Children: Roy and Tamara (Brooking).
Home—Atlanta, GA. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Romance and romantic suspense novelist. Previously worked for a major airline.
York the Renegade, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1986.
"DELANEYS OF KILLAROO" SERIES
Wild Silver, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Satin Ice, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Matilda the Adventuress, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Also author of the novella "Christmas Past," published in The Delaney Christmas Carol, with novellas by Kay Hooper and Fayrene Preston, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.
"WILD DANCER" TRILOGY
The Wind Dancer, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Storm Winds, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Reap the Wind, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Stormy Vows, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1983.
Tempest at Sea, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1983.
The Reluctant Lark, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1983.
The Bronzed Hawk, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1983.
The Lady and the Unicorn, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1984.
The Golden Valkyrie, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1984.
The Trustworthy Redhead, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Return to Santa Flores, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1984.
No Red Roses, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Capture the Rainbow, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Touch the Horizon, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1984.
The Forever Dream, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1985.
White Satin, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Blue Velvet, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1985.
A Summer Smile, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1985.
And the Desert Blooms, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Always, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Everlasting, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1986.
'Til the End of Time, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Last Bridge Home, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Across the River of Yesterday, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1987.
The Spellbinder, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Magnificent Folly, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1987.
One Touch of Topaz, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Star Light, Star Bright, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
This Fierce Splendor, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Man from Half Moon Bay, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Blue Skies and Shining Promises, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Strong, Hot Winds, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Notorious, Doubleday Loveswept hardcover, 1990.
Wicked Jake Darcy, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1990.
The Golden Barbarian, Doubleday Loveswept (New York, NY), 1990, Bantam, 1992.
Tender Savage, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1991.
The Tiger Prince, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Star Spangled Bride, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1993.
The Magnificent Rogue, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1993.
The Beloved Scoundrel, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Midnight Warrior, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Dark Rider, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Lion's Bride, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Ugly Duckling, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Long After Midnight, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Face of Deception, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1998.
And Then You Die, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The Killing Game, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1999.
The Search, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Final Target, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Body of Lies, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2002.
No One to Trust, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Dead Aim, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Fatal Tide, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Blind Alley, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Firestorm, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Countdown, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2005.
On the Run, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Killer Dreams, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Stalemate, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2006.
An Unexpected Song, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Pandora's Daughter, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to anthologies.
Many of the author's books have been made into audio recordings, including Stalemate, available from Books on Tape, 2006.
Popular romance and romantic suspense novelist Iris Johansen is a prolific writer, having published seven novels in 1984, eight novels in 1988, and more than one novel in most other years since 1983. Quantity of output, however, has not stopped her from being an innovator, in the view of contributor to Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers. "She has stretched the boundaries of the standard formulas in the category romance field and has written some of the best historical romance novels," declared the writer. Johansen writes category romances set in several historical eras and has become known for the conviction with which she describes bygone places and people. Her characterizations are considered among the more complex in the genre. As for sex, a Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers contributor pointed out that the presence of one or more long seduction scenes is a hallmark of Johansen's work, and that, although the seduction often contains "an element of punishment," it is always made clear that the heroine is not in real physical danger. Commented a Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers contributor: "The uncertainty of remaining safely on the edge of possible pain adds sexual tension to the stories."
Several of Johansen's novels have belonged to Bantam/Doubleday's Loveswept line of romances, beginning with Stormy Vows, Johansen's first novel, published in 1983. However, her historical novels have taken her—and her readers—into far corners of the earth. In particular, Johansen has made two imaginary countries, the Middle Eastern kingdom of Sedikhan and the Balkan state of Tamrovia, her own. Characters recur from book to book, and the two nations are linked by marriage; thus, Johansen's loyal readers can follow the fortunes of favorite characters such as recovering drug addict David Bradford (who originally appeared in The Trustworthy Redhead), who finds love and contentment in Touch the Horizon with a woman, Billie Callahan, herself a star of Capture the Rainbow.
