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REVIEW: Outlaw by Susan Johnson

REVIEW: Outlaw by Susan Johnson

Outlaw by Susan JohnsonDear Ms. Johnson:

I wish I could recall the first book I’ve read of yours. It was one of the Braddock Black series, either Blaze or Forbidden. Outlaw was published in 1993 and it remains one of my favorite historical romances. I view you and Robin Schone as having birthed the erotic romance genre. Your books were the raciest thing on the romance shelves in the early 90s. But as well known as you are for the lushness of your sex scenes, you are equally acknowledged to have written period accurate historicals educating your readers along with entertaining them.

The characters in your books are often writ large and Outlaw is no different but the extravagance of the characters, from their emotions to their actions, to the narrative, all fit together.

Johnnie Carre, the Earl of Graden, Laird of Ravensby, is a young, wealthy and powerful Border lord but in the year of 1704, being wealthy and powerful on the border between Scotland and Englad meant being ruthless with the sword, ready with the bribe, and quick with the verbal parry. Johnnie excelled at alll three not to mention his prowess in the bedroom. His wealth and power and pedigree (Scottish) inspired jealousy and hatred in many but in particular Harold Godfrey. The animosity between the two reached a fervish height when Godfrey kidnapped Johnnie’s younger brother and heir, Robbie.

Unable to storm the Englishman’s castle, Johnnie Carre took someone valuable to Harold: Elizabeth Graham. Elizabeth wasn’t valuable to her father because he loved her. Elizabeth was nothing more than an asset. Harold had sold her once, when she was sixteen, to an old wealthy man, Hotchane Graham. Graham had recently died, leaving his wife of eight years a large fortune. Since her widowhood, Elizabeth has been seen as untouchable, heavily guarded by her father’s garrison and her own private army.

The hostage taking, a time honored border tradition, brings Johnnie and Elizabeth together where they may not have met in the past. Johnnie, whose attentions cast a wide and varied net, didn’t ordinarily pay attention to the virtuous widow, particularly the daughter of one of his hated enemies, Harold Godfrey. Elizabeth spent her first sixteen years as a pawn of her father and then eight years under the thumb and body of another old man. The last thing that she wants is to be tied to yet another powerful and profligate man.

Much of the first half of the book is about wanting and not having. Sexual tension is rife whetting the reader’s appetite.

"And this is all new for you-’this abstinence."

Johnnie's sigh this time was an exhalation of strained resignation. "Totally."

"Do you feel the inspiration of this new and noble temperance infusing your soul with virtue?" Munro teasingly mocked.

"Actually, I'm at the point of hitting the next person I speak to out of frustration alone."

Much time is given to showing how unrestrained Johnnie’s life was before he meets Elizabeth and thus, his interactions with Elizabeth are markedly different.

"I could change plans," Elizabeth had said, "but George Baldwin's sister is scheduled to return to London on Thursday, so we'd made arrangements for a small gathering on Wednesday. I'd really hate to disappoint her. She's very pleasant – and an excellent harpist. Do you enjoy the harp?"

A man who studiously avoided amateur musical entertainments, Johnnie Carre nevertheless tranquilly replied, "Very much."

Munro's amazement took the form of a sudden coughing fit.

"I hope you haven't taken a chill, Cuz," Johnnie smoothly observed as his cousin attempted to regain his composure.

It was a journey of fascinating revelations-’with Johnnie Carre on his very best behavior. Munro considered the three-hour ride to Three Kings the most faultless example of lust-driven prevarication he'd ever had the good fortune to see

For Elizabeth, she paid for her independence with precious coin and she plans to use her wealth to protect her freedom. Even if she has feelings for Johnnie, she is a pragmatist. She has the means and the will to take actions that do not include Johnnie which leads to one of the most thrilling wedding scenes I’ve read in a romance. Three hundred mounted men ride from Ravensby Keep to Hexham and storm a chapel.

I wanted to add how much I loved the detail in the story. As the clansmen are running through the keep, they had to run single file because the “In the medieval portion of Goldiehouse the ceilings were low, the hallways narrow, built for defense centuries ago. Only one man could comfortably navigate the corridors.” Johnnie is described at one point as “a Border chieftain of renown, a freebooter in diamond buckles and courtly attire.” Elizabeth, during the exchange, is attired in a lavender wool cape with embroidered violet leather gloves. Her father “the corpulence of thirty years' dissipation was partially concealed beneath the well-cut leather and elegant bossing of his silver-studded jack.” The people, the settings, were all so alive.

I’ve re-read this book often and it never fails to entertain me. I like how Johnnie and Elizabeth do not change their fundamental nature. Johnnie remains autocratic. Elizabeth still wants her independence. Their love for each other only changes their priorities. The story is driven by both internal conflict and external conflict and the sex scenes, while lush and plentiful and innventive for the time, played an important part of displaying the characters and their internal struggles with love and possession. A-

Best regards,


PS Dear Bantam, while I appreciate your efforts in digitizing the backlist, you really, really need a proofreader. The number of OCR errors are kind of embarrassing.

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REVIEW:  Georgeous as Sin by Susan Johnson

REVIEW: Georgeous as Sin by Susan Johnson

Dear Ms. Johnson:

042522681601lzzzzzzzI’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

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.