A Review of Surrender My Love by Johanna Lindsey

Have you ever read a book and not liked it, but been mystified as to exactly why it sucked? You know, the writing is good enough but there is just something about it that gives you the sneers. It’s not anything egregious; it’s just pervasive. It’s … subtle.

I’ve been reading romance a long time. I cut my teeth on the lurid rapey sagas of the 1980s , especially the works of Johanna Lindsey. I re-read them now and again, for the warmth of the nostalgia and because – even with prose so purple it is damn near black and plots about as plausible as the Loch Ness Monster bearing Bigfoot’s love child – they are damn well written. It is easy to fall into the story, often headfirst, and suspend disbelief like the Golden Gate Bridge. They are fun. I’m not a huge fan of her newer stuff but her older works rock.

That’s part of the reason I was so disappointed in Surrender My Love. Here’s the blurb:

“A Lady's Scorn

Wrongly branded a spy, the dark and handsome Viking lord Selig Haardrad suffered greatly in the dungeons of Lady Erika of Gronwood. And as he hung in chains, his magnificent body wracked with pain and fever, one thought sustained him: revenge!

A Viking's Vengeance

Now Destiny's great wheel has turned--and Selig's exquisite, hone-haired tormentor has been delivered into the Norseman's hands. Now it is Selig who is the master, bound and determined to break the proud spirit of his captive "ice queen" and to conquer her with passion's sword -- never dreaming that his own heart will be vanquished by sensuous desire. . .and victorious love.”

Other than the misspellings by a careless publisher (I think hone-haired should have been honey-haired) it looked promising enough.

It was publish in 1994, and somehow I had never read it. Thus, when I found it on Kindle for less the $5 I bought it. I though that it was close enough to the 80s that it would have that charming overblown-but-delightful tone she mastered. A style that made the slogan “Everyone Loves a Lindsey” possible. It was even a book about the brother of one of the heroines whose book I had really dug! Surely it would be, at minimum, a fun read.

Sadly, not so much. The book gave me the general feeling that Lindsey had been forced to write it because she was under contract, it was that lacking in “heart”.

Ironically, what spoiled the book was the hero and the heroine. The implausible plot was transparent, but not a deal breaker. The fact the book spent almost as much time with the cast of the first two Viking Haardrad Family Series novels – Fire’s of Winter and Heart’s Aflame --was actually a plus. At least those characters were likeable. It was as technically well crafted as her other writing. The whole book fell apart solely on the fact that anything happening between the two protagonists – Selig and Erika – licked goat taint.

There wasn’t so much a problem with them individually. When Selig and Erika were interacting with other people in the story they seemed reasonably enjoyable protagonists. However, the minute they shared the same page they became stale, one-note idiots.

Seriously, I don’t think even THEY really wanted them to be together.

First, the “barrier” between them was so contrived it was painful. Unrealistic and unlikely I can handle, but the “misunderstanding” that thwarted their love was garbage. Lindsey tied herself into knots to make it work, but it was still so lame it needed to be put down. Worse, in her efforts to make it a Big Barrier she made the misunderstanding so awful that when the characters make the nookie without resolving it first you don’t get WHY they are making the beast with two backs. “Why, in the name of all that is Holy, would Selig touch her with a barge pole let alone his Mighty Wang?” the reader wonders.

Which brings us to the second problem: the sex between Selig and Erika. Usually Lindsey writes a what-what scene that can blister the reader’s sclera (at least the innocent reader’s sclera of the 80s) but the bathing suit parts mash-up between these two can’t even get to tepid. In fact, the sex scenes felt “forced”. Not in the ‘non-consensual seduction’ style of the era, either. The sex was “forced” in that it seemed to come randomly, without real desire on behalf of the main characters, had little to do with plot development, and did nothing whatsoever to make Selig and Erika like each other. We were told they helplessly desired each other, but it lacked conviction. I am surprised Erika didn’t cry out “Oh Meh!” when she came.

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