Johansen's novels are sometimes included in established series which feature novels written by several authors. For example, in the "Shamrock" Trilogy, a series about the Delaney brothers of Ireland, Johansen wrote York the Renegade while the two other novels were written by Kay Hooper and Fayrene Preston. The "Delaneys of Killaroo" series is a spin-off of the Shamrock tales, focusing on three sisters in the Australian branch of the Delaney family. Although not officially part of the Delaney series, the novel This Fierce Splendor deals with a male character who is a Delaney. The trio of authors contributing to the trilogy also wrote a Christmas book, The Delaney Christmas Carol, in which each writer contributed a novella.
As an individual Johansen wrote the novels comprising the "Wind Dancer" trilogy of 1991, the first two volumes of which received considerable acclaim from romance reviewers. The novels, spanning much of European history, deal with the Andreas family's quest for a legendary golden statue called the Wind Dancer. The first novel, The Wind Dancer, is set in sixteenth-century Italy, and the second, Storm Winds, in France during the Reign of Terror near the end of the eighteenth century. The Wind Dancer, which had a first printing of 700,000 copies, is "a lively and imaginative blend of romance and adventure," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor; the reviewer also applauded the character of Lorenzo Vasaro, the hero's friend, who is "an unlikely but likable character … a worldly-wise and intriguing blend of ruthlessness and charm." Publishers Weekly contributor Peggy Kaganoff called Storm Winds "a diverting romance" with "plot twists worthy of a mystery novel."
Another series follows Eve Duncan, a successful forensics sculptor, who was raised in poverty by a single, cocaine-addicted mother. In The Killing Game, readers learn that Eve's daughter Bonnie was murdered, and though her body was never found, her alleged murderer was executed. Duncan moved away to a Tahitian island where her friend Joe Quinn finds her and tells her that he has found a mass grave with a body that might be Bonnie's. Eve returns to the States, but before the body can be identified, a stalker begins to pursue Eve, insisting that he was Bonnie's actual killer. He threatens to kill Eve as well as a ten-year-old girl, Jane MacGuire, she has befriended. Eve is terrified but vows to catch the killer, even if she must be the bait. Emily Melton of Booklist called it "a cross between King's nightmarish chillers and Cornwell's forensic thrillers" and observed that the book is a "certain winner." The Killing Game received many positive reviews. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "Johansen maintains perfect pacing," The same reviewer observed: "Aided by smart and realistic dialogue, the suspense holds until the very end."
Jane MacGuire shows up again in Countdown, in which she is a twenty-year-old archeology major at Harvard. On a dig in Herculaneum, MacGuire learns that her face is identical to that of Cira, a Roman courtesan who has been dead for 2,000 years. Cira is the link to riches, and when MacGuire's close friend is murdered, she fears for her safety. Mark Trevor, another friend who lusts after MacGuire, flies her to Aberdeen. Much of the book occurs at MacDuff's Run, a fictional castle in Scotland. MacGuire's foster mother, Eve Duncan flies her back to the States where MacGuire and Trevor plan to stop suicide bombers who are on a countdown to blow up a nuclear plant. Like most of Johansen's books, Countdown received positive reviews. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted: "Action, romance, castles, bomb plots and a booby-trapped hideaway in snowbound Idaho—what more could Johansen fans want?"
Johansen produced other well-received romance novels in the 1990s. Of The Magnificent Rogue, published in 1993, a Booklist contributor commented: "Passion and suspense abound in [this] … robust romance…. Spellbinding romantic fiction from a master of the genre." The same year Johansen produced Midnight Warrior, a tale of England and Wales set in 1066. Kristin Ramsdell of Library Journal commented on the book and wrote: "Believable, thoughtfully constructed characters, complex plotting, and lively dialog characterize this sensual historical."
Johansen achieved a personal milestone in 1996 with the publication of The Ugly Duckling. It was her most prestigious publication to date, although not the "hardcover debut" that a Kirkus Reviews contributor termed it (at least two of her previous novels had been placed between hardcovers, but in the Loveswept line rather than as solo creations). In The Ugly Duckling, commented the Kirkus Reviews contributor, "megaseller Johansen abandons the lush historical romances that have made her reputation and stakes out the proven market of Nora Roberts and Sidney Sheldon." The heroine, Nell, is the plain wife of a rich man who, along with their daughter, is murdered before her eyes; Nell herself is thrown off a cliff and survives but is disfigured. Hero Nicholas, pursuing the drug dealers who killed Nell's family, takes her under his wing and sees that she receives state-of-the-art plastic surgery that turns her into a beauty. He also teaches her martial arts. Nell and Nicholas set out to destroy the villains and do so with the help of what the Kirkus Reviews contributor called "inventive surprises." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called The Ugly Duckling "spectacular" and elaborated: "The romance here is suspenseful, and the suspense is romantic; for fans of each, this is a keeper." Booklist contributor Brad Hooper announced that, in The Ugly Duckling, "the romantic suspense genre is done a good turn."
