Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bastardly, Dastardly And Big In All Ways

Tom Hanks is not a bastard.

Oh, maybe he could be. I mean, you don’t get that successful in H’wood – and become so brilliant a producer – without the big, em, chutzpah to carry it off. So, Tom is indeed a fine businessman.

But not a bastard. Although he did play one on-screen. You remember “You’ve Got Mail,” right? The Techno 90s, AOL-product placement take on “The Shop Around the Corner?” In it, Tom and America’s Sweetheart, Meg Ryan snip and snipe by day as he – on behalf of his family’s big, bad, back-in-the-day-brick-and-mortar behemoth book chain -- tries buy out her ever-so-important to the community independent book store.

But by night, ah, the digital magic happens as Tom and Meg meet anonymously online, trade email and fall in lerve, neither hip to the fact that the other’s their daytime nemesis.

But Tom’s a complete gentleman throughout, online and on-screen. The bastard.

Cause, really, there aren’t a whole lotta dominant captains of industry who can separate business from pleasure, and usually – at least in the case of the monied-and-powerful romance hero – their manipulative, cold, the world-is-my-oyster-and-you-are-my-bought-and-easily-discarded-w/o-a-second-thought-hoochie-plaything attitude toward the women they have sex with usually ends up bitch slapping em to their knees.

But what if that ‘tude ended up wooing a heroine right into his bed, and kept him there despite the fact he’s fairly misogynistic? What if he can barely keep himself from bitch slapping her, swives vigorously mistresses and whores at the same time he’s having an affaire with his fair heroine and tells her she needn’t use the condoms she’s bought because he’s very “careful?” And – oh yeah – what if at the same time this hero’s trying to ruin her reputation and have her arrested on indecency charges so he can buy her ever-so-important-to-the-community bookshop to build a development and save ₤90,000?

I’ll tell you “what if”: If you have all that, you’ve got Fitz Monkton , Duke of Groveland, hero of Susan Johnson’s unrelentingly erotic new novel, “Gorgeous as Sin.”

Yes; it’s true. Susan Johnson’s written Fitz so hot in bed – and has given him such a magnificently and lovingly described manhood -- that those things alone could allow me overlook his worst qualities. But it’s the fact that he’s so painfully not self-aware of his emotional needs – yet so precisely aware of his abject failings – that makes him my early choice for

2009 Bastardly, Dastardly, Big-In-All-Ways Hero of the Year.

Fitz Monkton is well aware that his strength lies in his sexual prowess, his ability to seduce any woman, and his innate ability not to give a damn about any of it. Perhaps the most powerful duke in England, “no” isn’t a word he hears often from anyone, especially not chits. So when he learns that some woman, the Rosalind St. Claire, won’t sell her bookshop so he can commence building a lucrative development – he realizes it’s time to personally turn on the charm that never fails to woo.

But fail with Rosalind Fitz does. The lovely widow cannot imagine a more repugnant – or arousing – personage as the duke, and digs in her heels. She may be genteel poor and anonymously writing erotica to support her bookshop and community social causes, but that doesn’t mean she’ll fold anytime soon.

But when her best friend suggests that perhaps a modern 1890s woman like Rosalind might take the duke as a lover – and compartmentalize the fact that he’s a bastard to her otherwise – she embarks on a sexually enriching affair that has her examining her notions of empowerment and need for emotional connection with a man with whom she’s sleeping.

Meanwhile, our duke finds his anger at Rosalind is heightening even as he becomes more addicted to their sexual relationship. And when his ire takes an unexpected turn the question becomes not if he’ll be brought to his knees, but whether Rosalind could possible shake off enough dignity to let him execute the genuflection.

It’s possible someone might write a hero more magnificently and mortifyingly uncaring of his woman’s feelings for as much of a book as Johnson has done with Fitz. Yet I’d be surprised if she could do it as successfully or with as much depth of emotion and sensuality or with just the right amount of “believable” redemption; Johnson resists the urge to geld the beastly bastard.

And if you think for one moment that Johnson allows her heroine to be some doormat – or some anachronistic 21st century woman in 19th century garb – you gots another think coming. Johnson slides seamlessly into an exploration of feminism, the suffrage movement, and social mores that is every bit as fascinating as the erotic sensual passages that Johnson is so adept at creating, and which surely earn her a place as one of the best writers of erotic romance.

Susan Johnson's sexy reads include terrific contemporaries -- I love "French Kiss" -- and I recommend you take a gander at all her novels when you head to the bookstore around the corner to grab "Gorgeous as Sin" --

Buy the Book

Got any Susan Johnson faves? Are you a fan of the bastardly hero?
Who are some of your faves?

27 comments:

Dave B. said...

Isn't Capt. Jack Sparrow of "Pirates of the Carribean" a bastardly hero? Is are pirates a sub-category of this?

Michelle gave me a more "detailed" synopsis of this book last night and I must say, it kept my attention.

-Male Perspective Guy

Buffie said...

Michelle, this sounds like another book I would just love. I love heros that are just so darn bad but yet they pull me into the story and have me falling head over heels for them!

And yet again you have given me another author that I have not read! Thanks!!!

Kati said...

