Author: K.A. Tucker
Pub. Date: Jan. 2022 (read Feb. 2022)
Series: Wild #3
I’m honestly quite shocked to say that I loved Running Wild. I feel like the tagline of this book should be “don’t write it off, give it a try”, because even the author felt like she had to convince her readers that they should care and want to read about Marie. That was never the problem for me though. It never really bothered me that Marie was into Jonah, though I know some people were really offended by it. Her and Jonah were good friends and who isn’t disappointed when the friend they were hoping to be ‘end game’ with doesn’t pan out. As Marie uses to defend her actions, I always thought she was “only human”.
So I wasn’t nervous to read this book out of a fear of not liking Marie, more I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to how much I love the books that came before. I’ve read a few of Tucker’s other books outside this series and I didn’t like any of them. It wasn’t even so much that I didn’t care for them, I actively didn’t like them and it made me question how she can get some of her books so wrong and continue to get this series so right. I have loved everything she has done with this series, it’s honestly like she can’t go wrong. In her bio, Tucker describes herself as writing “captivating stories with an edge”, and I think what I like about these books is that they are NOT that. What makes them captivating to me is the very fact that they do not have an edge at all. In some ways they are even mundane, but it’s that they’re so honest and genuine in their telling and that the mundane is actually incredibly relatable.
Running Wild is the third book (fourth if you count the novella) in the Simple Wild series. The first two books focus on the love story of Calla and Jonah, which Tucker concludes in the novella. Running Wild is the first book about Jonah’s friend Marie, a side character in the early books. She was in love with Jonah before Calla and is sidelined in the original books. She is heartbroken that she isn’t the one for Jonah, but genuinely happy to see him so happy and tries very hard to set aside her feelings for him. But even though she’s been able to move on from Jonah, she is now 38 years old and mostly sad and afraid that she’s going to miss out on her own great love story. She desperately wants to get married and have children, but she doesn’t want to settle. She wants her own fireworks and passion, but she can’t ignore that her biological clock is still ticking.
Enter Tyler, a competitive musher who has just moved to Alaska to race in the 1000 mile Iditarod dog sled race. Marie and Tyler get off on the wrong foot after a misunderstanding, but quickly realize they were both wrong and begin to question their feelings for one another. The problem is, Tyler is still pining over someone else and is only interested in being friends, while Marie is not willing to go down that road again after Jonah.
I don’t think I can get into talking about this book without getting into spoilers, but I can assure you it is absolutely worth your time to read. Like the Simple Wild and Wild at Heart, I don’t believe that Running Wild is a romance book at its core. It’s really a book about finding yourself, but also knowing yourself, which I think is just as powerful. At 38, Marie has already discovered a lot about who she is and this book is more about her knowing herself and knowing what she wants. She still questions herself, but it’s also about the maturity to know when to protect your heart and when to chase after something you want.
So if you don’t want spoilers, I suggest you go read my review of The Simple Wild instead and pick up a copy of this series as fast as possible! Okay, let’s get into it. Spoilers ahead
First off, this book is definitely a slow burn. It didn’t surprise me that much, but I was surprised how little Tyler seemed to feature in it. We meet him quickly and get to know him at the Iditarod competition, and then he somewhat vanishes from the narrative when he offers Marie friendship and she declines him. Instead, we spend a lot of time with Marie’s family and I can tell you, I adored this just as much!
I could maybe see some readers finding this to be a bit boring, but it’s where my comment about the mundane and relatability come into play. Marie’s family dynamic seemed at times so loving and at times so frustrating – exactly like a real family. I loved her parents for their unconditional sacrifices for their children and I was frustrated by her sisters’ shortsightedness and frankly, selfishness. They had all the love and tension of any family – people who love you more than anyone else in the world, but also drive you crazy. We want to support our sisters, but sometimes it also feels like we need to compete with them and complicated relationships can grow between parents and each of their children. Marie’s future is put in an uncomfortable position by her family when they want to sell her business and while you felt bad for her, you could also totally empathize with why her family might ask that of her.
No one wants to give up their home and business, but it’s also not up to our parents to provide for us forever and despite wanting to give the best to their children, it’s also reasonable to want to cash in on some of your own happiness when you retire. This is something I feel like I haven’t seen portrayed in many books, at least not in the sensitive way that it is in this book. I feel like these types of scenarios in other stories are often motivated by a feeling of resentment of a bad relationship that a character had with their parents. Marie’s predicament isn’t motivated by any of these things, but rather by honest love and respect that this family has for one another and the desire of both Marie and her parents for the other to be happy and taken care of. I thought it was really beautiful and even though it’s not quite resolved, I liked that there was really no easy fix. That’s what made her family so relatable. There’s not always an easy answer or a happily ever after, eventually we often end up having to find a compromise that works for both parties.
Now let’s talk about Tyler because this story also really worked for me. When I first read the synopsis and read that Tyler wanted to just be friends, I wasn’t really interested in going down that road again. I figured he had an ex that he was trying to get over and I wasn’t really interested in reading a story about someone who comes around to love Marie (I wanted them to just love her). But Tyler’s hang up is that his wife died. In some ways this is even harder because as Marie says, how is she supposed to compete with a ghost? It’s not possible. But in this story, it just kind of worked. Tyler genuinely likes Marie for who she is – there’s never really any discussion about him comparing her to Mila or vice versa. He loved his wife and now unfortunately she is gone, and now he also loves Marie. It’s both complicated and uncomplicated. I felt bad for both him and Marie having to navigate that kind of heartbreak, but also that it’s something that could be worked through with time and respect.
The only thing that irked me a bit was when he asked her on a date only to basically dump her again the next day after they had sex (unprotected sex – which was also irksome – let’s not pretend people are just willing to knock people up like it’s nothing). I understood that it was hard for him being with someone else and feeling like he was betraying the memory of his family, but at the same time, I wish he’d had the maturity to just ask to take it slow, rather than to cut it off altogether. Especially when he then does another 180 as soon as she starts dating someone else. I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t just keep dicking her around again while he tried to work out his demons. He needed to be in therapy to work on himself before he would be properly ready to be there for Marie. Also, I didn’t love when they had sex in the truck. I was too much, too fast after such a slow burn. I wish they just kissed – but whatever, I guess we’re all adults here and it sounded like it had probably been a few years since either of them had let off some steam.
My only other minor complaint is that I think the plot moved a little too quickly at the end after such a slow pace throughout. I would have liked to take a bit more time building up the relationship before parting ways with these lovely characters. In some ways I hope Tucker writes another book about Marie and Tyler, and in some ways I don’t think we need it. But I didn’t think we needed Wild at Heart either and I ended up loving it. Tucker seems to excel in this setting and I think there’s a lot more we could glean from Marie and Tyler, so it might be worth the investment.
In conclusion, the simplicity of The Simple Wild series is what makes it so special for me. Tucker isn’t afraid to tackle complex human emotions, but she does it in the most relatable settings. I think it demonstrates that we don’t need wild storylines to trigger those complex emotions because it’s complex people that trigger wild emotions in our own normal, mundane, and everyday lives. Fill your life with those kinds of people.