Having achieved this new level of success, Johansen went on to create another successful thriller with her next book, Long After Midnight, a tale of scientific breakthroughs and corrupt corporations. The heroine, Kate, is a high-level working mother doing important research for top scientist Noah Smith and trying to give her nine-year-old son a good life at the same time. When Noah's lab blows up and attempts are made on Kate's life, Kate and Noah go into hiding to escape from the psychopathic hit man who is stalking them. Kate has two love interests, Noah and his solder-of-fortune friend Seth. Noting that the plot premise contains some familiar, conventional elements, a Publishers Weekly contributor added that "Johansen knows how to take the formula and run with it," appealing to readers with her believable characters, effective dialogue, and interesting plotting. The review also noted that a plot strand involving the heroine's father, an Alzheimer's patient, gives "the deft but somewhat protracted finish a moving, unexpected touch."
Elena Kyler is the central character in No One to Trust. Trained to survive the Columbian jungles by her mercenary parents, Elena flirts with danger and gets too close. Drug lord Rico Chavez rapes her, which results in her having a child. For most of the story, Elena and her now five-year-old son are being pursued by Chavez, who wants to find Elena and take their son. Sean Galen, a CIA operative who also appeared in Johansen's novel Body of Lies, plans to protect Elena and her son by bringing them to the United States. When Chavez follows her, Galen plans to capture him. However, Chavez sends his thugs instead, and everything goes haywire. As Elena and Galen flee across the country, they also fall in love. Patty Engelmann of Booklist commented: "With its taut plot and complex characters, this is vintage, fan-pleasing Johansen." A Publishers Weekly contributor acknowledged that in light of terrorism and national security, "the threat of drug cartels feels dated and Chavez is so over-the-top nasty that he's downright silly." Of the novel as a whole, the same reviewer observed: "Johansen has delivered better in the past." A Kirkus Reviews contributor summed up the novel: "Fast-moving plot, elementary prose: another zippy read from megaselling Johansen."
Final Target revolves around the escape, rescue, and psychological recovery of Cassie, the U.S. president's seven-year-old daughter. Cassie was rescued from a kidnapping attempt in France by international thief Michael Travis, who turns up at the home of Cassie's psychiatrist, Dr. Jessica Riley. Although told by the president to keep Michael away from his daughter, Jessica instead enlists his help in Cassie's treatment, leading to Cassie, Jessica, and Michael being pursued not only by the Secret Service but also by some of Michael's nefarious associates. In a review in Booklist, Patty Engelmann called Final Target "a winning page-turner that will please old and new fans alike."
In Dead Aim, photojournalist Alex Graham, emotionally scarred after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, is covering the collapse of the Arapahoe Dam and discovers that there are villains who actually caused the dam to collapse and who may be part of a Central American terrorist group. When she is pursued by the bad guys, Alex is helped by ex-CIA agent Judd Morgan. After coming to her rescue, Judd teams up with Alex and the two go after the terrorists who may be planning to assassinate the president. In an interview with Adam Dunn in Publishers Weekly, the author commented on the involvement of 9/11 in Alex's life. "I had already started Dead Aim before 9/11. After it happened, I redid the first two chapters. There was just no way I could ignore it." A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to Dead Aim as a "smoothly written, tightly plotted, turbocharged thriller." Another reviewer, writing in Publishers Weekly, noted that "Johansen's latest fast-moving thriller offers lots of cinematic action" and later added that "the nonstop action and slick plotting won't disappoint."
Fatal Tide focuses on Melis, a woman who was sold into white slavery at the age of eleven. When Melis's foster dad, a scientist who researches mysteries of the deep sea, is blown up in his boat, Melis and ex-Navy SEAL Jed Kelby set out to solve the case, which may involve a lethal new weapon that is wanted by a Middle Eastern dictator. In the process, they end up in the Canary Islands, hoping that a group of dolphins can lead them to the hidden weapon. In a review of Fatal Tide in Publishers Weekly, a contributor wrote that "the exotic locals, lusty sex and capering dolphins provide easy-reading entertainment." Booklist contributor Patty Engelmann commented that the author "is in fine form here as she presents a truly deranged villain, a reluctant heroine, and a less-than-perfect hero."
