by Anastasia Black

December 2002
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Forbidden aptly describes the saga of Vaughn Wardell, Viscount of Rothmere and Elisa, who is due to marry Vaughnís father, The Marquis of Farliegh. Vaughn and Elisa have trouble on the horizon, and itís filled with forbidden passion, jealousy and deceit!

Vaughn has returned home to Fairleigh after twenty years, hoping to secure the inheritance his mother left him from his ruthless father, Rufus Wardell. Rufus epitomizes all that is evil, and he does it well in this readerís opinion. Heís vain, mean and frankly, just plain mean! Elisa is Rufusí new bride-to-be, and Vaughn has heard all that polite society has to say about her wicked ways. Rufus and Vaughn have no love lost between them, and Vaughn despises him with good reason. Rufus was cruel to Vaughn as a child, sending him off to boarding school and away from his beloved mother. When Vaughn meets the golden haired beauty Elisa, sparks fly and a smoldering connection happens that is inappropriate to say the least!

Elisa has been scorned by polite society after an accusation of adultery, a rather large infraction for a woman in that particular day and age. After a duel over her alleged adultery ends in her husbandís death, her husbandís family takes her son Raymond from her, branding her an unsuitable mother and secreting Raymond away. Unable to find another way to get him back, she decides marrying Rufus will re-establish her social station, and he of course holds the purse strings in an investigation into Raymondís whereabouts. However, Elisa finds herself irresistibly attracted to Vaughn, which means a big problem if sheís to marry Rufus. Her simmering attraction to Vaughn causes her to come to believe some of the rumors about herself, making her insecure but more determined than ever to marry Rufus, and regain custody of her son. Vaughn knows nothing of the reasons why Elisa is marrying Rufus, but I sure wished he had tried just a bit harder to find out! I couldn't help but dismiss the idea of love, when it seemed Vaughn was more interested in besting his father.

A great deal of the book focuses on Vaughn and Elisa trying to make one another jealous with the secondary characters. Vaughn taunts Elisa, she in turn is either in a huff about it, or entices him with her wares so to speak. Each vows to stay away from one another, then does something stupid to get the others attention. This reader found some of the battle completely unnecessary, and at times very trying. I never got the warm fuzzies over this couple, despite the lust the two could so obviously not contain. I would have enjoyed this read more had there been less anguish involved in the chase of an engaged woman and her soon to be stepson, and more of a story. I like knowing that the couple will inevitably enjoy each other out of bed as much as they do in! There came a time in this book where this reader wanted to shake some sense into the heroine, despite the differences in era and attitudes towards women! Had Elisa spent as much energy on talking to Vaughn as she did wringing her hands in fear and shame, I might have been able to respect her more.

In the end this is by no means a total loss. Ms. Black did a fine job of keeping a secret or two, and came to a conclusion that satisfied this reader. If you enjoy the thrill of the chase, then pursue Forbidden.

Reviewed in January 2003 by Connie.

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