Huh. Not sure I'm in.

Mostly because while I love, love, love bad boy redemption, I can't take a hero who mistreats a heroine.

Michelle, did you *like* him? Or was he just a total trainwreck?

Lis said...

MPG - that's one of the perks of being Michelle's MPG, right?

Sounds interesting, but I'm with Kati - is he actually likeable, or just so totally bastardly that you think to yourself, I would not associate with a man like this in real life, why would I want to in fantasy life?

Portia Da Costa said...

I'm not sure I like my bastardly heroes *too* bastardly. I need there to be a shred of decency lurking in there, amongst the bad behaviour... even *before* the heroine redeems the guy.

And that business of shagging mistresses and whores, and then telling heroine they don't need a condom... hmm... methinks I need to read this book to see how that's handled. I've never read a Susan Johnson book before, so maybe I ought to start now?

Jessa Slade said...

I've read a couple other takes on this story, and you've officially got me curious. I love a diamond-in-the-rough hero and I adore a truly bastardly villain, but both together? Now I have to go see for myself. Trundling off to bookstore...

Stacy~ said...

I read another review of this book and the hero's treatment of the heroine totally turned me off. Plus, if he's sleeping around with other women, even if he doesn't have a commitment with said heroine, well, that's a deal breaker for me. Partly cuz I'm just old-fashioned that way, but also I get all squicked out thinking of him leaving one woman's bed for another. Ewww. Totally not sexy.

orannia said...

What if he can barely keep himself from bitch slapping her, swives vigorously mistresses and whores at the same time he’s having an affaire with his fair heroine and tells her she needn’t use the condoms she’s bought because he’s very 'careful?'

I haven't read any of Susan Johnson's books either but...this hero doesn't sound very likeable. Does he actually like the heroine or is she just another notch on his belt?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

This just in: Marilyn/Playground Monitor reports she's been asked for the FULL MANUSCRIPT from her Harliquin pitch today! Let's all wish our special Bella friend congratulazione! I know we all were thinkin good thoughts for her!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Kati, I adored him; can't you tell?

Hmm, was there a train wreck element? I think that would mean Johnson was trying to do him over the top, and I didn't feel like that was the case. He's really debauched. But thoroughly? To the core? Guess you'd have to read the book. I think on all the 'bad boy' issues in here there are shades of gray that a reader is eithre willing or not willing to explore, digest, accept.

Portia, you know that at the head of any BL or Virgin book there's teh disclaimer statement about the book being fantasy, always practise safe/sane/consensual sex, right? And recently I've read some multi=partner BLs with no condom use and the realist in me went, "oh, no" for one demi-semi nanosecond, because i know it's fiction, but in real life I practise safe/sane/consensual sex.

That said, isn't it realistic to say that in some relationships as they begin, women and men disregard instincts and play a little russian roulette with whether the partner they're crazy about is safe? And there's more to this story than the heroine going, "oh! Ok, well, then, let's go skinless."

But I want not to sugar-coat this guy and point out that Johnson doesn't suddenly make him have seen the 'magic hoo-hoo" light that so many get ticked at. He's totally profligate sexually and sensually. In this particular book, that wouldn't have worked. And it's an erom, so we don't necessarily expect the partners to be monogamous throughout; that's not the contract we sign in all erom. So we read wisely and with...say it with me...emotional intelligence.

I had much fun writing about this book cause I enjoyed it so much. But I hope nobody misses what I wrote about the heroine...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Good questions lis: you think to yourself, I would not associate with a man like this in real life, why would I want to in fantasy life?

For me, that's the appeal of the bastardly hero; I don't want something in my fantasy life even remotely close to what I can get at home. In a book I talked about a week or so back, the 'spanky' book, the heroine's friend says something like, "if you're gonna make a fantasy, make it as raunchy as possible, girlfriend." That really works for me. But I also support that line of thinking for authors, for letting them have their say.

But I need to clarify that one really must read the book to get the full impact of why the emo arc of the hero's so great, as well as why the thang is so derned hawt.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

But, Stace, do you accept multi partners in other erotic romance that ends in a monogamous relationship? Just wonderin, is all.

I'll never forget the first time I read a romance where the hero slept w/ someone other than the heroine. It was a Marsha Canham. Have I mentioned that I like her books? Anyways, in this medieval, the hero and heroine have just fought a battle -- she's a warrior, too -- and she doesn't realize she's got bloodlust, even though she's experienced the feeling before. The hero's like, 'men just go and have at the wenches for a few hours to get over it.' and she's all, 'but you wouldn't do that, would you? And he just looks off into the fire and doesn't say a word.

I was shocked; I think my heart skipped a beat. Canham broke the contract! It was a single title, what we now might call simple sensual romance. But this was medieval england and he3 was a knight and they werent yet committed. Historically it made sense and I looked at it logically and got over it. Now when I reread, it gives me a nice, de3licious heart-tug.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Orannia, that is the quewstion of the day; very astute of you! He's not even sure. I think the cool thing about this book is that nobody w/ and axe to grinde can look at it and say, 'well the rake hero represents misogyny in his disregard for women...blahblahblah.' He believes he's kinda misogynistic about the women he beds and *some* women. Why not all? You might have to read the book to find out. And can a man like some women and not like others? Hmmm...could that have something to do with the time he lives in or how he was brought up? and could a fine author of historicals address those issues within the book elsewhere? I guess you'd have to read it to find out...

