His Forbidden Kiss
by Margaret Moore, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81335-1

His Forbidden Kiss is a romance that almost drives me nuts. This time around, the author has created a rather sweet couple for the lead. However, while I can accept heroine Vivienne Borroughs' sometimes spoiled, petulant cry-baby act, the hero Robert Harding's self-absorbed self pity is a harder buy.

The story is about Viv who refuses to marry the man her uncle decides for her. She wants, after all, to marry for the big L word. Lurve. So she takes off into the night like a misguided Gothic heroine. Luckily, before she gets robbed or worse in some seedy London district, she encounters solicitor Robert Harding, who convinces her to go home and get a better plan. Perhaps Miss Viv could dig up a really good reason why she wouldn't marry her suitor, and presents it to her uncle.

Robert intervenes because he thinks Viv is going to jump off a bridge. He has lost someone dear this way before (torture #1).

Things go okay the next day, when Robert gets a new client: a wastrel gambling-mad fool who wants a sealtight marriage agreement drawn up so that he will have access to his wife-to-be's money. Robert doesn't like this fellow, but since he was a thief when he was a boy (torture #2) and he will never be worthy of that noble lady he encounters that night (torture #3) and how he has this reputation of infamy and notoriety (torture #4) and how he will never be accepted as a good man (torture #5) and how... et cetera, et cetera, que sera sera, he decides to take up the job.

Guess who the lucky wife-to-be turns out to be.

If Viv can be childish at times, it's because, I think, she's raised that way by her parents and she, after all, is a sheltered woman who is way out her league in trying to sabotage her own wedding-to-be. Hence I can tolerate and even sympathize with her. But Robert's insistence on being not good enough for Viv makes me see red, because he is so in love with the concept that he is a jerk that he actually pushes Viv into a fate he knows she doesn't want. Why? Because he is Not Good Enough and she will be Happier That Way; better she hates him now than repent later, et cetera. I wish I can give this silly buffoon a big, big, big knock in the head with my rolling pin. He can be kind to Viv at times, but his own self-immolation leads to him hurting and confusing Viv unnecessarily. What a loser.

A murder case towards the end provides the obligatory dramatic finish, and by then Roger has thawed a little. I'm sure in a millennium or two he will accept that Viv loves him for who he is, but by then I don't think I care anymore.

His Forbidden Kiss has potential - it is very readable when the hero is not bleating about his inadequacy, but the hero's soap opera ruins my mood considerably.

Rating: 74

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