Kerry Murphy is a fire investigator with psychic abilities in Johansen's novel Firestorm. Emotionally traumatized from a house fire in her youth, Kerry and her dog Sam team up with fellow psychic Brad Silver to investigate a secret plot to incinerate the earth. The two have more in common than psychic abilities, however, as both have lost loved ones in fires. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "ably captures the smell, the smoke and the terror of fire."
Blind Alley once again features forensic sculptor Eve Duncan. This time, when Eve reconstructs the face of a murder victim she is startled to find that it looks just like her adopted daughter Jane. The victim is just one murder committed by a serial killer who is the reincarnation of a Roman slave. The novel also continues to explore Duncan's battle with the unsolved death of her daughter Bonnie. A Publishers Weekly contributor referred to Blind Alley as a "far-fetched but expertly plotted, eminently entertaining novel." Patty Engelmann, writing in Booklist, commented: "Solid suspense, a vicious killer, and the heroine's rough transition to adulthood will keep teens involved."
Johansen has continued her prolific output, with four more novels published in 2006. In her thriller Killer Dreams, Johansen tells the story of Sophie Dunston, a sleep researcher who has developed a drug for insomnia. However, Sophie's former boss is using the drug to alter people's minds; he targets Sophie's father, who ends up killing his wife. Sophie seeks revenge and teams up with Matt Royd, a troubled man who also suffers from the drug experiments. Maria Hatton, writing in Booklist, called Killer Dreams a "suspenseful tale of nightmarish evil." Entertainment Weekly's Eric Kohn commented: "Dreams is no snooze."
Grace Archer and her daughter Frankie are under protective custody thanks to the CIA in On the Run. The goal is to trap Marvot, a French underworld figure who is after Grace because of her involvement in a CIA plot involving Marvot and two dangerous horses. Rogue CIA agent Jake Kilmer is on hand to help protect Grace but also has ulterior motives as he seeks the valuable horses for himself. "Johansen gives her readers what they have come to expect from the queen of suspense," wrote Patty Engelmann in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "The Johansen formula works so well in this novel that readers may expect a sequel."
In Stalemate, Eve Duncan returns and finds herself in Colombia helping a weapons dealer in exchange for finding out what really happened to her murdered daughter. In a review of Stalemate in Library Journal, Sheri Melnick called the novel "a first-rate suspense thriller complete with expertly developed characters." Maria Hatton wrote in Booklist: "Johansen strikes again, creating both a nonstop thriller and a character study."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Book, September, 2003, review of Fatal Tide, p. 928.
Booklist, September 1, 1993, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Magnificent Rogue, p. 34; March 1, 1996, Brad Hooper, review of The Ugly Duckling, p. 1076; November 1, 1997, Kathleen Hughes, review of And then You Die, p. 435; August 1, 1998, Diana Tixier Herald, review of The Face of Deception, p. 1923; August, 1999, Emily Melton, review of The Killing Game, p. 1987; September 15, 2000, Nina Davis, review of Dark Rider, p. 224; March 15, 2001, Patty Engelmann, review of Final Target, p. 1333; May 1, 2001, Nancy Spillman, review of The Search, p. 1615; October 1, 2001, Joyce Saricks, review of Final Target, p. 342; September 1, 2002, Patty Engelmann, review of No One to Trust, pp. 5-6; February 1, 2003, Patty Engelmann, review of Dead Aim, p. 955; July 1, 2003, Patty Engelmann, review of Fatal Tide, p. 1845; August 1, 2004, Patty Engelmann, review of Blind Alley, p. 1871; November 1, 2005, Patty Engelmann, review of On the Run, p. 4; May 1, 2006, Maria Hatton, review of Killer Dreams, p. 34; May 1, 2006, Jeanette Larson, review of On the Run, p. 52; October 15, 2006, Maria Hatton, review of Stalemate, p. 5; March 15, 2007, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Stalemate, p. 71.
