I’ve skimmed Cheryl Holt’s books before, but I’d never actually read one through, so I asked to review Forbidden Fantasy. My reaction? YE GODS AND LITTLE FISHES! I can’t decide whether this is a brilliant parody of a trashy romance novel, or whether it really is a trashy romance novel. If you like your romances old school and way over the top, rejoice – this is exactly what you’ve been seeking.
Lady Caroline Foster had been promised to John Clayton, Viscount Wakefield, but after he married another (see Complete Abandon) her father arranged an engagement to Edward Shelton, who is 35 years her senior and has a reputation for liking his partners young…very young…much younger than Caroline. Naturally she isn’t too thrilled about this. Caroline is a virgin and although she claims to know nothing of sex, as events unfold, methinks she knows more than she’s been letting on. Or else she is the world’s fastest learner.
Somehow Caroline gets the idea that if she isn’t a virgin, her pervy old fiancé won’t go through with the marriage and so she hatches a cunning plan. If she can just get herself deflowered, the old goat will cry off – and she knows just the man to do the deed. When Caroline was engaged to Wakefield, she once kissed his illegitmate brother, Ian Clayton, and got all kinds of tingly sensations in her lady bits. Ian is in town consolidating his reputation as a rakehell so Caroline flounces into his townhouse and demands to see him. While waiting, she downs three (!) glasses of Scotch to get her nerve up, then storms into the bedroom, interrupting a tryst between Ian and his latest mistress, Rebecca Blake, while another of Ian’s half brothers, watches them. Caroline declares that she wants Ian to tutor her in the art of love, but he demurs. They argue, Caroline downs a fourth glass of Scotch, then leaves under her own power. Gotta admire that girl’s head (and her two hollow legs).
Well, a few days later Caroline comes back to Ian’s house to press the issue again. They snarl and spit at each other then propinquity until passion take over and they almost do the deed. But rakish Ian is filled with guilt and stops short because he thinks that by taking Caroline’s virginity he will somehow betray his brother (dude – the man is married!). And so he sends her away.
So Caroline goes back home virgo intacta where she finds her termagant mother Brittania metaphorically twirling her mustache and insisting that Caroline’s wedding to Shelton must take place within the month. Caroline’s father is no help at all since he is off with his mistress all the time. Poor Caroline, it looks like she’s doomed unless she can persuade Ian to rescue her from a fate worse than death, but can she persuade him to help her in time? Can they foil the dastardly plans of the evil Brittania? And what about Ian’s mistress Rebecca and his [other] half brother Jack? It seems they have fallen in love! Will Ian give Rebecca to Jack? And what will happen when Brittania confronts her husband’s mistress? Will Ian and Wakefield make peace with each other? Will it all come out happily ever after? Tune in next week for the latest…..oh sorry, but this book really did remind me of a good old fashioned serial melodrama.
I’ve only skimmed over the plot since it is so full of deliciously awful evilness you simply must read it to get the full effect. I had to put the book down several time since I laughed so hard that my stomach hurt, although I don’t think that was what the author intended. At AAR we’ve sometimes mentioned wallpaper historicals. Wallpaper historical is too serious a description for Forbidden Fantasy – it’s a drywall historical. Characters “hook up” – yes that very modern phrase is in the book – and act like poptarts in period romanceland. Brittania is the evilest over the top villain I have read in several years and her nasty doings had me in tears of laughter. Her evil plan for Caroline is supposed to be a shocking secret, but when she finally makes the evil villain speech that Tells All, and a nasty bit of evilness it is, it came as no surprise to me as I’d figured it out when it first began to unfold. As for Edward Shelton, he is the essence of pervy evilness, so evil his evilness made me giggle. If he was supposed to be scary….well, he wasn’t.
When it comes to the writing style, there were several times when I lost track of the conversation (more dialogue tags would help). If I had to pick one word to describe the overall style, it would be florid, especially when Brittania is speaking – her utterances belong in the Silly Speech Section of the Villain Hall of Fame. I laughed a lot even when the villains were not declaiming since the author has a wonderful knack for picking just the wrong word. Here’s an example: “She had never previously entered a bachelor’s abode and couldn’t quite articulate what had driven her to this one, so the prospect that she might was thrilling and ludicrous.” Here’s another: “The placard of his pants was all that separated him from paradise”.
Forbidden Fantasy is a hard book to grade. Technically it’s pretty bad, but I was so entertained by the sheer over the top melodramatic verve of it all that I found myself having a good time more often than not. Cheryl Holt is known as a very hot author, but in this case I skimmed most of the sex scenes so I could get back to the villainy. This is the largest larger than life romance I’ve read in quite some time, and I guess I could call it my guilty pleasure for this year (blush).