A Forbidden Love
by Alexandra Benedict, historical (2006)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-084793-X


A Forbidden Love is the debut effort of Alexandra Benedict. For what it's worth, I'm not too impressed with this story as it is riddled with debut author mistakes, but I am really taken by the author's voice. She has a charming sense of humor and a way with words that I really like.

This one has gypsies, bedside lusting, and plenty of implausible coincidences stemming from a case of mistaken identity. Anthony Kennington, our hero, happens to come across our Gypsy heroine Sabrina Kallos when she is bathing in the stream of his family estate. When she is attacked by a couple of thugs who want to seize a locket that she is wearing, Anthony comes to the rescue and ends up taking the injured woman to his place where the bedside nursing eventually blossoms into full-blown lusting. But can the Viscount Hastings and a mere gypsy find happiness together? Meanwhile, there are plenty of things to keep the lovebirds busy, such as the mystery of a woman who looks exactly like Sabrina and wears a locket identical to hers.

I like how the author has Anthony behaving like a man of his time, which is to say, marriage to a Gypsy doesn't enter his head at all as he tries to get Sabrina to become his mistress. For the most part, Ms Benedict tries to insert some realistic social barriers to the lovebirds' union and I appreciate that. However, the characterization could be better. Sabrina can be quite cringe-inducing as this young lady who behaves like a Gypsy stereotype, complete with feisty pouts and a tendency to spout off hackneyed Gypsy "nuggets of wisdom" that don't ring true. Anthony doesn't really come off as anything more than a typical rake hero with issues. And it doesn't help the author's case that the external conflict is pretty much a pile-up of implausible coincidences and deus ex machina twists that have me scratching my head. The storyline suggests to me that the author has probably become too ambitious with the plot that things sort of go out of her control as a result.

Still, as average as A Forbidden Love is, it remains a most readable story that has me chuckling out loud here and there when I least expect to. Ms Benedict has a strong and infectious storytelling technique that shows even when the story may not be most coherent at times. As strange as it may sounds, A Forbidden Love may not be a great read but it definitely has me intrigued enough to want to find out what this author has to offer in the future.

Rating: 60


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