Detroit Free Press, March 10, 2002, review of Body of Lies, p. 4G.
Entertainment Weekly, September 17, 2004, Nancy Miller, review of Blind Alley, p. 84; June 9, 2006, Eric Kohn, review of Killer Dreams, p. 142.
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 25, 1999, review of The Killing Game, p. D15; June 9, 2001, review of Final Target, p. 342; March 23, 2002, review of Body of Lies, p. D22; October 19, 2002, review of No One to Trust, p. D22; April 26, 2003, review of Dead Aim, p. D39.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 1996, review of The Ugly Duckling, p. 249; November 15, 1997, review of And Then You Die, p. 1664; September 1, 1998, review of The Face of Deception, p. 1218; August 1, 1999, review of The Killing Game, p. 1155; July 15, 2002, review of No One to Trust, p. 981; February 1, 2003, review of Dead Aim, p. 165; July 15, 2003, review of Fatal Tide, p. 928; February 15, 2004, review of Firestorm, p. 155; August 15, 2004, review of Blind Alley, p. 766; May 1, 2005, review of Countdown, p. 497; November 1, 2006, review of Stalemate, p. 1094.
Kliatt, May, 2003, Nola Theiss, review of No One to Trust, pp. 48-49; November 1, 2004, Bette Ammon, review of Firestorm, p. 46.
Library Journal, December, 1993, review of The Beloved Scoundrel, pp. 174-175; May 15, 1994, Kristin Ramsdell, review of Midnight Warrior, p. 66; January 1, 1998, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of And Then You Die, p. 142; March 1, 2000, review of The Search, p. S1; April 15, 2000, Jane Jorgenson, review of The Search, p. 123; May 1, 2001, Adrienne Furness, review of The Search, p. 145; December 1, 2004, Barbara Hoffert, review of Countdown, p. 88; December 1, 2006, Sheri Melnick, review of Stalemate: An Eve Duncan Forensics Thriller, p. 111.
Mystery Reader, July 10, 2000, review of The Search.
People Weekly, February 9, 1998, Cynthia Sanz, review of And Then You Die, pp. 34-35; August 7, 2000, review of The Search, p. 51; December 16, 2003, review of No One to Trust, p. 63.
Publishers Weekly, January 4, 1991, review of The Wind Dancer, p. 68; April 26, 1991, Peggy Kaganoff, review of Storm Wind, p. 55; September 13, 1991, review of Reap the Wind, pp. 73-74; November 30, 1992, review of The Tiger Prince, p. 49; July 26, 1993, review of The Magnificent Rogue, p. 63; January 3, 1994, review of The Beloved Scoundrel, p. 78; July 4, 1994, review of Midnight Warrior, p. 57; March 13, 1995, review of Dark Rider, p. 65; December 4, 1995, review of Lion's Bride, p. 58; February 26, 1996, review of The Ugly Duckling, p. 84; December 30, 1996, review of Long after Midnight, p. 54; November 10, 1997, review of And Then You Die, p. 54; August 17, 1998, review of The Face of Deception, p. 45; July 12, 1999, review of The Killing Game, p. 75; May 1, 2000, review of The Search, p. 49; April 30, 2001, review of Final Target, p. 55; August 12, 2002, review of No One to Trust, p. 274; March 24, 2003, review of Dead Aim, p. 955; May 5, 2003, Adam Dunn, "Taking Dead Aim: Iris Johansen," review of Dead Aim, p. 192; July 14, 2003, review of Fatal Tide, p. 53; February 9, 2004, review of Firestorm, p. 56; August 23, 2004, review of Blind Alley, p. 37; April 25, 2005, review of Countdown, p. 39; October 24, 2005, review of On the Run, p. 36; April 17, 2006, review of Killer Dreams, p. 165; October 9, 2006, review of Stalemate, p. 37.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, February 1, 2007, Theodore Feit, review of Stalemate.
Romance Reader, November 5, 1998, review of The Face of Deception, p. 1218; June 29, 2000, review of The Search.
School Library Journal, July, 2002, Pam Johnson, review of Body of Lies, p. 143.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (May 27, 2005), interview with Iris Johansen.
Iris Johansen Home Page,http://www.irisjohansen.com (June 28, 2009).
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com (January 29, 1999).