{Review} Sinful by Joan Johnston

Sinful Joan Johnston

We’re so excited to be participating in the tour for Sinful by Joan Johnston. We’ve got our thoughts on the book as well as a great giveaway and a fabulous interview with author Joan Johnston. First, here’s the info about the book:

***About the Book***

{Review} Sinful by Joan JohnstonSinful by Joan Johnston
Series: Bitter Creek #13
Published by Bantam Books on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 320
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For readers of Linda Lael Miller and Susan Mallery comes New York Times bestselling author Joan Johnston’s sizzling contemporary Western romance, where power, money, and rivalries rule—and love is the best revenge.
 
WHILE HE SEEKS A HAVEN,
SHE SEARCHES FOR A PLACE TO CALL HOME

After a tragic accident leaves Delta sergeant Connor Flynn a widower, he faces the toughest fight of his life: battling his in-laws for custody of his two young children. To win he’ll need a make-believe bride to take care of the kids while he runs his Wyoming ranch. Who better than a woman he already knows and likes—his late wife’s best friend?

Ruthlessly forced from her home by her powerful father, King Grayhawk, Eve needs somewhere to go . . . and so does the herd of wild mustangs she’s rescued. Connor’s offer sounds like the answer to a prayer. But Eve has a guilty secret she’s guarded for years: She’s always been in love with Connor.

Now forced to live under the same roof as her heart’s desire, Eve must hide the love that has never died, while Connor vows to resist his growing need for a woman who was forbidden fruit during his marriage. Can two lonely people set adrift by fate and haunted by guilt find redemption in the healing embrace of love?

Kassiah: I’ve never read a book by romance author Joan Johnston before, but I liked Sinful the 13th book in her Bitter Creek Series, so I’ll definitely be checking her out in the future.

The summary of this story pretty much tells it dead on: following the death of his wife a year earlier, Connor Flynn is fighting his wife’s parents for custody of his two-year-old son, Sawyer, and four-year-old daughter, Brooke. They kept watch over them for him while he finished a tour in the military overseas. He asks his wife’s best friend, Eve, to step in and help.

“You need a place for your your mustangs. I need someone to help me ease Brooke and Sawyer through this difficult period of adjustment. You get what you need. I get what I need.”

They agree to a temporary solution, then a social worker comes by and questions Eve living in the house with them. Connor blurts out that they’re engaged, then asks Eve to marry him for real.

“I know my children love you. I know my wife thought the world of you. I’ve enjoyed your company every time we’ve been in the same room together.”

He doesn’t just want a marriage of convenience, though. He wants it all.

“Will we have sex? I hope so. When you feel comfortable with that kind of intimacy.”

As they deal with their families and Connor getting to know his kids, will they be able to let go of the past and fall for each other?

This story isn’t exactly about cheating, but a lot of it felt that way to me. Though he was faithful to his wife, he had feelings for Eve since he met her back in high school, and Eve secretly was in love with him all along, as well. I didn’t like that part about them at all. Because of their family’s pasts, Eve was never able to tell Connor how she felt about him, even before he became hot and heavy with her best friend, and then they find a diary and I felt like that was very unrealistic.

I also thought the kids acted too old for their ages. It’s hard to write kids in a story, and this time, though they were a focal point, I think they should have been a little older to make their words and actions more believable.

Aside from that, though, I enjoyed this book. I liked Connor and Eve and definitely felt the history that was there, not just with them, but with the other characters. It’s predictable, but has a good story.

Kassiah

Co-Founder/Joint Editor-In-Chief at Pretty Sassy Cool
This is my bio. It will be updated whenever Meg writes one for me.
Report Card
Cover
Characters
Plot
Writing
Steam
Overall: 3

***INTERVIEW***


Thanks for coming to chat with us today on Pretty Sassy Cool today, Joan. We’ll get right to it Can you tell us a little bit about your Bitter Creek series?

I love reading books in a series, so when I decided to write a romance novel for the first time, of course I wrote about a family, which allowed me to write “connected” books about every one of them. When I began writing a contemporary western series, I worked it out so that the main characters were related to characters in my previously-written Sisters of the Lone Star series (the Creeds and Coburns) set in 1836-1846, during period of the Republic of Texas, including Frontier Woman, Comanche Woman, and Texas Woman; and to characters in my previously-written Captive Hearts series (the Blackthornes), set in Regency-era England, Captive, After the Kiss, The Bodyguard, and The Bridegroom.

I grew up in a large family (seven children), so I love writing about family dynamics. In the Bitter Creek series, I pitted the “rich and powerful” Blackthornes against the “poor and struggling” Creeds. The two families were either marrying each other or murdering each other—sort of a Dallas meets Romeo and Juliet.

