“Returning were as tedious as going o’er,” says Macbeth, pondering whether to stop or continue his murdering path. Worry not, Miss Bates hasn’t turned bloodthirsty murderess, but Macbeth’s resigned despair echoed her feelings at the half-way point of reading Anne Mather’s A Forbidden Temptation. Never had an HP showed so much promise, nor had such a fall as Mather’s nutty Forbidden Temptation.
Hero Jack Connelly, of Kilpheny, Ireland, is settled in Rothburn on the Northumbrian coast. Two years have passed since his wife’s death in a car crash. Jack is an architect whose money allowed him to renovate a house on this beautiful coastline and the leisure time to enjoy it and heal from Lisa’s death. Except Lisa won’t leave him alone. Reminiscent of a rueful, less emotionally-invested Truly, Madly, Deeply, Lisa’s “pale ethereal figure” appears to Jack, chats with him, advises and provokes him. Wow, thought Miss Bates, this is unlike ANY HP ever. Always on the rom-reader look-out for new and original, MissB settled in to what she thought would be a fabulous read. Wait, where be our heroine? She arrives in the form of one sullen Grace Spencer, former London-based lawyer, now realtor and part-time bartender at her parents’ pub. Sean Nesbitt, Jack’s old university pal, arrives with Grace in his silver Mercedes. Sean is Grace’s boyfriend; while visiting her, Sean thought he’d drop in on his old pal Jack.
Jack and Grace’s relationship from this initial non-meet-cute to the HEA is convoluted and disjointed. Jack believes Sean and Grace are a thing. Grace and Sean were a thing, but Grace is pretending they are because she foolishly hopes she can manage to get back money her parents invested in Sean’s “website” scheme. Miss Bates hoped the whole Sean storyline would die a quiet HP death … so we can get to the good stuff! Banter, attraction, lusty tension, the hero’s money buying a fashion makeover for the heroine! Um, no, this smelly narrative fish lingered and lingered and lingered. It expired way too late in the novel’s last chapter.
In the meanwhile, Jack and Grace alternate lust and peevishness. They want to kiss: oh, but Jack can’t ’cause Sean used to be a buddy-roo; oh, but Grace can’t ’cause she has to pretend she’s with Sean to get that investment money back. Poor Grace is dumb as rock, thought Miss Bates. She knew Sean was a two-timing asshat, swindler, and pathological liar … and yet, she persisted in her cockamamie strategy. For a girl who got through law school and the bar, or whatever they call it in England, she was quite the doofette! Jack doesn’t fare any better in the brainiac-not realm: though he realizes the same things regarding Sean, he invests thousands of pounds in Sean’s schemes. Sean is oily and smarmy and neither of these nincompoops call him on it.
Although Sean is supposed to be hot and principled and Grace is supposedly true to Sean (though secretly not, or whatever), they keep falling into hot clutches and sucking face. Other than A Forbidden Temptation‘s many narrative sins, it also contains some of the yuckiest love scene diction Miss Bates has ever read. A mere soupçon will give you more than you’d wish to envision, dear reader. Um, Jack’s finally achieving the wild thing with Grace feels like “hot wet nirvana”. The Buddha would NOT be pleased. Bleh. Grace’s moment of Jack-ecstasy reads like a hand-book on purply prose, sorry, cosmic/epic purply prose: “Her mind went dizzy with visions of spinning out across an endless ocean of riding on angels’ wings, heading irresistibly towards the sun.” Snort. Guffaw. Miss Bates yearned to spin right out of this hot mess of a romance novel. So much promise turned into so much dross. With her long-suffering reading sidekick, Miss Austen, Miss Bates says Mather’s Forbidden Temptation contains “rubs and disappointments everywhere,” Mansfield Park.
Anne Mather’s A Forbidden Temptation is published by Harlequin Books. It was released on February 23rd and may be found at your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley.