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