Susan Johnson, . . Bantam, $6.50 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-553-58254-3

Johnson's latest Victorian-era erotic romance (following Tempting) thrills with each turn of the page as two reckless individuals tumble headlong into an explosive relationship. Alexandra Ionides, who occasionally poses as a nude model and also paints, supports her scandalous pastimes with her inheritances from her two deceased husbands. Her lush beauty and unusual lifestyle captivate Samuel Lennox, Viscount Ranelagh, a renowned rogue, lover and high-stakes gambler. Determined to own one of Alex's risqué portraits as well as the lady herself, Sam interrupts a sitting with the famous painter Frederic Leighton in order to make his intentions perfectly clear. As a rule, Alex dislikes men of Sam's ilk, and she rejects his advances even though she finds herself fiercely attracted to his self-assured, sexy demeanor. Sam is persistent, however, and, within a matter of days, Alex is lodged in his bed and deep in his heart. Pages sizzle as the two discover that even in the face of scheming ex-lovers, disapproving parents and deeply imbedded fears of commitment, love can triumph. Writing with the same tried-and-true formula of her previous novel, Temporary Mistress, Johnson delivers another fast, titillating read that overflows with sex scenes and rapid-fire dialogue. (Aug. 7)