Black Silk, by Judith Ivory


  • Title: Black Silk
  • Author: Judith Ivory (aka Judy Cuevas)
  • Pages: 480 in paperback
  • Published: By Avon in 2002
  • Series?: no, standalone
  • Bought it myself

Lovely Lusty Reader reader Christina suggested this title based on our mutual love for more old school romances (my list of my favorite 16 has 10 books published before 1995) even though Black Silk was published in 2002. I agree in that the long, descriptive sweeping prose meant to relish slowly reminds me of Virginia Henley or Kathleen Woodiwiss. However this book did not ending up suiting my personal tastes.

Summary: As befitting her name, lovely Submit Channing-Downes was the proper, obedient wife of an aging marquess – until her husband’s death left her penniless and alone…with one last marital obligation to fulfill. Entrusted with delivering a small black box to its rightful owner, she calls upon Graham Wessit, the notorious Earl of Netham, life has been forever marred by rumor and scandal. But Graham wants nothing to do with a bequest from the man he holds responsible for his ruin – or with thebewitching emissary who brings it. In the face of breathtaking erotic mystery – in the throes of an inflamed passion unbeckoned but impossible to deny – a rogue’s hardened heart may be undone by love…and a staidbeauty in straits may learn the exquisite, sensuous freedom of surrender.

Although I was disappointed Christina’s and my thoughts didn’t match up here is what I told her:

It was a GREAT recommendation! Black Silk seems pretty well known as a “classic romance” and Judith Ivory a classic romance author, and I had never read anything by her before! So I can only say thanks for the introduction and enthusiastic recommendation to further my romance education! Plus Black Silk is obviously still a hot topic, Phyl just read it this month (review here) and as did Jessica of Racy Romance Reviews. So now I’m trendy, and can join in on their discussions!
I loved the premise of Black Silk: a prim, proper, subtly beautiful widow paired with fun-loving, care free, seemingly shallow rake both connected through a shared deceased family member – Henry. Her elderly husband was his childhood guardian.
I also loved the whole “black box” plot point – at a bequest from Henry’s will Submit is to deliver this mysterious box to Graham, with the interesting layer that the Henry had no contact with Graham after he was banished from Henry’s care after getting expelled from University as a young man. What was in in the box, how it affects Submit and Graham’s relationship and their perceptions of each other, how Submit sees past the erotic, dirty side of it and him.
But the focus didn’t work for me. To me, the focus of the story was WAY too concentrated on Henry. They spoke of, referred to, and thought about him more than anyone else! So much so that I pretty much expected him to come back from the dead, or posthumous letters would surface written to both of them. I understand how big of an influence he was but ENOUGH about him! I wanted more Gray and Submit!
Secondly, we spent more time in Graham’s relationship with his mistress Rosalyn than with Submit too. Like three-quarters of the way through he was still sleeping with Rosalyn and still saying he loved her. While I can appreciate the auythor trying to do something different from the romancelandia norm, this just didn’t suit my taste.
Lastly there was this whole legal battle thing with Graham, with a paternity suit from a poor commoner girl claiming he was the father of her unborn babies. Those scenes were so boring to me, and besides giving us insight into Graham’s perceived character, his reputation, and how he handles problems I thought the whole plot line was reeeally boring. I started skimming through the pages of him meeting with his lawyer or in court. There were over a hundred pages about this story and then it comes to a sudden end with someone’s death! What was the point?
I really prefer more focus on the Hero and Heroine and more action in their relationship. I felt like the whole book was more about Henry, Rosalyn, and historical legal processes.
Very last dislike, the ending. Submit acted so thoroughly retarded (pardon my french) by hatching this whole “runaway scheme”  that made NO SENSE. That bothered me so much. And then it wrapped up way too neatly without me totally understanding how Submit had changed to be happily ever after with someone like Graham when they were so different.
The good stuff though? The angst, the poignancy of Gray’s dawning feelings for Submit, The Staircase Scene, the wistfulness, and the descriptive writing were absolutely gorgeous.
So the caveats to my recommendation are mostly based on my personal preferences, but I am definitely going to read more by this author!

Final grade: D


4 Responses

  1. I understand all that you are saying, but I think that’s why it’s at least a must read. Maybe because it’s so different from the usual. I thought the dialog was great and I love how Graham’s character was so flushed out, even more than Submit’s. I mean in the end you still kind of get the impression that Submit might be a little cold but together if they allow themselves the room (which she hints at in the end by not telling him what to wear) that they are truly perfectly matched. Oh well, I’m glad you will at least read more from Ms. Ivory because she is a good writer and I hope we see more of her.

  2. I get what you’re saying about Henry, but I’d argue that Henry was in large part responsible for the kind of people Graham and Submit became. I wondered (along with Graham) if in the end Henry had planned for G&S to get together, but it seemed unlikely.

    And yes, Rosayln is a big part of the story, but this didn’t bother me. Like Christina this genre-bending part of the story puts BS in the must-read category. Also, Graham is such a hedonist–I don’t see him giving up Rosalyn until he truly realizes how he feels about Submit, and that takes most of the book to happen.

    Great review and I can totally understand why you didn’t like it. That’s the fun–our reactions are, in the end, quite subjective.

  3. Aw. :(

    I’ve never read this book, but it seems like some people seriously love it.

  4. Christina: I will absolutely be reading Angel in a Red Dress next!

    Phyl: i know, i had a weird feeling that Henry wanted them to get together too, what possible other reason could he have had for making Submit give him the box?

    heidenkind: you should definitely give it a try! i now feel like a much more well-rounded romance reader.

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