Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-24803-6
Historical Romance, 2015
Forbidden to the Duke has a story that revolves around the heroine being an overbearing know-it-all. Stories fueled by the heroine’s personality in place of plot need to have a compelling heroine, but Bellona Cherroll makes me want to strangle her by the time the book reaches its quarter-way point, and by the time the book plods to its final third, I sincerely and deeply regret that I don’t have superpowers to reach inside the book and strangle the heroine before slamming her head against the wall a dozen or two more times for good measure.
Bellona is Greek, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell everyone and anyone who would listen that she is full of Greek pride and English culture is beneath her. Her sister is married to an earl, but that doesn’t stop Bellona from arming herself with a crossbow and entering the neighbor’s land to terrorize the folks that are allowed to legally hunt the grounds. Why? Because the rabbits are threatened, and Bellona can’t stand for that. Maybe she sheds tears for those dead rabbits that ended up food for heartless humans as she dines on her own meat dishes every meal. Also, she insists that all land is free for all – although, she’s clearly not applying the same rule to bunny-killing scumbags – so she should be allowed to come and go as she wishes. When she is caught by the Duke of Rolleston’s gamekeeper at the start of the story and she is allowed to go free by the Duke – whose name is Rhys Harling, and he’s our hero – she draws her knife at him, because she’s so cool and feisty like that, and I believe I’m supposed to root for her because of this.
Also, she tells people what they should think or feel. She tells people also what other people are thinking inside their heads, because she knows, people. She’s Greek, and I suppose they can all read minds and hearts or something. Captain Planet and Magneto are all Greeks, right? You have an idea to share with her? Please, she has no time for that – just listen to what she thinks instead. Oh, someone has a problem? Well, clearly it’s because they have done something wrong – and she will make sure that they know it. A duchess has children problems, and she claims that she has hired the best nursemaids for her kids? Clearly, that’s not enough, and Bellona has no problems telling her – a duchess – that she’s wrong and she could have done better.
For the rest of the story, she basically lumbers around pointing out how everyone and everything is inferior or wrong, and that she knows all the answers to the biggest problems in the universe. Someone is sick? She must see them, and work her Greek Healing Jesus Magic Powers! Someone has a problem? Let her share how the Greeks do things the right way! And, of course, she will always know and tell you when you are wrong, wrong, wrong. She will also put out to Rhys – “forbidden to the Duke”, oh please – like the independent, intelligent, unbridled Grecian Pocahontas that she is – although the only colors of her wind would be the stains on her undies when she passes gas, if you ask me – but she will never marry him because, you know, he doesn’t spell out that he loves her in bright neon lights. It as if the author has taken every annoying trait in a heroine, blends them together, and tops up the resulting aberration with an extra helping of obnoxious sauce.
Now, I’m not normally a vicious person – don’t snort, please – but Forbidden to the Duke has me wishing desperately for the guys behind the Mortal Kombat games to release Bellona as a DLC character. Damn it, I’d buy the game and the DLC when that happens, and I’d then do Kung Lao’s fatality on Bellona with glee. And then I will do Kenshi’s fatality on her. And Kitana’s. And Cassie’s. And I’d tape everything and put them up on YouTube and Vimeo.
Please make it happen, NetherRealm Studios – it is only the right thing to do.