Joan Johnston






Pocket Books, September 2005

Reviewer Sissy Jacobson


THE NEXT MRS. BLACKTHORNE is the ninth book in Joan Johnstonís Bitter Creek Series, and the one Iíve been waiting impatiently to read.


Clay Blackthorne is on the fast track in politics with his eyes toward a run for the presidency. He is known to us through most of the series as someone who wields his power in Washington quietly and smoothly. Because we have only heard of him, Iíve waited impatiently for his book. I wanted to know more about the man who appears more honest than the rest of the Blackthornes. In THE RIVALS (book eight) we met him face-to-face and learned about his headstrong, spoiled, illegitimate teenage daughter, Kate Grayhawk and her mother, Libby Grayhawk..


Clay has always loved his daughter without question, but she is his secret to keep from the Washington crowd. He works with her mother in making decisions concerning Kateís well being. But when they were all kidnapped last year, his secret came out. Also, the reminder of his continuing love for the mother of his daughter, Libby Grayhawk.


Libby Grayhawk was only sixteen and Clay barely twenty-one when they met and fell in love. Libby was being used as a pawn by her father to get back at the Blackthornes over a feud the two families had carried on for years. The families would not allow them to marry. Clay continued law school, and began his political career. He eventually married the daughter of the United States Ambassador to France. She was just the person he needed to act as his Washington hostess. Before she died of cancer, she told Clay of her sister Jocelynís love for him. A year after her death, he and Jocelyn become engaged and the wedding is now only a month away.


Of course Clayís daughter Kate is trying to stop this wedding. She has always felt her mother and father belong together because they love each other. Clay has reservations about the marriage to Jocelyn, especially now that heís around Libby again. Should he go with his ambitions and marry someone who would be good for his career, or should he marry the woman he has always loved?


Stop right there. The stars in my eyes over Clay have definitely dimmed. The King of my imagination has fallen off the throne. Jocelyn overhears a conversation and rushes to the rescue of the Blackthornes against their knowledge. The stunt she pulls is contrived and immature, so there goes the picture of the sophisticated Washington hostess. Yet Clay is still considering marriage to Jocelyn for the sake of his political career instead of marrying Libby. This sort of comes off as a slap in the face for Libby. He makes her sound like a country bumpkin who would embarrass him in Washington. She doesnít seem to notice he is comparing the two women on such a basis. I noticed, and his maturity and sophistication slipped more than a notch.


There is much more to this story than Iíve outlined, including an important trial Clay has to judge in Austin. Again Kate steps in and gets the whole family into a life threatening situation because she thinks she has sounder opinions than anyone else. She is now in college in Austin where she lives in her own apartment, but I havenít seen much in the way of her maturing.


As with any long series, there are books we like more than others. THE NEXT MRS. BLACKTHORNE is not one of my favorites in this nine book series. In my opinion, Ms. Johnston hit the peak of her writing career with THE PRICE. While THE NEXT MRS. BLACKTHORNE is not a loser, it is not one of Johnstonís best, but that will not deter me from buying the next book in the Bitter Creek saga. Johnston uses tension and pacing to move her stories forward and make her characters believable. She always creates nail biting situations that cause me to hold my breath. Johnstonís next book will feature characters introduced by Kate Grayhawk in THE NEXT MRS. BLACKTHORNE.


THE NEXT MRS. BLACKTHORNE climbed to the NYT bestseller list and remained there three weeks.

January 2006


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