All I Desire

Savage Desire by Rosemary Rogers
(Mira, $7.50, R) ISBN 1-55166-621-9
In the summer of 1974, a friend mentioned that she was reading a book that was different from anything she'd read before. Immediately intrigued and knowing that she was a slow reader, while I had a tendency to devour stories, I asked to borrow it. She laughed at my audacity, told me that this was the sexiest book she'd ever read and that I'd get it when she was finished and not a minute sooner. I knew that if she was reading voraciously and teasing me about all the heavy-breathing moments I had to look forward to, then this had to be some book.

Such was my introduction to Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. When I finally did get the book, I read ceaselessly until 2 A. M. That's really not late for an engrossing story, but it's late when you're most likely going to be awakened around five A. M. by an eight-month-old daughter. I remember making myself stop reading, but it was tough.

Sweet Savage Love did live up to my friend's enthusiastic recommendation. In fact, I knew at once that I'd found a captivating new genre of fiction. I certainly didn't realize that I'd be consumed for the next twenty-five plus years with this ‘new' genre - romance.

Another event that I remember with exacting clarity is waiting excitedly for the sequel to Sweet Savage Love. I have never, never, never been as disappointed with a sequel as I was with Dark Fires. Gag a maggot, it recycled separation, sniping, sex, separation, sniping, sex. Some devil made me buy book three, Lost Love, Last Love, which was more separations, misunderstandings, forced abductions, rape, more separations, and political machinations on every continent. I was barely able to finish it and relegated Steve and Ginny to characters who fizzled out, ones who were never able to achieve their true potential as legendary lovers.

The plot synopsis of Savage Desire is really quite easy to explain. Steve and Ginny have been separated. She's returning from wherever she was in the third book, but that happened so long ago that I really don't remember...or care. She finds him and is reunited with their three-year-old twins, Laura and Franco. Mistrust abounds. He's involved in political intrigue in Mexico. She wants to come along. He agrees, but won't give her any details. As they travel, they see people who've been in past books. Steve leaves, Ginny comes after him, he's put back in the silver mines as a slave, she's abducted by one of Steve's enemies. She's jealous; he's jealous. Gee, does any of this sound familiar? Does it remind anyone of a soap opera melodrama? Or what has happened to them in past books?

Twenty-six years have passed since Rosemary Rogers first introduced us to Steve and Ginny. What seems bizarre is that only ten years have passed in Steve and Ginny's lives as Savage Desire begins. Several things make this story different from what we now expect from historical romances. For one thing, nothing has changed in their formulaic relationship. Steve and Ginny are again separated, have misunderstandings, are forcibly abducted, are subjected to being raped by villains full of diablerie and malevolence, and neither seems to have matured much.

I do need help in understanding how only ten years have passed in Steve and Ginny's lives, yet in 1988 Rosemary Rogers wrote Bound By Desire, the story of Laura and her love du jour, Trent Challenger. Yes, this is the same Laura who's three in this book. I seem to have lost my sense of time continuum here.

A second thing which seems to date Savage Desire, even though it is a new book, is that it is lacking in points of view. Steve's motivations, thoughts and inner feelings are never explained, and Ginny's are explained only superficially. This lack of reference makes the characters seem shallow. We never know what makes Steve tick, while Ginny is just as frivolous and desultory as ever.

Savage Desire has Rogers' stock cast of secondary characters . . . the jealous, bitchy mistress - the evil foreigner who will use Ginny sexually but really wants revenge against Steve -­ Ginny's ‘father', a man who still hates Steve ­ and more from the other books. An irritant is that most of the chapters end with forebodings and dire warnings.

This latest book does have the obligatory rape scene, but the tone doesn't seem to be as graphic or as frightening as in past books. In fact, the rape scene is the only reason I gave this an R rating. The book's sexuality is actually quite tame and subdued, a far cry from Sweet Savage Love and its initial racy and steamy impact.

Reading Savage Desire is the ultimate literary Catch 22 situation. If you pick up this book without having read the previous books, then you're missing out on many of the references and the characters who are in all of the books. However, if you start with Sweet Savage Love and work your way up to Savage Desire, you'll probably be so fed up with these two who treat their love so cavalierly that you won't want to read it. What a conundrum!

Savage Desire is billed as the newest installment in Steve and Ginny's fabled love story, advertised as a continuation of this epic saga. While it may be a continuation for some, for me it's a conclusion. After book one, nothing lived up to my expectations. Savage Desire is no exception. Whatever Steve and Ginny do from here on out, they'll be doing it without me.

In 1974 Sweet Savage Love was ground breaking, introducing us to sexy literature that wasn't pornographic, just delightfully different and explicit. In the ensuing years, we and the romance industry have ‘Come a long way, baby.' It's too bad that Steve and Ginny are frozen in their hackney past, dinosaurs of an era that's sadly dated.

--Linda Mowery

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