Temporary Mistress
by Susan Johnson, historical (2000)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58253-4


You know what's the problem with Susan Johnson's latest, Temporary Mistress? Yes, it has a plot, believe it or not, but the plot is so paper thin that by page 100, the story starts to plod and go round and round in one neverending circle of futility. It is as if the author has run out of ideas and has no idea what to do with her characters anymore.

The story is about Isabella Leslie who flees her unscrupulous relatives (her dead Grandpa left her everything, so they want her to marry her cousin so that her Uncle can control her money) - by running to a brothel. There, she lets the Madame persuade her that being a mistress would ruin her relatives' plan, so Isabella gladly becomes the paramour of one Dermott Ramsay - "Call me Ram, darlin'" - the Earl of Energizer Bunny. I mean, the Earl of Buttocks. Sorry, Bathurst.

Fine. I am subjected to a long, sometimes steamy, sometimes boring (how many times can a couple do it in just two positions before things get boring fast?) deflowering of our shy heroine-turned-instant Venus de Milo (the transformation, by the way, is not at all convincing).

Then the smelly stuff hit the ceiling. It's only page 120. What to do now to fill up the story? Easy - have a separation, where the hero then proceeds to flash every woman in the book (apart from the old ladies - I think) while our heroine makes her debut in Society. So it's he boinking and she shopping. Interesting. Hand me my tranquilizers please.

For this to work, I wouldn't mind being subjected to some skanky love scenes of Rammy and his many, many paramours. But no, I don't know whose idea it is (the old Susan Johnson of Sinful wouldn't hesitate), but this time, there's no skanky scenes. In fact, the door shuts on my face during each of Rammy's meaningless encounters.

How shocking! Am I supposed to contain myself with paragraphs and paragraphs of her shopping and seething (she never get laid, by the way, while he goes around kitty-bopping - a double standard that grates, no matter how accurate that is in the context of this story) then? How boring! It is as if the author is insisting that I share the heroine's miserable estrogen-poisoning. Dang.

Finally, someone decides to cause trouble for Isabella. Rammy pulls up his pants to save the day, and finally these two decide to get married. The end.

Me, I'm still in shock. Susan Johnson closing bedroom doors on me? What is the world coming to? Something is definitely wrong when the sexiest thing about this book is that footnote about how Bond street shop boys moonlighted as gigolos in days of yore. Now, what I wouldn't give to read about such an enterprising lad and a Society lady...

Rating: 50


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