The Iris Johansen Legacy
As part of our continuing study of the books and writers who influenced modern day romance authors, Nicole Locke shares her love of Iris Johansen.
I may have every Iris Johansen book that was ever written. I know for a fact the ones I own, I’ve read more than once (and dare I say more than that, some to an unfathomable degree).
I also have more than one copy—just so I could have the new covers as well—and when I want a quick fix, I’ve got them on e-reader.
But owning and re-reading them doesn’t explain why I adore her books so, or why I’ve followed her during her re-invention of her writing career—and the re-re-invention of her writing career.
Boy, has she had reinventions in her career. From Loveswept to Bantam to St. Martin’s Press. From novels that are 180 pages in length to 416. From quick and naughty pure romances, to serial intrigue with romance, to mysteries, and a woman with a vendetta… and well, those all have a bit of naughty in them as well, thank goodness!
Short or long, her stories have all been epic. All have conflicts that even the most edge of your seat films envy. They all have strong heroines and heroes, and the emotional and historical detail is absolutely riveting.
Alright, so I mention she’s changed publishers and her books are longer. She’s also played around with different themes. Where’s the reinvention?
Oh, well, that’s with her characters. To explain that I have to address her jump from romances to mysteries, and this was a dark time for me. You see, I was such a fan of her romances and when she expanded on them and then did the Wind Dancer Triology, I was in awe. Then she just… Quit.
As she was slowly reinventing her writing, I happily went along. Her Loveswept were full of hot and heavy conflict, so when she made them longer….yes, please. When she added historical detail, and deeper conflict…I cried for more!
Then she announced she wasn’t going to write romances anymore. In 1996, with The Ugly Duckling, she introduced Eve Duncan, a woman with a dark past and a dark future and she was on a mission to clean some #$%^ up.
I said no thanks. Now this was a difficult time for me, I had started law school. I needed HEAs from a writer who wrote some of the very best. And she just… abandoned me!
But one year in law school then another, and Johansen kept writing them and I caved. No, I didn’t cave, I fell in a well and happily never came back out. Because by waiting, I could binge read, and yes, she broke from her HEA (or did she?), but Johansen was still Johansen and all that tension and conflict and epicness was still there and I got to read it all unfurl before me. Thus, I was able to graduate law school. Quit. And start writing romances
But this isn’t about me, this is about Johansen’s reinvention. Because her changing writing themes, or even her working with her son and writing the heroine Kendra Michaels isn’t the only reinvention that makes her books my favourites.
It’s her characters. Always strong heroes and heroines. Even in the early days when male dominance ruled the day and the heroine no matter how feisty caved with an expert kiss (in truth, Johansen’s males are so good at kissing, I probably would cave, too). When she got to her longer novels her heroines caved a bit less. Multiple kisses had to be happening and the hero, no matter how awe inspiring he was, had to go through a pit of scorpions before the heroine…maybe…acknowledged him. I may have read her novels too much because boy, my poor husband. (Again, this isn’t about me).
Then came Eve. I’m not giving away plots here—cause it’s a doozy—but if Eve needed a man, it was on her terms. And the terms were monumental to climb. If the hero merely had a pit of scorpions to scale that would be a good day.
But always, always, no matter how much Johansen re-writes the heroine or the mystery or the details, Johansen’s writing is still there. Clear, concise and extremely readable. And no matter what, her stories still take me deeper into the well.
This romance ancestry may not be about me, but, I love reading the changing strength of Johansen’s characters. And since I’m going through the reinvention of my Life, adding in a little HEA, strength of character, and mystery along the way, I like to think I can add some epicness, too, someday….
Have you ever read an Iris Johansen book? Is there another author whose work inspired you to write a book of your own? Tell us in the comments or join the #RomanceAncestry discussion on our Social Media.