The year is 1835. Elisa has put up with being shunned by London society and has endured the rumors of a so-called indecent past because she wants her son back. Her son was taken away by her late husband's relatives, who have accused her of committing adultery. She is now the fiancee of one Rufus Wardell, the Marquis of Farleigh, one of the richest, most powerful men in England, because he promised he would find her son. But her careful plans go awry when Rufus's son, Vaughn Wardell, shows up at Farleigh Hall to demand his mother's Scottish lands. His father has always been cruel to him, has never shown the slightest bit of interest or love for him, and he hopes to one day seek revenge against his apathetic father. He resents the fact that Rufus is engaged to a woman of such ill-repute as Elisa -- that is until he meets her. Not only is the woman beautiful, she also possesses noble qualities that are incongruous to the rumors he has heard about her. He then initiates a seduction that knows no bounds and soon they engage in bouts of lusty encounters that could not only endanger Elisa's hopes of finding her child, but also their lives. There are various twists throughout the novel.
The building of sexual tension between the characters is wonderful and palpable. Elisa and Vaughn's development from lust to love is quite realistic. The way Vaughn got to know Elisa, her innocence and many layers that have nothing to do with her reputation, is also realistic, for he too felt prejudice toward her before he got to know her well. The story is very well written despite its short length (265 pages). I also love the backdrop of London society -- the superficiality of it, the hypocrisy and prejudice centered on scandals that are concocted without much evidence. I felt a great deal of sympathy for the protagonist's plight, but became frustrated with the fact that she was willing to marry a disarming man like Rufus when Vaughn was offering to help her. There are revelations toward the end that add depth to the story, giving the romantica a bit of mystery as well. All in all, Forbidden is one sensual, erotic and compelling novel. The erotic scenes are wonderfully written and I savored them like fine wine. I give kudos to Anastasia Black (pseudonym, real authors' names are Julia Templeton and Tracy Cooper-Posey) for creating a wonderful gem. I look forward to reading Dangerous Beauty, the sequel to Forbidden, based on Natasha's story. I am surprised that Natasha (a young woman Vaughn is forced to have a courtship with in an effort to throw off his father's suspicions) is the protagonist in the next offering. She struck me as a very one-dimensional character and quite underdeveloped at that. Perhaps she will have more depth in the next installment. In the meantime, I recommend this one.