Because I write romances, and once a couple is paired up, their story is done, it doesn’t take long to run out of family members to match up. I have to come up with cousins (the DeWitts) or rivals (the Grayhawks), and more rivals (the Flynns) in order to have enough single men and women to fight with each other and fall in love.

In my newest series of Bitter Creek novels, which starts with Sinful, both families are wealthy ranchers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (a place I lived for nine months when my son was in eighth grade). I’ve pitted four young women who’ve been labeled by the locals as “King’s Brats” against their arch-rivals, “those awful Flynn boys.” It’s actually the fathers who have the big problem with each other. Their children have simply been drawn into the fray. It’s fun to see how each couple (from opposite sides of the fence) ends up together.

In Sinful,it’s Eve Grayhawk and Connor Flynn who find themselves forced together, despite the animosity between their families. The challenge—and the fun—is always how to make these pairings believable and to deliver a wonderful story about “happily ever after—against all the odds.”

I love the cover for Sinful! I usually give a description of the characters to the artist and then do an “Aaaaaah!” test when I see the cover for the first time. This one definitely provoked a very long sigh of appreciation. What’s even more fun is that the cover arrived early enough in the writing process for me to depict the cover scene in the book. You’ll recognize it when you read it!

One of the anomalies I noticed is that the title, Sinful, invokes a Shades of Gray feeling, while the cover (even though the hero has a bare chest) strikes me a sweet (something you could read on the bus without having to cover it up). I’d be interested in hearing what you think. You can contact me through my website, or on Facebook.

We do like the cover. What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m listening to Brian Grazer’s small tome about “curiosity conversations” called A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. It’s been fascinating to hear how the mind of such a prolific and powerful movie producer works. Grazer believes in the power of “curiosity conversations” to make things happen. He’s spent his life interviewing the people he’s found fascinating—from Jonas Salk to Isaac Asimov. His philosophy fits well with my life as a writer. Without curiosity I’d never have ended up with so many amazing characters set in so many amazing locales.

I toured the King Ranch in South Texas, which was the site of the Blackthorne’s ranch when I first began my Bitter Creek series (about twelve books ago), traveled to the Bitterroot Valley in Montana to study the logging industry in the mid-nineteenth century as part of the research for Montana Bride, the third book in my historical western Mail-Order Brides series, and spent time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (one of the most beautiful places in the world, if you haven’t been there), for my current “King’s Brats” series, which starts with Sinful.

In order to research my novels, I’ve had some of the most fun to be had as a writer. When I was writing Heartbeat, I had a conversation on the phone with the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, medical examiner that went something like this:

“Hello. I would like to kill a baby so no one would know that I’ve done it, and then be able to figure out years later that the child was murdered. Can you help me?”

“Hold, please.”

I’d neglected to mention that I was a writer and it was a “fictional” murder I wanted to commit!

LOL. If you were a character in any of your novels, who would it be?

If I were a character in my King’s Brats series, I’d be Leah. She’s the glue that holds the family of girls together. She was five years old when her mother married King Grayhawk and ten years old when her mother ran away with one of King’s cowhands, abandoning her. Leah is a “survivor” who becomes a surrogate mother for her three younger sisters. She’s a minor character in Sinful, but I can’t wait to write her book!

Who is Your Favorite Book Couple?

I can’t limit it to just one!

I’ve read and re-read Mary Balogh’s Regency novel A Precious Jewel, which features a hero’s sidekick (the Beta male, as opposed to the Alpha male) and a prostitute he rescues from a brothel.

Lisa Gregory’s western historical novel The Rainbow Season is amazing. It features a hero unjustly accused of rape who’s grown up as a sharecropper’s son together with a slightly older heroine who is the “less-pretty sister” and in love with her sister’s husband. They team up in a “marriage of convenience” to run a farm.

I can’t leave out LaVyrle Spencer’s Family Blessings, which features a 30-year-old police officer hero, the best friend of the 45-year-old heroine’s son, who’s been killed in a motorcycle accident. Totally believable older woman, younger man love story. The heroine and I just happen to share a September 18 birthday!

All great choices! What’s your favorite romantic movie?

I see every movie that comes out! Okay, not literally all of them. But recently, I saw a list of the 130 top-grossing movies and I’d seen 105 of them. My friends know where I am on Friday—I’m at the movies. I see every genre of movie to broaden my horizons, and I consider all of my movie viewing research. Someone will say “I’ve got this great idea . . .” and then tell me the idea, and I’ll say, “That appears in such-and-such a movie.” I see through my movie viewing what people are currently interested in watching (and may want to read about). I “scout” what’s coming next in the movies by reading “Entertainment Weekly” magazine.

