Flirting with His Forbidden Lady
Flirting with His Forbidden Lady is the first in Laura Martin’s Ashburton Reuinion series. It’s the tale of the romance between Mr. Joshua Ashburton and his brother’s intended, Lady Elizabeth Hummingford, The forbidden love element adds much of the tension in their story, with a small mystery plot helping along the few slow spots.
Lady Elizabeth is preparing for a ball given by the man she is expected to marry, Mr. Leonard Ashburton. Theirs is not a love match. Instead, Leo owes Beth’s late father a favor, which will be settled when Leo and Beth marry. As she gets ready, Beth’s mother reminds her that it’s her duty to marry Leo in order to save them all from financial ruin. Later that evening, Beth takes a break from the ballroom and encounters a man she believes to be Leo outside. Chatting briefly, Beth is delighted to find Leo isn’t the stuffy, boring man she’s believed him to be, and they share a dance and a brief kiss before she realizes her mistake. Beth is stunned to realize the man she just danced with and kissed is actually Leo’s brother, Joshua, back in England after growing up in India.
After their parents passed away, Leo was taken in by a great-aunt who refused to also take Josh. The guardian that stepped in moved his family – including Josh – to India and began teaching Josh how to take over his shipping business. Josh is only briefly back in England as he needs to return to India in order to run the company. He is delighted to find a woman as intriguing as Beth on his first night back, and horrified to discover she is actually promised to his brother. Leo, seemingly uninterested in getting to know the woman he plans to marry, continually asks Josh to stand in for him during activities meant to provide opportunities for him and Beth to get to know each other. Beth and Josh visit the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, fight off drunk would-be assailants in the park, and go riding together. The more they get to know each other, the clearer it is that Beth and Josh are meant for each other.
Beth and Josh are attracted to each other early on , but they each have compelling reasons to not be together, and this makes the journey to their happily ever a thoroughly engaging one. Beth believes it is solely her duty to marry a wealthy man and save her mother and sister from debts her father incurred before his death, and thinks Leo is her only chance at doing so, a belief bolstered by her mother throughout. I especially wanted to see if Beth ever stood up to her!
Aside from Beth’s mother, each character is delightful in their own way. Beth is trying to be strong and do what she has to do to help her mother and sister, even if it means sacrificing her own happiness. While martyr heroines often get tiresome, Beth takes enough small risks and rebellions, like being in the sun without a hat or parasol against her mother’s wishes, that keep her from becoming boring and a one note character. She grows slowly throughout the story instead of realizing all at once that she deserves happiness, too. Josh is a great guy who mirrors Beth in his willingness to do the right thing; he is prepared to step aside so Beth can marry Leo if that’s what they both truly want. He feels inferior due to their great-aunt refusing to take him in, and I loved watching him gain confidence in himself. Even stuffy Leo is fun to read about. I imagine he is playing matchmaker to his brother and Beth, even if he doesn’t admit it.
The small mystery involving Beth’s sister is an enjoyable one, and explains why Beth is so determined to sacrifice herself and marry someone she doesn’t love. I loved Annabelle and her part of the storyline and I’m hoping she’s the heroine in the next book!
A hero and heroine who are quickly attracted to each other but have great reasons to stay apart make Flirting with His Forbidden Lady a satisfying read and I look forward to Laura Martin’s next!