Forbidden Garden
by Tracy Fobes, historical/paranormal (2000)
Sonnet, $6.50, ISBN 0-671-04173-8

My husband wants to inform everybody that he likes Forbidden Garden. About time someone write about botanists as romantic people, he says. He also loves the horror movie undertones of this romance. "Solid stuff! Grade A material!" he says, giving Forbidden Garden his enthusiastic thumbs up.

I have to agree, although I must add that I really enjoyed Forbidden Garden but I do wish the characters are a little bit more memorable. As it is, I can hardly recall their names, much less their personalities. This is a story where their paranormal powers upstage their personalities completely, I'm afraid.

Anne Sherwood is an illustrator in the Kew Gardens, drawing plants for the researchers. She is irritated and annoyed, however, because the stuffy old coots never take her seriously and has the temerity to say that she must have passed off her late hubby's works as her own. When Lord Connock invites her to his mansion in Ireland to study and draw his rare species of plants for her, she gratefully accepts. Here is a chance to prove her skills.

She catches the attention of plant collector for Connock and explorer Michael McEvoy when she warns the people in the local inn that the oak outside would eventually collapse onto them. You see, Anne is not only good with her botany studies, she can actually see plant auras.

And Anne realizes that the plants around Glendale Hall is terrified and in pain. Connock is playing with some nasty genetic manipulations in his labs. You know what happens when man messes with Momma Nature, don't you?

At first glance, Michael and Anne are wonderful characters. I especially adore Michael who has gone through harsh and hard times but still retains his good humor. But he and Anne are nothing more than stock characters, really, somewhat two-dimensional characters ubiquitous in horror movies: the noble, courageous, and daring hero and the feisty, spirited heroine. Little else is delved, hence they aren't very memorable.

But oh, the story! It's fun and nerve-chilling. In fact, after a while I start to feel impatient with the quiet moments between Michael and Anne. Get on with the good stuff! I wanted to say. Bring on the walking, dancing trees! (Okay, there aren't any dancing trees in Forbidden Garden.)

Hence, I adore Forbidden Garden, but more of a story reminiscent of those foggy, dark horror movies directed by Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, or Wes Craven. A convincing romance with great chemistry between the leads and great love scenes making this an all-round entertaining fun. If only the characters aren't so predictable, it may have scored higher, but still, as it is, Forbidden Garden is simply fine.

Rating: 84

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