Black and Ivory: Judith Ivory’s Black Silk

A recently-widowed woman, who was in love with her much older husband, meets her husband’s relative, a notorious rake who is currently embroiled in a paternity lawsuit and is basically co-habitating with his married mistress.

The hero and heroine–the widow and the rake–don’t kiss until the book is way more than three-quarters done, don’t have sex until the last fragment of the book, and he receives a certain type of attention from his mistress more than halfway through the book.

Sounds risky, right? Like a self-published book that was self-pubbed because the author couldn’t find a home for it in traditional publishing?

It does sound like it–but it’s Judith Ivory’s Black Silk, published by Berkley in 1991, and republished in 2002.

I read Black Silk way back when I first returned to romance, and I know I liked it at the time, but I’m not sure I appreciated it as fully as I should have. I never, ever re-read, so this was a big deal for me to pick up again–but I knew I was in the mood for something perilously close to literary fiction, but with a happy ending, and I knew Ivory, especially her early books, would suit. Plus it had been so long my memory was hazy with what exactly had happened during the course of the book. I just knew I liked it.

At the end, when Graham finds Submit (yes–that’s the heroine’s name) and bares his soul, the language is practically elegaic:

“I love soft saddles and mean horses and bright, booming fireworks that end in a rain of sparkling ash. I would love to roll around on the floor with all of these, touching them with the most sensitive parts of my body. But the truth is, none of them are really as good for fucking as the woman I love. And you’re it.”

Later on, she’s trying to pull away from him–after that declaration, even!–and he says,

“Submit, listen to me. There are probably good reasons why we shouldn’t be together. But the overriding fact is I love you, and you love me–you need me. I can keep your life form becoming hopelessly earthbound. And I need you, as sure as leaps in the air need gravity.”

Whoa. Who could resist that? I couldn’t–and luckily for our Happy Ending, neither can Submit. Black Silk is a rarity, a risk-taking book that succeeds in what it attempts, a literary fiction book masquerading as a romance, a delicious tour de force from an immensely-talented hand.

Besides our books, what books have taken risks that you’ve loved?

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Diane Gaston
11 years ago

I love that Judith took risks with Black Silk and that editors published it anyway. Twice. Obviously she pulled it off very well!

I think you have to take risks. That’s what Risky Regencies is all about, isn’t it? If you don’t take risks, you are just writing books that have been written before.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Thanks for reminding me about one of my favorite authors, Megan!! It’s been ages since I read “Black Silk,” I need to follow your example and pick it up again.

My favorite of her books is one written as Judy Cuevas, “Dance” (“Bliss” its prequel is great too). Set in France during the early 20th century, independent heroine involved in the budding motion picture business, a stick-in-the-mud hero who needs loosening up—I adore that book…

Elena Greene
11 years ago

I love the Judith Ivory books I’ve read so far, but I haven’t read this one and admit I have doubts about a heroine named Submit. But Ivory is brilliant so maybe it makes sense. I’d love to read “Dance” but so far it’s been hard to find.

Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart is one of my favorite risk-taking books, for the use of language and especially for the edgy heroine.

11 years ago

My grades for Judith Ivory books do not fall on a curve; they are either A or DNF reads for me. I love Bliss, The Proposition (adore Mick), Sleeping Beauty, and Untie My Heart. However, I just could not bring myself to care enough about any of the characters in either Black Silk or Beauty to actually finish either book. Many people whose opinions I respect adore them, and I tell myself I should try to read past page 50 because clearly there’s something here that speaks to so many, but I’ve never made it. Maybe someday.

P.S. I think the cover on the reissue of BS is one of the most beautiful romance covers ever.

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

I haven’t read this one, but I do like Judith Ivory’s books.

Some risk taking books I HAVE loved (excluding Riskies) are :

Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell – people either loved it or hated it, but it evoked strong reactions no matter what.

The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley – a hero with Asberger’s? Risky and MASTERFULLY done.

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale – again, a hero suffering the results of a stroke? Amazingly done.

Simply Love by Mary Balogh – the hero is a horribly scarred war veteran. The heroine is a governess who was raped and suffered ostracism because she raised her child. One of the purest most lovely romances ever.

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