Dear Ms. Johnson:
I’ve been a long time reader of yours. Pure Sin, Outlaw, the Braddock-Black series, are all on my keeper shelf. I’ve always maintained that you were writing erotic romance before those in charge of defining sub genres came forth with that label. I’ve read you long beyond when I think that I should have stopped, thinking that the next book will be a return to the glory days. Even though the last few contemporaries were weak on plot and characterization, I eagerly anticipated this title because it was a historical. Perhaps the malaise in writing was due to the time period rather than anything else. I could not have been more wrong.
Fitz Monckton, Duke of Groveland, is easily recognizable to any Susan Johnson fan. He’s impossibly rich, impossibly arrogant, impossibly sexy, with a bed more full of girls than Hugh Hefner in his prime (both physically and monetarily). What he wants, he gets. Rosalind St. Vincent is an independent but poor widow who owns a bookshop at the corner of a group of buildings in Mayfair that Fitz wants to develop and turn into Monckton Row townhomes. Rosalind is resistant to the offer of money and so Fitz decides he’ll go down and charm her out of her clothes and her home.
Rosalind is resistant to his charms, at least initially, leading Fitz to think of her in rosy terms. “She is a bitch, he thought.” This isn’t the last of Fitz’s compliments to Rosalind. After some bantering in which Fitz tries to cajole Rosalind to sell and Rosalind refusing, Fitz suggests that Rosalind’s husband killed himself to get away from her. It’s a fairly delightful scene and sets the stage well for the entire book wherein Fitz acts hateful and Rosalind is impotent.
He came to his feet in a powerful surge. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with,” he growled, towering over her.
“On the contrary,” she rebuked, looking up at him, her gaze flame hot, “I know very well who I’m dealing with! A spoiled, self-indulgent debauchee who’s never worked a day in his life or cared about anyone but himself! But I am not intimidated by your wealth and power! I’m here and I’m staying!” As if empowered by her own words, she rose to her feet in a flash and jabbed her finger into the fine silk jacquard of his waistcoat. “Now, get out!”
He grabbed her wrist in a viselike grip. “You unmitigated bitch.”
She gasped in pain.
His fingers tightened for a flashing moment, then he abruptly released her and bending down so their eyes were level, whispered, fierce and low, “They say your husband jumped. Now I know why.”
Fitz vows to crush Rosalind and sets his dogs on her life, to discover every secret, every aspect of her life that he can use to wrench the bookstore from her. Rosalind does have a big secret. She writes erotica to supplement her income, a continuation of her deceased husband’s efforts. So the tension is set. Will Fitz call off the dogs before something bad happens to Rosalind? or will Rosalind’s life be ruined because Fitz wants her property?
The plot, however, is almost totally subsumed into banal flirting and sexual acts. Witness this first act of congress:
But suddenly, she threw her arms around his neck, melted into his body, and breathed against the warmth of his mouth, “Forgive me for being so brazen, but you make me feel ever so good…”
“I’m glad,” he whispered, sliding his hands downward, cupping her bottom, holding her hard against his cock.
Another little gasp, and she breathed whisper soft, “You’re…enormous!”
Suppressing his impulse to say, “The better to fuck you with,” he kissed her less sweetly, with the novel urgency Mrs. St. Vincent inspired even as he searched for the door to her upstairs apartment.
Fitz, or the Monk as he is so ironically nicknamed, becomes worried he is too attached to Rosalind, forgetting to pursue his agenda of sweeping her home and livelihood out from under her feet. He turns to his past paramours including one he had discarded just prior to his courtship of Rosalind. In one very romantic scene, he spends hours at this one paramour before returning home to bathe and then present himself to Rosalind for more fucking. Rosalind thinks to herself that though it is strange she smells soap on his body during the midday, it matters not.
Of course, it matters not. For all of Rosalind’s protests of being an independent woman, she is nothing without Fitz. She doesn’t care that he treats her as if she is of no more importance than a discarded paramour or a whore he might spend all night whiling away the hours. As for Fitz, he lacks any heroic abilities at all. He sets out to destroy someone’s life for profit even though he would not need another dime to enjoy his life. He doesn’t even have a redemptive moment in that he’s never really sorry. At the end of one bout of sex which ends with Rosalind rejecting his proffers of gifts, Fitz thinks to himself that he needs to check with his barrister to see if any dirt has been dug up on Rosalind. “Hopefully, something he could use to destroy the irritating cunt who stood in the way of his development project.”
Even the sex wasn’t very exciting and rehashed old Susan Johnson themes, particularly where one party gets peeved that the other has had sex with someone before their coupling. It was tiresome, soulless, and sad. While I know people will wonder why this is not a F book for me, it’s because it is not unreadable. It has grammatically correct sentences and some semblance of a plot, but the characters are unlikeable, the sex was dull, and everything seemed tired and old. D
This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.