Desert Isle Keeper
No doubt some of you are wondering why so many of us keep buying Susan Johnson’s books year after year. For me, at any rate, Forbidden is one of the most powerful reasons. After all, anyone who could write such an intelligent, lush, erotic, and three-dimensional love story once could certainly do it again.
The third in Johnson’s four-book Braddock-Black series centering on a wealthy, part Native American family, Forbidden is easily the best of an incredible series, though Silver Flame follows a close second.
I love this book for many reasons. The hero and heroine are fabulous, the love scenes truly erotic, and the book itself is enormously well researched, making even the complexities of French divorce law at the end of the 19th century interesting.
Daisy Braddock-Black, one of only fifty female lawyers in America, is smart, capable, sexually liberated (maybe not historically accurate, but you just have to go for it here), and very unwillingly persuaded to leave her Montana home to conduct important family business in France. But staying with a family friend in Paris is decidedly not where she wants to be; Daisy has little tolerance for the foibles of Parisian society, and most especially that famous rogue, Etienne, the Duc de Vec.
To Daisy, Etienne epitomizes everything she despises about society. In the eyes of the brash and hard-working American woman, Etienne is a spoiled, enormously wealthy, polo-obsessed, promiscuous dilettante who wastes his enormous gifts relentlessly pursuing pleasure after pleasure. So, when she finds herself drawn to the sexy nobleman and his very quick wit, she is, not surprisingly, far from happy with herself.
What Daisy doesn’t know is that there is far more to Etienne than she suspects. Not only is he a devoted father to his two grown children, his young grandson is the light of his life. And, since he is also a crackerjack businessman (railroads, no less) and a lavish supporter of many charities, Etienne doesn’t even remotely resemble the useless society darling Daisy believes him to be.
Daisy and Etienne soon embark on a torrid affair – which, since Daisy’s time in Paris is limited and because love is something Etienne has never truly felt for a woman, is exactly what both of them believe it to be. But soon enough, love intrudes upon the reluctant (and surprised) couple, leaving the nobleman from the very top of Parisian society and the Native American woman from the wilds of Montana with the knowledge that nothing less than marriage and a lifetime together will do.
But the problem – and a major obstacle it is – is that Etienne is already married. As a young man, the Duc did the duty expected of any scion of a powerful family in that time and place when he married a young lady from an equally powerful family. His marriage was a loveless, dynastic one, with he and his wife living separately for many years. But, nevertheless, a marriage it is, and since divorce is a scandal the Duchess de Vec will not even consider, Etienne is forced to battle for an end to the marriage from a wife who will do anything to stop it.
The biggest flaw of Forbidden is that it is long, with the last quarter of the book being especially meandering. Equally, the characterization of the current Duchess de Vec is almost painfully that of a stereotypical romance novel villainess. But the rest of the book is so wonderful – and the characters of Daisy and Etienne so fascinating – that these are small quibbles. Susan Johnson did an enormous amount of research into the complexities of French law and it adds a substance to the book that takes it more than out of the common way.
The real strength of Forbidden is its unabashed eroticism. As someone who recently glommed the Judy Cuevas books, there is a real similarity to those classic stories in ways that are almost difficult to explain. Yes, they take place at roughly the same time and in roughly the same place, but, truthfully, the similarity is more of a feeling. Maybe it’s the enormous joy in sexuality that all those books convey. Maybe it’s the intelligence and maturity of the characters. And, maybe, just maybe, it’s simply fine writing.
After more than ten years, Forbidden is, happily, still in print. When Susan Johnson is good, she is nothing less than one of the best. If you love erotic romance, I strongly suggest that you give this one a try.