Review: Blue Velvet by Iris Johansen (1985)

Beau Lantry, Book 2

Heat Factor: Blazing sunshine on a tropical island paradise. Bring sunscreen!

Character Chemistry: Eh

Plot: They keep saying they are facing a lot of danger but the stakes never feel really high.

Overall: Holy Purple Prose, Batman!

Even though there are no bodices to be seen in this novel set in the contemporary Caribbean, I feel fully justified in classifying this as a bodice ripper. Why? It’s time for Bodice Ripper Bingo!

  • Heroine who is naive and childlike? Check!
  • Hero who is a rake / playboy, but suddenly becomes protective? Check!
  • Virgin mistaken for a prostitute? Check!
  • Hero who makes a deal with heroine which involves her selling him her body the first time they meet? Check!
  • Heroine who shows her love through complete and utter devotion? Check!
  • Ridiculous swashbuckling adventures that make no sense? Check!
  • Severe lack of communication between Hero and Heroine about their true feelings for one another? Check!
  • Magical orgasmic virgin sex? Check!

Look at all those tropes we’ve got covered! I think we’ve got BINGO!

In her intro to the book, Iris Johansen states that she set out to write a modern-day swashbuckler, and she completely succeeds – the way she uses the tropes of a bodice ripper works precisely because of the contrast with the modern day setting. So the things that feel squicky in a standard bodice ripper feel a bit more deliberate and silly in this case. For example: the trope of the heroine going along with selling her body to the hero feels WAY less rapey than it generally does, because even though this heroine is naive and virginal, she’s grown up around Latin American drug lords and gun runners, so she’s seen some shit and knows exactly what she’s getting into. Our hero also repeatedly tells the heroine that he’s not going to rape her, and in fact waits to consummate their relationship until she very clearly signals her desire for him, rather than her passive acceptance of his boner.

So, for someone like me who is fascinated by Old School Bodice Rippers, this was a really fun read.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t some ridiculous components of this book. Neither the hero nor the heroine felt like real people, their emotional connection was questionable, and the prose is completely over the top.

Let’s start with the heroine, because she annoyed me the most. Kate was a ludicrous and completely unbelievable heroine who epitomized every component of the perfect Madonna of male fantasy. She has this magical honesty that shines out of her eyeballs like a beacon. A description of her from page 4: “Warm and loving with a clear bell-like honesty.” In addition, she is constantly being described as “childlike.” Her magical honesty is childlike, but so are her eyes and her smooth, satiny skin. The hero literally talks about her skin and how it’s soft like that of a child, which is a turn on for him. Gross.

Mixed in with all this elfin otherworldly nonsense is a ridiculous protective maternal instinct. From page 3: “Kate was a protective as a lioness with her cub about anyone she cared about.” This means that she constantly takes responsibility for grown-ass men who can take care of themselves because “it’s her fault” that they’re in danger. Note: she never takes responsibility for a woman.

All of this together combines into the perfect Madonna – a motherly virgin. Conveniently, she is also an insatiable sex kitten when the right man finally comes along, which gives us the perfect trifecta of fantasy.


Beau, the hero, is also a ridiculous stereotype rather than a real person. He’s the standard playboy (or, in classic Bodice Ripper terms, a rake or rogue) who suddenly finds himself feeling protective and jealous of a woman he just met for mysterious reasons. He sets himself up as her protector, going so far as to write his own wedding vows where he gives her: his strength, his knowledge, and his experience.
Also, he says things like: “I’m going to sit and watch the sun pour down on you like golden rain, caressing you and making you glow…. And then I’m going to come to you and make you glow for me. I want to feel you open and flower and tremble…. I want to know that everything I do to you will make you shine and melt and flow.” WHO TALKS LIKE THAT?


Now, all this griping about the main characters probably makes you think that you should skip this one, but let me just say: the prose is so over the top that it might just be worth it.

To offer just one example, here is how Kate’s first-ever orgasm (at least, with a man) is described:

Treasure. A carousel playing a haunting melody, Beau’s golden eyes, his hand in hers walking through the rain forest, a mocking Southern drawl with a note of underlying tenderness, courage, honesty, passion, this beautiful, throbbing rhythm. So many treasures. He was giving them all to her and when he gave the final radiant gift that made rapture seem commonplace, it was no more precious than the other treasures he’d heaped upon her.


Buy Now: Amazon

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