When You Love Someone
I liked it! I really liked it! Though I’m not quite ready to declare that Susan Johnson is back – it will take more than one good book to wipe away the memory of the past few years – When You Love Someone is a compulsively readable historical romance that did bring to mind the amazing work done by the author in years past.
The plot is vintage Johnson: a jaded, gorgeous, and wealthy beyond belief aristocrat sets out to seduce a seemingly unseduceable woman. But, in something of a departure from her usual sexually experienced heroine, the young woman in question here is a virgin at the mercy of the cruel and abusive husband she was forced by circumstances to marry.
Julius, Marquis of Darnley, on the other hand, is a classic Johnson hero and, since I adore the author’s brand of decadent aristo, that’s A-Okay with me. From the moment he spots Elspeth, Lady Grafton, at a ball in the racing center of Newmarket, the irresistibly attractive Julius is determined to have her. It doesn’t take long, of course, for him to wangle an introduction and maybe even less time to convince Elspeth to give into her desires and succumb to a day of passion.
Considering Elspeth’s horrendous circumstances, her acquiescence isn’t that surprising. The third young wife of a lecherous and altogether nasty older man the impoverished young woman married for the sake of her brother, Elspeth’s only bout of good fortune occurred when her husband’s attempts to make love to her on their wedding night resulted in an attack that left him in a wheelchair. Since that time, he’s kept her a virtual prisoner – except on the rare occasions when he enjoys tarting her up, taking her out, and basking in the envy of his peers.
The plot itself is a simple one. Elspeth and Julius begin what both believes will be an affair. They eventually part just as both intended to do, but when circumstances bring them together again, they’re given a second chance to admit their feelings. What makes When You Love Someone far better than the author’s recent books is that she the two characters here are wonderfully real – not caricatures – and the love story isn’t given short shrift in favor of intensely graphic, gratingly mechanical sex scenes that just aren’t sexy. In short, this is a romance, and a well written one at that! Yeah!
And though you won’t find any footnotes in the pages of this book, you will find a fine bit of detail regarding English divorce law in 1788 that brought back fond memories of Forbidden, one of my personal favorites from the author’s golden age. Double yeah!
Equally important, I really liked the characters and found their interactions – both sexual and otherwise – altogether real and romantic. Elspeth could so easily have been a Victim, but Ms. Johnson doesn’t take that route. Elspeth’s carpe diem approach to an affair with Julius is more than believable, as is her eventual realization that her feelings have gone far beyond her original intentions. As for Julius, Elspeth is his fate and his path to acceptance of that fact is one of the most satisfying aspects of the story.Unquestionably, Susan Johnson is an author who knows how to write a smart, sexy, and wonderful romance. If this one is a bit shorter and a bit less finely detailed than some of her previous books, it’s still a book that’s well worth a read. As for me, I’ll hold the fireworks until I’ve read her next historical romance. But my fingers are crossed, fellow readers, because we’re off to a promising start.