Brazen

Naughty, Naughty

Rough Around the Edges

Sweet Love, Survive

Taboo

A Touch of Sin

Wicked

 
Tempting by Susan Johnson
(Kensington, $15, NC-17) ISBN 1-57566-803-3
****
Using a nineteenth century backdrop, Susan Johnson's latest erotic effort pairs an unhappily married princess with a wealthy American bachelor. Tempting is, without a doubt, one of her best works to date.

English-born Christina Grey, the beautiful Princess of Zeiss, was married off at seventeen to a German prince. At such a tender age she had thought her husband dashing and charming, unaware of what a monster -- not to mention adulterer -- he would turn out to be. Nevertheless, Christina learns to endure Hans over the years, taking solace in being a mother to their two sons. Unlike her philandering royal husband, she doesn't care very much for sex and therefore has no desire to take a lover. Until, that is, she meets Max.

English born and American bred Max Falconer, the new Marquis of Vale, is looking for a bit of fun at the country party he is attending. Never married and not particularly inclined to take himself off the bachelor market, he is shaken by the depth of his feelings concerning Christina. When Max had befriended the beautiful, lonely princess he hadn't anticipated falling in love with her. But now that he has he will stop at nothing to make her belong to him.

Susan Johnson fans are accustomed to her philandering-until-he-meets-the-heroine heroes. In her past few books they have also become accustomed to male protagonists that don't stray at all once they fall for the females in question. None of her fans, however, are accustomed to a hero like Max. This is a man so besotted with his heroine that he doesn't even think about straying, let alone actually do it. Max's love for Christina borders on the obsessive...a fact some readers might find unnerving but I found endearing.

Another strong attribute for Tempting lies in the friendship and mutual respect that the protagonists feel for each other. It is common in erotic literature to find a bonding of the flesh (else it wouldn't be erotic!), but not necessarily a bonding of the hearts. As the reader you have no doubts that Max and Christina are in love, and better yet, you've been given enough depth into their characters to understand why.

What brings this book into four heart range for me, however, is the well developed and at times quite suspenseful plot. Christina is not a free woman. Max wants to be with her forever. In order to come together and stay that way the heroine must go through some pretty heady stuff. I found that once I reached the last half of the book I simply couldn't put it down.

The only complaint I have with the novel as a whole is that during the book's first half the sex scenes began to drag a bit. If one is going to read back to back lovemaking escapades it helps the pacing tremendously if there is a tad bit more variety than what Tempting offers. Conversely, however, I didn't find this to be the case later on as Johnson delves into everything from light bondage to the we-could-be-caught-at-any-moment-so-let's-make-this-count scenario.

Overall, Tempting is an enjoyable literary experience and definitely one of my favorite Susan Johnson books. Starting with her anthology in Fascinated, then again with her November 2000 release Temporary Mistress, and finally with Tempting, Johnson's trend as of late has been toward creating more respectable heroes, and ones whose declarations of monogamy you don't doubt. To put it plainly, it's a trend this reader likes.

The next time you're in the mood to read a piece of erotic literature, I recommend picking up a copy of Tempting. The plot and suspense angles of the novel are Susan Johnson at her finest and the romance is both solid and endearing. This one is going on my keeper shelf.

--Tina Engler


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