Here are some of my favorites: Wimbledon (two tennis players who fall in love); The Lake House (time travel romance); Murphy’s Romance (older man—James Garner, younger woman—Sally Field in a small-town ranch setting); Maid in Manhattan (Jennifer Lopez as a Hispanic maid being wooed by a senatorial candidate who isn’t aware she’s a maid), P.S. I Love You, letters from a dead husband encouraging his wife to move on by sending her on adventures; The Longest Ride, movie from an even better Nicholas Sparks novel with two parallel love stories; anything by Hallmark including Loving Leah (a Jewish man who marries his brother’s widow for religious reasons and then falls in love with her); and Farrah Fawcett starring as The Substitute Wife, an old-west prostitute that a dying woman brings to her ranch to marry her husband and raise her kids after she’s dies of cancer.

Wow! You remind us of our friend (and contributor to this site), Sherry, who has seen every movie ever. Tell us more about your research process.

Travel, travel, and more travel. See movies. Read books. Live a full and adventuresome life. I always try to spend time where the book is set and interview as many people as I can about the subject. Nowadays it’s really convenient to have the Internet to get you started and to give you access to information that was never available in “the old days” (I’ve been writing for 28 years).

I can remember doing research for Frontier Woman (book #3—I’m currently writing #58) and Xeroxing 600 pages of information about the Texas Rangers, the Comanche Indians, the Texas Republic, and cotton plantations in 1840s Texas at the Miami Public Library, which was across the street from the law firm where I worked.

Recently, I had characters roaming the halls of M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston in Shattered, and I was able to realistically move them through the facility by going to the hospital website, which gave me the option of doing a sort of Mapquest search to get from one building to another. Of course, I combined this with calls to the hospital for more specific information, but it was a big help and made it seem like I’d really been there.

Readers may not focus on the fact that when you have police vehicles’ lights flashing in one state they might be red-and-white and in another state they might be red-and-blue. Or that you need to know what uniform a cop wears and what color police car he drives.

If I’m undressing a historical character in a romance, I need to know whether she’s wearing pantalets or bloomers and whether he’s wearing long johns or smalls. And don’t get me started on front-snapping bras, bikini underwear, and Jockey shorts!

Research is definitely the most fun part of the job. I’m always curious about the locales and the events I write about, and being a novelist gives me the opportunity to call people up and say, “Can I come see your . . .?” and “Can I talk to you about . . .?”

I’ve spent the summer in London, traveled to Moorea and Bora Bora, spent time on a cattle station in the Northern Territory and at a sheep station in Queensland, been to the Blue Grotto in Italy and learned to ride an Arabian stallion in Morocco. It’s every adventure you always wanted to have.

What were your favorite books of 2014.

I read a lot of “teen” fiction in 2014 including the Divergent series, which I loved, and The Fault in Our Stars, and The Book Thief.

The movie The Fault in Our Stars is great, but to me the heroine in the book seemed from her ruminations to be far older than the sixteen-year-old she was supposed to be. Or maybe when you’re dying you read Kierkegaard at 16.

I enjoyed The Book Thief for the language: “eyes the color of agony” and some wonderful unique word choices, but it had a strange point of view (the character “Death”)and was difficult to read.

I also absolutely loved the novel Unbroken, about an Olympic-class runner whose plane goes down during WWII and survives a long time on the open ocean, only to end up in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp where he’s tortured for years. It’s a true triumph of the human spirit.

I realized when I read the book Unbroken where I believe Laura Hillenbrand got the idea to write it. She’d previously written a novel called Seabiscuit. I’ll bet when she did a Google search of the name “Seabiscuit” all sorts of things came up—including the fact that the running speed of the main character in Unbroken was compared at one time to the speed of Seabiscuit. Hmm. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

I also have to mention The Longest Ride here, which I loved. The dual love stories—one from the past, one in the present, are nicely juxtaposed. And I loved the way Nicholas Sparks (not classified as a romance writer) made everything turn out “happily ever after.”

Thanks again for stopping by, Joan!

***About Joan Johnston***

Author Joan JohnstonJoan Johnston (born Little Rock, Arkansas) is a best-selling American author of over forty contemporary and historical romance novels.

Johnston was the third of seven children born to an Air Force sergeant and his music-teacher wife. She received a B.A. in theatre arts from Jacksonville University in 1970, then earning an M.A. in theatre from the University of Illinois, Urbana in 1971. She received a law degree (with honors) at the University of Texas at Austin in 1980. For the next five years, Johnston worked as an attorney, serving with the Hunton & Williams firm in Richmond, Virginia, and with Squire, Sanders, & Dempsey in Miami. She has also worked as a newspaper editor and drama critic in San Antonio, Texas, and as a college professor at Southwest Texas Junior College, Barry University, and the University of Miami.

Johnston is a member of the Authors Guild, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Florida Romance Writers. She has two children and one grandchild, and divides her time between two homes, in Colorado and Florida.

Find Joan Here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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