cover image Sinful


Susan Johnson. Doubleday Books, $15 (375pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42467-7

Chelsea Fergusson, daughter of the impoverished Earl of Dumfries in this 18th-century romance, foils an unwanted marriage to the wealthy but loathsome Bishop Hatfield in an unlikely manner: she makes herself unacceptable by losing her virginity to London's leading rake, Sinjin St. John, Duke of Seth. When Chelsea becomes pregnant, her indignant father and brothers abduct Sinjin and forcibly wed the two, then separate them and imprison him. This sets off a series of escapades that climax in Sinjin's rescue by a band of desert bedouins led by an American Indian. Can the new duke and duchess now find bliss in licentious London? It hardly matters. Sinjin leaves to buy Arabian horses in Tunis, where he is captured by an evil Bey. Chelsea determines to storm the Barbary coast and ransom him. . . . but all ends well in this rollicking tale, which proves to be as robust, sensual and adventurous as its protagonists. Johnson ( Forbidden ) uses her fertile imagination to blend a strong heroine, unbridled sex, and a modicum of history into unadulterated fun. (Aug.)