Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “The forbidden in too alluring. It has a dangerous allure and a compelling magnetism….my sanity will be compromised no matter which road I take. I’m doomed.”
Architect Annie Ryan has never experienced that spark of chemistry that overwhelms you…demanding your full attention. A chance meeting with a charismatic stranger changes everything and Annie has the most explosive and one-night stand of her life. Not expecting to see him again, she is shocked when he and his wife show up at her house warming party and Annie learns he is the contractor on her newest project-Jack Joseph.
Annie finds herself teetering on the edge as she fights between her clawing attraction to Jack and her horror at wanting a married man. Annie tries to keep things strictly professional but Jack refuses to let her back away from their attraction and pursues her relentlessly.
Unable to resist the temptation anymore, Annie falls willingly head first into an illicit affair with Jack and suffers as she tries to deal with the shame, sorrow, pain, and censure that follows.
When Jack’s wife discovers her husband’s infidelity, she decides to teach Annie a lesson on what happens when you take what is forbidden.
The Forbidden is a heavily emotionally driven romance that will appeal to those who enjoy angst, conflict, and some uncomfortable dynamics on the road to their happily ever afters. First off, the blurb isn’t completely forthcoming. Malpas merely informs us this romance is forbidden and the rest is left up to our imagination. Unfortunately, if you aren’t a fan of infidelity, then you might not be happy with the lack of transparency. Infidelity in stories doesn’t bother me. No romance is perfect and we can’t as a unit complain something isn’t being portrayed realistically in stories, then complain when it is. People cheat. People have relationships with other people besides their spouses, partners, and soul mates. It’s an unfortunate part of life.
The story starts out on a strong note; Malpas smoothly sets up the plotline and introduces her protagonists-Annie and Jack-with some humor and intense chemistry. They click instantly and take advantage by enjoying a night of no holds barred wild and explosive sex. The intensity of their attraction scares Annie as she has never felt like this before and she sneaks out, figuring she’ll never see him again. Until she finds out they not only will be working together but he’s married. From that moment, we are caught up in a maelstrom of emotions as Annie flips between her anger at Jack’s duplicity and her shame for still wanting him regardless of his lies and other obligations.
Adulterer. Weak. Immoral. Heartless bitch. My hands meet the edge of the sink and my head drops, unable to face myself. What had I become?
Told completely from Annie’s point of view, readers will instantly commiserate with her. Honest narrative opens Annie up completely to readers with nothing to hide behind. Her horror at being involved in something she considers sordid feels real, as does her attempts and failure to extracte herself from the situation. She tries very hard to resist Jack but he doesn’t make it easy and in the end, it doesn’t matter. The heart wants what the heart wants.
“I’m taking something that doesn’t belong to me.”
I liked Annie overall. She’s a smart, cautious, witty, well adjusted person. She loves her job, her home, and her small, close group of friends. She is content with her life. Malpas takes the time to draw Annie out; making sure we understand that this is not her normal behavior. Jack has caught her up in his web.
I would never have put myself in this situation for anything less than powerful love. The kind that keeps you going. The kind that gives you breath and life. Jack’s my life. He’s my pulse. He’s everything.
I wasn’t that big of a fan of Jack’s. He comes off sexy, intelligent, possessive, and funny with a hint of mystery, just how I like them, but his actions are suspect. We see everything through Annie’s eyes and she is admittedly complicit. His duplicity is made apparent almost right from the start. He is dishonest about his marital state (he doesn’t wear a ring nor are there tans lines to indicate he ever wore one). When Annie calls him out on it, he becomes defensive and indignant. He has an excuse for everything-he’s unhappy in his marriage, he doesn’t wear his ring due to injury, meeting Annie overwhelmed him. I think if we could have heard from his point of view, I might have understood his motivations better but the lack there of definitely hinders our understanding and connection to him.
A considerable amount of time is spent watching the affair evolve. Malpas doesn’t sugar coat it but neither does she dig too deep into it. We see exactly how painful infidelity is for all involved when two people’s wants and desires override everything-their pride, common sense, and integrity. Annie fights her feelings for Jack, then gives in and they have sex. Lather, rinse, repeat. He is her drug and their stolen moments together is her high as they seek to avoid Jack’s wife and Annie’s judgemental friends. When she comes down, which is often, her guilt nearly drowns her and she goes off the deep end, seeking out her friends and alcohol to try and forget. Malpas tries to make the jump from insta lust to love as seamless as possible but doesn’t quite make it. The lust I bought- lock, stock and barrell but I never saw the moment they fall in love so it never really registers. I also never quite shook the feeling that Jack was waiting to cheat on his wife and he made Annie his unknowing partner in crime.
The ending is quite the dramatic affair with Malpas ramping up the tension as everything comes crashing down. Jack is forced to face everything head on and inadvertently places Annie in the directly in the line of fire. I do wish the wife had not been characterized as a stereotypical villain. It’s a painfully obvious plot device to grant this couple absolution. I did like Malpas’ take on spousal abuse as she addresses domestic violence and the reluctance of men to admit to being abused. We see Annie and Jack’s best friend expressing anger towards Jack for not just leaving but how many times have we seen this from an abused wife? Jack shows us what we already know. It’s not easy to just get up and leave an abusive marriage.
Though not one of my favorites of Malpas, there were some aspects that just didn’t work for me, The Forbidden is a well-written and entertaining story that drags you into the complicated romance between two people with surprising ease.