Reviewed by Helyce
Blurb: When Natalie James leaves her small town for Manhattan, she hopes to find answers to her best friend’s death. Instead, she finds him.
Dark and commanding, Luc radiates power and heat, yet protects sinister secrets. Natalie knows she needs to keep her distance, but despite the danger, she can’t help falling prey to his seductive looks, to his forceful touch. Can’t stop aching for one sinful taste of his wicked lips.
Their desire is wild. Intoxicating. Dangerous. But before she can surrender to the fire smoldering between them, Natalie must discover what Luc’s hiding behind the forbidden doors of the House of Sin…
I just finished this first book in a new series by Elisabeth Naughton. Normally when I have strong feelings about a book, especially at the end, I like to wait a bit and let my thoughts settle, but I struggled with this book all the way through. I persevered because I am a fan of Naughton’s books, especially her earlier paranormals. I admit I lost track of her work when she moved to self publishing, but if a book was brought to my attention I did read/review it. This is the case with Forbidden. I’m sure I read the blurb when the book was offered, but my decision to read came more from my previous love of Naughton’s writing. As I re-read the blurb, I decided to place it here rather than writing my own summary. While there are words within the blurb that might cause you to conclude there would be light bdsm within the story, I didn’t pick up on it. So I was not happy when the story leaned into the realm. But more on that in a bit.
How to begin…let’s start with our heroine, Natalie James. For a seemingly smart young woman, the fact that she was in Manhattan attempting to uncover some hidden information behind her friend’s death was the first thing that didn’t sit well with me. Only 20 something, she’s planning to infiltrate the walls of Covet where her friend Elena was a model to try to find out who the mystery man her friend refers to in the cryptic messages she sent prior to her death. Messages that infer she had fallen into something with a man and was struggling with the loss of control, etc. Natalie is convinced this man is responsible for Elena’s death. Note: The author interchanges “Laney” and “Elena” in the beginning and until I figured out that Laney was perhaps a nickname for Elena I thought they were two different people.
Natalie meets with the head of Covet, Luciano Salvatici, under the ruse of applying for an internship. Thinking she can find the man Elena had spoke of just by being there. Luc is clear that she isn’t a good fit for Covet and sends her on her way. Just outside the building, she meets Giovanni aka Gio, Luc’s brother and a photographer for Covet. He swoops in, gets her talking, and offers her a job as his assistant. Natalie has no experience with photography, but hey-it gets her foot in the doors at Covet, so I’ll play along.
From there, the forbidden and sinister part of the story begins to take shape. Gio takes her to a party where she witnesses an orgy. Gio has laced her drink with something so while she watches him get it on with two other women she’s not appalled, but aroused. Fortunately, Luc is at this party and he rescues Natalie from it before anything can happen to her. He gets her home safely and watches over her. The next morning, Luc returns to her apartment and offers her a job as his assistant telling her that she must be prepared to leave the next day to join him in Italy for a week to attend meetings, etc. for Covet. She jumps at the chance, because Italy!!! And she kinda has the hots for Luc, cause he’s hot and sexy and she kinda likes his slightly dominant nature even though she doesn’t want to. She stands up for herself and says what’s on her mind. And ITALY!
So, here we have a young woman who has ventured into a world she is clueless about and only has her friend’s scary, cryptic messages to go on. She attends a party and has no clue how she got home, but has flashbacks of a man in a mask. She determines she must have been drugged so now Gio is number one on her list of suspects for the man Elena might have been involved with. But instead of packing her bags and getting on the first plane home, she packs her bags and goes to Italy with the brother of the man who drugged her at a party.
Are we approaching TSTL territory? Yea, I think so! But I read on.
I found Luc to be such a conundrum. You know there is some big family secret that he’s dealing with. You know that being at Covet is the very last place he wants to be, but he’s trapped by family obligations that we learn much, much later go back hundreds of years. It’s not the Mafia, it’s worse. I believed that he thought he was doing what was best for Natalie because he wanted to keep her close and safe and away from the clutches of Gio’s grasp. So he takes her to Italy, the freaking birthplace of the Salvatici empire.
Ummm, not very smart.
I will admit that Luc and Natalie do have a believable connection and their scenes are sexy and hot and while Luc is dominant and commanding, Natalie is a willing partner. She’s submissive when she wants to be, but also takes what she wants. She brings something to Luc that he didn’t know he wanted or needed and the first part of their time in Italy is lovely. But it all goes to shit when Luc’s father realizes Luc is in Italy and summons him to Tuscany, where we learn the details of what the Salvaticis and other founding Italian families have been doing for generations.
Throughout the book I was getting the feeling that this was trying to be an erotic or bdsm story, but things just didn’t click. You know that there is something that you’re missing and that’s why Luc’s actions just don’t make sense. If he is worried for Natalie why take her to Italy, and worse, why take her to his family home? While there are elements of bdsm, Luc’s dominating nature and his need for Natalie to submit, their intimacies were not always D/s-ish. It all begins to make a bit of sense when the truth about the Salvatici family is revealed. At the same time, knowing Luc doesn’t want to have anything to do with that part of his family’s dealings, it seemed to clash with him being a dominant needing Natalie’s complete submission, in and out of bed. So, conundrum.
I’ll end with the fact that this story ends with a cliffhanger. Apparently, the series will be a trilogy and the story will pick up in book two, Deceived out May 15 and finally Undone out June 5. I’m not a fan of the cliffhanger, but the fact that the next two books come out relatively quickly soothe the hate for me. I’m also not sure if I want to continue. I liked Luc, but what happens in the end left me cold and feeling deceived, clearly the right title for the follow-up book. Did I read him wrong? Was he really trying to protect Natalie? Again, conundrum.
I’m not sure I’ll continue, but I admit to feeling the need to get to the bottom of this story and learn everything. If I do, I will wait till both book 2 and 3 have released before picking it up again. The writing pulls you through the story in spite of Natalie’s TSTL moments. Italy is described beautifully and you can imagine clearly the castles and villas and places they visit. But, I wasn’t expecting a cliffhanger and I’m kind of angry about that. In spite of it all, I can’t say I totally disliked this story.