of it. Her mother works as a housekeeper for the wealthy Mulligan family and Simone spent much of her early childhood at the Mulligan house, playing with her “best friend”, little Ryan. After the pair rediscover each other as teenagers, there is electricity and sensuality between them that is impossible to deny. Simone, though, is not “marriage material” for the preppy and status-conscious Mulligans, especially Ryan’s socialite mother, who decided long ago who would be a suitable wife for her beloved son – her best friend’s daughter, Madeline. Ultimately, this fierce determination to break up the couple and Simone’s emotional issues regarding the abandonment of the family by her own father made this relationship ultimately doomed. As both Ryan and Simone follow life’s trajectories and set about life without each other, synchronicities and their interrelated families will ensure they have the opportunity to see and explore each other, again and again, but somehow they never seem capable of crossing that threshold into a “real” relationship again.
Wunderland is somewhat formulaic in its plot machinations with the whole “wrong side of the tracks” and the scheming mother vibe, and yet author Scarlett Se Leva does a sterling job of lifting it above similar tales in this genre. The love scenes are particularly passionate, without crossing that fine line into smut and the writing is vividly descriptive and emotive. As a reader, one can really feel the raw emotions of the two principals jumping off the page. The love and passion between them sizzle on every page. I love novels that employ clever synchronicities to tie all the disparate characters together and the author does a superb job. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Simone and her best girlfriend. Although understated, it was clear Tinea’s background was every bit as privileged as that of Ryan’s and yet the two girls had formed an unbreakable lifetime bond that was satisfying to the reader. The issues of abandonment by her father made it difficult for Simone to form a long-term relationship with any man, let alone Ryan, and I was pleased with how the author addressed these issues. For a pleasant, relaxing romance, with a bit of spice thrown in and a few twists and turns, I can definitely recommend this read.