Force Of Nature
by Susan Johnson, historical (2003)
Brava, $15.00, ISBN 1-57566-807-6


It's really quite sad when the big question regarding a new Susan Johnson book is "Does it have a plot?" Not "Is the plot good? How's the drama? How's the sex versus romance?" but "Does it have a plot?"

And yes, this one, Force Of Nature does have a plot. Its plot is that it expects you, the reader, to be so enamored of the Braddock-Black clan (Blaze, Forbidden, Silver Flame, et cetera) that you will pick this one up and your sense of nostalgia is so strong that you will overlook the author's recycling several plot devices from her better books.

Force Of Nature takes place after Blaze but before Forbidden and Silver Flame (ie Daisy and Trey are still single then). Giuseppina "Jo" Attenborough is actually the illegitimate daughter of Hazard Black, conceived when the still single Hazard inspected her mother Lucy's privates a little too closely. Today, Lucy drags twenty-two year old Jo back to Hazard, to introduce Hazard to the daughter he's never known and extort some money out of him at the same time.

Jo finds a warm and loving Daddy that she has never known before (thank you Slut Mommy, now die, bitch, I love my Slut Daddy the best!) and even better, the family friend (and stud) Flynn Ito provides a great dessert. Ito Ito is half-Irish, half-Japanese (father was a samurai who came to America to seek his fortunes, married an Irish immigrant, and Ito Ito is born) and he is also handy with samurai swords. He also owns a ranch that is currently being sabotaged and even openly attacked by the neighboring Empire ranch. The Empire ranch is run by three ridiculously evil and dissolute British lads who slut and whore and hence they're all evil. As opposed to the Braddock-Blacks and Ito Ito who slut and whore and hence they're all powerful and good. Hey, wait a minute.

Jo meets Ito Ito at a party and they end up doing lots of Japanese aerobics with impressive names like Somersaulting Dragons (what on earth, can dragons somersault?) and Wild Leaping Horses. Incidentally, with those names, I expect some amazing scenes like the hero and the heroine doing triple somersaults while doing the beast before jumping through hoops like the wild leaping horses they are, all the while still shagging the motions to heavenly kingdom come, but actually, the sex scenes in this book are a bit on the tame side. Unless we're talking about that [spoiler starts] really exploitative scene where the three Empire villains drug Jo and violate her with billiard balls and cue sticks - a really disgusting, degrading, and icky scene that goes too long for my liking [spoiler ends].

Yeah, yeah, sex, whatever, is there a plot, you ask? Well, the first part is a watered down "shag at a party" scene typical of many of this author's plot and the heroine is captured for some really degrading fun upon which the hero, poor man, is struck by guilt and effects a separation, ala Sinful's "pregnancy scare" subplot, the one towards the end. If you've read that book, you may know what I'm talking about. Frankly, when a man acts as if my suffering brings him more pain than it brings me and then he acts as if he's the one suffering worse, I'll Ito Ito his ass to Banzailand. But hey, I'll save my bile for meatier books, not books like this one where the heroine's trauma is cured when the hero takes a month-long meditation-in-cave thing to get over himself. That's a man for you: everything revolves around his ego, he'd love to believe.

So yes, there is a plot, but it's not much of one. This book is actually short - the publisher has to pad it with two long excerpts from two upcoming Brava books to make this large-fonted book cross the 250-page minimum. The main characters have even less of a personality than before: one shag and next morning they are considering marriage, apparently because she's hot and he's hot and hot is good enough to make each other stand out from the long list of sexual encounters in their lives. What little conflict there is between Ito Ito and the Three Stooges of the Empire is DOA because in this story, the good guys are so rich, so beautiful, so immune to gossip, has the world and an army at their command, so skilled, so energetic - heh, am I supposed to believe that these guys may fail? Oh please.

Susan Johnson is merely going through the motions in Force Of Nature. While more meaty than most of her recent books, it's still not good enough, especially for a $15.00 price tag. Force Of Nature may not be the result of Susan Johnson's call of nature, but at the same time it doesn't register even a little on me. My advice, for what it's worth, is to be like Susan Johnson: go through the motions, keep looking ahead past this book on the aisle, and go get a Black Forest cake from the bookstore's dessert counter instead.

Rating: 64


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