>> Wednesday, February 09, 2005
I can't remember why I decided to reread Forbidden (excerpt), by Jo Beverley, but I suppose I must have read something about it in one of my discussion groups, because not 2 days after I finished it, my friend who belongs to those groups as well asked me if she could borrow it!
The death of her husband has freed Serena Riverton from life as an abused sex-object, but now her brothers plan to force her into another similar marriage. Fleeing, she is helped by Francis, Lord Middlethorpe. A passionate encounter leaves her pregnant, but no keener on marriage than before. He is virtually committed to marrying a sweet-natured lady. They marry anyway, and struggle to make something of their lives amid the disapproval of all around them.Forbidden had some really good things going for it, but also enough bad ones that my grade for it was a B-.
What I liked best were the protagonists. Francis and Serena are both really interesting characters, not at all common in romance. Serena could have been the irritating heroine who complains because she's beautiful until one feels like slapping her for being an idiot, but she wasn't. Beverley was able to convince me that, for Serena, her beauty was truly a curse, that it had brought her nothing but grief all her life, not because she had made herself a victim, but because she'd had simply not had any choice. The scenes where the horrors of her marriage were revealed were heartbreaking, especially the ones featuring the jewelry from her marriage. As for Francis, well, he's a sweet, honourable man, who does his best to help Serena and treat her well, even if he has no obligation to her. He's also a virgin, and I really liked the role reversal in their relationship, with Serena being the "experienced" one. Of course, she wasn't really experienced in balanced, equally pleasurable for both partners sex, so their relationship had an element of discovery for both of them.
Unfortunately, the suspense subplot was terribly distracting and I intensely disliked it. Francis is a member of a kind of club carried over from his schol days, the Company of Rogues, and the endless scenes featuring this club was probably the thing I liked least in the whole book. This is book 4 in that series, and the whole clubby thing is a huge part of the scheme. I really disliked this, and not just because grown men doing this whole thing always feel like dweebs. It was also the fact that they called themselves "Rogues"... I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but laugh at these supposedly mature men running around, so proud that they were "rogues". ;-)
In addition, the whole thing was hugely distracting, because the author spent way too long unnecessarily detailing the backstories of many of the members of the Company. It's weird, because even in cases like this one, in which this kind of info is de trop and I get irritated at the author for wasting my time, I often end up feeling some interest in these stories anyway. In this case, however, I wasn't even the slightest bit tempted to search them out.
So, basically, while I liked the scenes with Serena and Francis, the rest of the book just wasn't enjoyable to me.