Avon Impulse, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-06-236511-8
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Religious-themed erotica is a weakness of mine. I went to a school run by strict Catholic nuns, and, occasionally, a brother would drop by for some administrative reasons with the principal. While I unfortunately do not naughty stories of that time to share – sadly, in my case, rumors about Catholic schoolgirls are untrue – I suspect that my weakness for men in glasses and, god forbid, clerical collars stem from the fact that some of the most beautiful men I’d come across in my sheltered youth walked that hallway into the principal’s office.
So, when I realize that the hero of Charlotte Stein’s Forbidden is a priest, my heart can’t help beating a little faster. Narrated from the heroine’s first person point of view, Dot is a young woman in her early twenties who have been imprisoned and abused by her mother for, according to her mother, harboring a demon inside her. When Killian, who is three months short of being ordained as a member of the clergy, drops by and finds Dot, he rescues her with full intention of placing her in a sanctuary to heal her wounds – those on her body as well as in her soul. However, Dot may just have some devil in her, as she can’t help wishing to receive a baptism to remember from the handsome Killian.
Now, the erotic nature of a story can be subjective. Some readers may find this a daring story due to the hero’s near-priesthood vocation, and the taboo factor only intensifies the heat factor of the story for them. Me, however, well, as I’ve said, religious-themed erotica is a guilty pleasure of mine. The more blasphemous the sensuality is, the more I feel like I’m Sister Jude, slowly unfastening my hair and shaking my tresses loose as I move over to straddle the Monsignor while a song by a choir of virginal children play in the background, calling for the Father to forgive our sins. This is where Forbidden falls completely flat for me.
Other than his being this close to embarking on a career of guiding the sheep along the path of light, there is nothing about Killian that stands out in any way. Which pulpit does he intend to use to point out how and where and when I have sinned? Why isn’t he on his knees, whispering desperate prayers to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to save him from the randy urging of his throbbing, turgid pee-pee? Where is the anguished, real religious conflict? The Bible is full of erotic lines, and many religious works can resemble a beautiful kind of sensual profanity. Use some of them here, or do something else, anything – right now, Forbidden may have a near-priestly hero, but the religious flavor is noticeably lacking. Seducing an almost-priest should be a blasphemous kind of eroticism, but here, this is basically another typical ho-hum boinky-boink short story with little substance.
The heroine is quite confusing too. She seems a worldly sort, perhaps too worldly for someone reputedly locked up and abused by a crazy mother. Her personality and psychology are curiously superficial when it comes to being influenced by the religious overtones of her upbringing. Like Killian, she could be someone else in this story, and things wouldn’t be drastically different. He could be a married man on a business trip, she could be a battered girlfriend of a violent man needing help, and the story could have progressed the same way because, aside from the sex scenes, every superficial detail in this story feel like wallpaper. The faded and stained wallpaper of the motel room in which our main characters have sex, that is, and we only squint at the wallpaper, wondering what the blurred details could be, when the two on the bed are too tired and need some rest before they resume their carnal activities.
The hero is a priest… and the author seems to stop at that, too timid to go any further. Oh well, too bad. I’m looking for something hot, blasphemous, beautiful; I’m Elsa Mars sensually covering Lana Del Rey’s Gods and Monsters (the uncensored version, please), waiting for Edward Mordrake to come claim my soul even as I whisper:
No one’s gonna take my soul away
I’m living like Jim Morrison
Headed towards a fucked up holiday
Motel sprees sprees and I’m singing:
Fuck yeah, give it to me, this is heaven
What I truly want, is innocence lost
And then into the room comes Redfoo and I can only scream for someone to hand me a gun. That’s basically Forbidden in a nutshell.