The Forbidden Lord
by Sabrina Jeffries, historical (1999)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-79748-8


Despite its rather shaky premise, Sabrina Jeffries's The Forbidden Lord is one of the sexiest reads I've come across. Everything seems perfect: the hero's delicious obsession with the heroine, the prim and proper heroine getting seduced by her own masquerade as well as by the hero, and feverishly pitched sexual tension that threatens to burn the pages to a crisp. "Have iced tea at hand" is a clichéd phrase in reviewing sensual romance novels, but that phrase is created for this book, I tell you.

Okay, the plot. Be warned: the premise is quite... bizarre. Emily Fairchild, the vicar's daughter, is approached by her father's patron, Lord Nesfield, and Nesfield's sister the Lady Dundee, for a strange request. Okay, "request" is pushing it a little as Nesfield practically blackmails Emily with the threat of sending her father to jail or worse if she doesn't cooperate. What he wants her to do is to impersonate as Lady Emma Campbell, his niece from Scotland, and mingle around the Ton in London to find out what happened to Nesbitt's daughter Sophie. Sophie has gone missing. Emily, being a Regency heroine and therefore a little on the flakey martyr side, of course has no choice but to go along with the plan.

The trouble is, a few months back, Jordan Blackmore, our hero, mistook her for a widow just as she mistook him for her cousin in a masked ball and they ended up in a carriage where Jordan put the move on her before she realized her mistake. She warded him off by throwing scriptures that punctured his ego in all the right places and he somewhat regretfully let her go, but this is after they shared a kiss. So the fun in The Forbidden Lord starts when Jordan comes across the hoyden flirt Lady Emma Campbell and cannot imagine why Emily Fairchild is acting like that. Emily tries to keep up her masquerade as Emma while driving him off, but he will not be shaken off that easily. He begin stalking her everywhere in town, she begins fighting back with wit and very female ways of distracting a man that she is only beginning to learn, and their sexual attraction pretty much spirals out of control by the later parts of the book. They're both crazy, bless 'em, really.

Let's get the problems in the plot out of the way first. Yes, Emily could have talked to her father and cleared matters up in less than five pages and she doesn't have to go through the whole martyr act. Also, Nesfield's behavior towards his daughter often comes off as truly creepy that I fear there may be unsavory incestuous elements to be revealed at the end of the story. Thankfully, it's nothing as unpleasant as I feared, but I can't help thinking that Nesfield overreacts a little too much at times. Yes, Emily is a martyr and Jordan is a tedious "can't love, won't love, my parents had a sucky marriage, by the way" hero, but as the story progresses, both these people will have their entire simple perspectives in life turned topsy-turvy.

I especially like how Emily discovers the "bad girl" side of her. She is at first appalled at how easy she flirts and plays the men around her, but soon she is reveling in how she keeps Jordan hot and panting after her with his tongue all but rolling along the floor like a red carpet towards her feet. Their many mildly-antagonistic banters are only interludes to a really hot heavy petting scene in a room with a marble statue. And when the consummation comes, oh my! Because these two characters are obviously slowly being driven to extremes by their sexual attraction, the characters' rather stupid actions later in the story can easily be justified, at least to me anyway, because these people are grasping at any excuse to do the nasty. Emily is trying to hold on to her little sweet martyr persona while Jordan insists that he still doesn't want commitment, but they are so in love with each other that it's obvious to all but those two fools. If it takes stupid actions to get them to do the nasty and then finally think straight once their hormones settle down a little, hey, by all means, they can do whatever stupid things they want. I don't care - I'm too busy fanning myself.

The love scenes aren't too explicit but it is the way the author stirs and fires up the sexual chemistry between Emily and Jordan, generously spiced with humorous repartee, that really cause the sexy quotient in this book to break through the roof. Despite the awkward set-up of the story, everything about Jordan and Emily feel right. So sexy, so fun to read and reread, and laugh-out-loud funny at places, The Forbidden Lord is more appropriately a free-for-all laugh-and-sigh romance story to be enjoyed over and over.

Rating: 95


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