You don’t go into a Planet of Desire book by Robin Lovett without a general understanding of what’s going to happen (lots of sex) yet I always find something new to like about each book in this series. Forbidden Desire is book four and another fun and entertaining read.
Niva is a bonafide sex goddess of the Fellamana race who can heal mental, physical, and emotional injuries through sexual encounters because of her Exstare power. She meets Graven, a genetically modified human who can’t feel touch or emotions and this bothers her. She feels it’s her duty to heal him, too. And when a few intense sexual encounters between them prove that her orgasms are able to regenerate the feeling in certain parts of his body, she is determined to bring him back to his whole self. This causes tension between her and the ruling council of the Fellamana (of which her father is a member) who have already lost one of their special healers to a human. Niva secretly brings Graven with her to a remote hideaway and proceeds to have very consensual healing sex with him, but it comes at a cost – she starts to develop romantic feelings for him. Will she abandon her people in order to have a relationship with Graven?
Besides the abundant sex, starting with Niva involved in her ‘work’ (that Graven witnesses as a voyeur) and graduating to their own relationship, the story has themes of family, loyalty, and independence. Graven’s situation is complicated because he’s essentially in hiding from resistance fighters who have landed on the planet and who are defectors from the Tens Systems oppressive military regime headed by his own abusive father, the man responsible for his genetic makeover. He’s hiding from the good guys AND the bad guys and just wants to find a life for himself that doesn’t involve being a soldier. But he’s still mostly human and it is forbidden for Niva to have a relationship with a human because of what happened to her predecessor, Koviye, who had the same sexual healing powers. He fell in love and left the planet. Niva took over his role, but there is no one with the Exstare power who can take her place if she abandons them. And if she defies the ruling council she faces imprisonment.
There are interesting themes of sexual consent brought up because of the intimate relationship the Fellamana have with sex. They are open and polyamorous but always with the consent of the other parties. Niva has always seen her power to heal through sex as a good thing, but she’s not really considered that it requires her consent as well until she’s in an emotional relationship with Graven. She feels the desire to be monogamous with him and realizes how this will complicate her ‘work’. And for the council to force her to heal others through sexual touch implies that she doesn’t have a choice in consenting which is against their very nature. It’s an interesting conundrum. The only drawback to the sexual part of the story that I found was the emphasis on humans being a monogamous species versus the Fellamana who are polyamorous; and while monogamy may be the preference of the majority of humans, polyamory does exist here on Earth, too.
Their happy ending requires Niva to find a way to balance all the aspects of her feelings for Graven and her people, and come up with a solution to give everyone an HEA, and it’s done well. While the Planet of Desire series might seem to be pure escapist reading (and we can all use some of that right now) there is a lot of intricate and interesting worldbuilding and the author hasn’t skimped on adding in all the details to make the characters unique and complex. Forbidden Desire can be read as a standalone but the rest of the series has been equally fun and I recommend them as well.