:)

orannia said...

Thank you Michelle!

Marilyn/Playground Monitor reports she's been asked for the FULL MANUSCRIPT from her Harlequin pitch today!

YAH! Congrats Marilyn/Playground Monitor!

Madelynne Ellis said...

It's sounds intriguing. I think I might have to give this one a go.

Jane said...

I love Susan's books, but I haven't read one in a couple of years. My favorite is "Temporary Mistress." I haven't tried any of her contemporaries and now I know what I've been missing.

Princess Bumblebee said...

Hey, Bellas! Haven't been around in a while, I know, but it's work, work, work during tax season. April 15th can't get here soon enough, s'all I'm saying.
Ok, dastardly heroes! Love 'em! I love when they just fall down to their knees and it's the end of the book before they even know it! YUM! One of my favorites is Kresley Cole's Ethan MacCarrick in 'If You Decieve' or Royce from Judith McNaught's 'A Kingdome of Dreams'. But you Bellas already know abou them, hehe. They're so dastardly! Love the way they fall! And they don't even know it until it's too late!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Speaking of safe/sane and consensual, hiya, Madelynne!!! I know ,I had you at bastard...

Principessa, we missed you! Ugh, tax season. Don't let MPG hear you say that. He keeps bugging me about expenses and I don't want to go through the desk drawer where I've developed a deviously convenient method for filing reciepts. Sure, some might call it stuffing them all in on top of one another, but I just think of it as filing with flair. If they're working you too hard, let us know and we'll write you a note so you can get out early. :)

Hi, Jane! Is Temp Mistress (hey, that sounds like a Harlequin Presents, no?) one of her Russians?

Yeah, Orannia, I think she's really jazzed. She said we can help in the coming weeks by stopping by her house to clean and cook on a regular schedule while she's polishing up her manuscript. Can you believe it? She just finished it, like, what, last week? And this week she's got a full read. Wild!

Anonymous said...

love your books
very hot cover

amy*skf said...

I think in the hands of a gifted writer, I don't want the same ol, same ol. Give me something to think about. Give me something that might make me just a little uncomfortable and then make me want it.

Michelle, your description intrigues me. And I have to agree, give me something different for my fantasies.

Can't we have envelope pushing?

Portia Da Costa said...

Portia, you know that at the head of any BL or Virgin book there's teh disclaimer statement about the book being fantasy, always practise safe/sane/consensual sex, right? And recently I've read some multi=partner BLs with no condom use and the realist in me went, "oh, no" for one demi-semi nanosecond, because i know it's fiction, but in real life I practise safe/sane/consensual sex.


Yeah, I know that's there... and it should 'cover' any risky non condom sex in the writing... And I used to write multi partner, non condom sex for BL myself... but now it bothers me. And I don't want readers to have that nanosecond of being reminded that it's all made up... LOL!

Having said that, I *really* want to read Gorgeous as Sin now! It does sound exceptionally interesting... and I like the idea of no punches being pulled in terms of hero's actions and thoughts etc. Sounds very bold and edgy... :)

Portia Da Costa said...

Marilyn! Wahey on the request for a full! I've got everything crossed for its success... go you! :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, no! Portia, did I just strong-arm you? I remember a while back reading great posts at the blog formerly and still known as lustbites debates about the whole safe sex thing and it's still a great topic. But I didn't mean to say 'well, you wrote them, biotch, so don't go pointing the finger," merely that many readers suspend disbelief for the sake of the erotic ride. Johnson doesn't ask us to do that, she makes it part of the story.

Portia Da Costa said...

Oh, no, no, no! Don't worry, QB! I don't feel strong armed in the slightest... :) It's a fascinating topic, and I do like the idea of SJ acknowledging the issue in her story... all adds to the 'reality' of the read.

Interestingly, I've fairly recently read a couple of Victorian set novels by Robin Schone, and she too deals with the whole condom/pregnancy/disease issue head on too. She has her characters actually use condoms... and I was surprised to learn the tins they came in sometimes had a picture of Queen Victoria on the front! LOL

I think when I reach that stage in the historical I'm writing, I'm going to 'deal' with it too... :)

I used to be able to suspend disbelief completely, even for quite some time after I began writing, but more recently, I can't any more. Can't seem to switch the internal editor off, except for really, really exceptional books that sweep me along.

Sad, really, isn't it? :(

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I was surprised to learn the tins they came in sometimes had a picture of Queen

Adds a new meaning tot the phrase, "lie back and do it for England..."

Portia Da Costa said...

Hee hee! Yes, indeed! :)

Tamara Hughes said...

Wow, this is an interesting concept. A true bad boy to the core. I can see why some may be turned off by him, but I'd be interested to see how this is written. I'm wondering if this guy might be surprisingly good hero. Hmm. Something to think about.

By the way, congratulations Marilyn, Playground Monitor. A full ms request is awesome! Way to go!