Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: White Satin by Iris Johansen

White Satin Cover Vintage contemporary romance from bestseller Iris Johansen

White Satin by Iris Johansen

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: December 28th, 1985
Publisher: Bantam Books
Pages: 208 pages
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Twenty-year-old Dany Alexander is a world-class figure skater with a lifelong goal of taking home Olympic gold. Lovely, red-headed Dany has known darkly handsome Anthony Malik since she was six and he was 20 and an Olympic-gold figure skater. Her rich, jetsetting parents died when she was eight, and Anthony became her guardian. When at age 14, while skating with Anthony, Dany suddenly developed sexual awareness of him, he immediately sent her away to protect her from himself. He has known emotionally since she was a child that when she grew up, she was meant to be his mate, but he has had no intention of forcing himself on her until she came legally of age, gained maturity, and returned his feelings. As the story begins, Anthony is rich and powerful, having inherited a vast business empire from the man who was his sponsor during his figure skating days. He has overseen Dany's skating from a distance for years, and he comes to a decision he can wait no longer to claim Dany as his lover when she seems to be imminently in danger of getting involved sexually with another man.

Before Iris Johansen became a bestsellling author of suspense novels, she began her career in the early-1980s writing contemporary romance novels. White Satin was her twelfth novel and was originally published in 1985. Johansen was an extremely prolific romance writer, publishing six or more 50,000-word romances per year for Bantam, currently a division of Random House.

Bantam's Loveswept imprint of short, contemporary romances were a big innovation when they first came out in the early 1980s. They featured both the point of view (POV) of the heroine and the hero, where previously most contemporary romances of that era had only offered the heroine's POV. In addition, the sexual scenes were much more explicitly erotic than earlier contemporary romances--on a par with what had been common for some time in historical romance novels. The imprint lasted across the 1980s and 1990s, and its books were extremely popular. In August, 2011, Random House decided to reprint the Loveswept line as ebooks. The original plan was to release six books per year but could eventually move to up to 24 books per year since they have a large backlist. Among the first books released was Iris Johansen's This Fierce Splendor (a Loveswept historical romance). They also released at that time Lightning that Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis, Tall, Dark, and Lonesome by Debra Dixon, and Legends by Deborah Smith, all amazing authors of that line.

I recently checked out of my public library about seven or eight of Johansen's ebook Loveswept novels as I had collected those books in the late 1980s but had misplaced them over the years. Even in the days when I was a big fan of hers, I had never read that many of her short romances straight through. By doing that, I discovered that in these stories she employed a recognizable set of repeated themes, including virginal heroines age 20-24 and much older, highly sexually experienced alpha males who have a history of keeping mistresses and many of whom also purchased the services of expensive prostitutes. (By the way, prostitutes as a sexually cynical habit of the hero is something that I don't recall any other author of contemporary romance at that time utilizing as regularly as Johansen did, and I personally find that motif distasteful--I enjoy these stories in spite of it, not because of it. However, readers who like their romance with a "Beauty and the Beast" fairytale underpinning might not object.)

On the plus side, Johansen's Loveswept heroines and heroes are equally strong and independent; the heroines are very much a match for the high-handed males who cannot dominate them no matter how hard they try. The heroes aren't sadomasochistic in their dominance though, they are simply extremely protective of the heroines.

To keep the story multi-faceted, one or both of the protagonists is usually wounded, for various, nonrepetitive reasons, and most have led adventurous, interesting lives. The protagonists are very sympathetic because they are loyal, sacrificial, emotionally and mentally intelligent, and the males, though often harsh, are nurturing and of course, fantastic, sensitive lovers who live to please the heroines in bed.

Most romance novels, as well as romantic-comedy and romantic-drama movies, employ what some non-romance fans deridingly call "insta-love" or "obsession" as the inciting incident for the story. Johansen's Loveswept novels are usually no exception to that approach. No doubt because it is crucial for a romance plot to function. If the hero and heroine are not immediately, massively drawn to each other, there is no story.

This book, however, has the "insta-love" in the "backstory," that is, the hero realizes almost instantly, the first time he encounters Dany as a six-year-old child, that this vibrant person is his soulmate. I have personally never seen this approach to insta-love in any story other than the paranormal Twilight series when Jacob encounters newborn Renesme in Breaking Dawn and "imprints" on her on sight as his predestined mate. Recognizing one's eventual mate in a child is more difficult to carry off in a book such as this one which has no magical element to gloss over the "ick" factor of an adult attracted to a child. Nonetheless, Johansen pulls it off very well as the hero never succumbs to pedophilia any more than Jacob does in the Twilight series.

This is an enjoyable, quick read for romance fans, inevitably a little dated as a 30-year-old "contemporary" romance, but still an excellent example of the early work of a talented author.

 
 

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