The Forbidden Rose
by Joanna Bourne
Paperback: 400 pages
Available: June 1, 2010
Genre: Historical Romance
Book received from: Penguin
A glittering French aristocrat is on the run, disguised as a British governess. England’s top spy has a score to settle with her family. But as they’re drawn inexorably into the intrigue and madness of Revolutionary Paris, they gamble on a love to which neither of them will admit.
Marguerite de Fleurignac/Maggie Duncan is the leader of a counter-revolution group that smuggles people out of France during the French Revolution, La Flèche. When her home in Normandy is burned to the ground, her fellow counter-revolutionaries are disappearing, and her father vanishes too, she is forced to flee and is left to her own devices to find out who is trying to get rid of her and why. Marguerite is clever, cunning and passionate. She was a character is liked and admired throughout this book.
William Doyle/Guillaume LeBreton is a British spy in France looking for Marguerite’s father because of a list he has (made) with English officers on it who are being assassinated. He doesn’t find the Marquis de Fleurignac but does find his daughter and decides to help her to safety so he can get a step closer to finding her father. William is strong, scarred, smart, sly and sharp. He’s a man of many faces and disguises. I thought he was the perfect match for Marguerite.
The thing, actually two things, which immediately struck me while reading the first few pages, was the beautiful imagery in the writing and how much I instantly liked Marguerite/Maggie as a character. Just from the blurb (I love the spy trope in historical romance) I suspected this book was going to be up my alley, but the first chapter definitely sealed the deal.
In the beginning the pace was a bit slow as there was background information that needed to be told for the plots and a background for her characters to be established, but this never bothered me and soon it picked up in pace when the plot unraveled through scenes that had me glued to the pages and I became more and more invested in the characters and their development. There were several distinctive plots weaved through the romance against the backdrop of the French Revolution and they all came together in the end in a very clever way. Joanna Bourne knows how to combine mystery and suspense, romance and history in a very talented way and I am in awe of both her writing and her plotting skills. The way she subtly and almost unnoticeable offered information and background on her characters was excellent.
There are also a lot of secondary characters, some play bigger parts in the plot than others but the ones who made the biggest impression on me were villain Victor, Marguerite’s cousin, William’s spy apprentice Adrian Hawker (I really hope there’s a book for him in the future) and double spy Justine and her little sister Séverine. All the others were mostly members of La Flèche or the Secret Service. I must admit that sometimes I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of newly introduced names and characters but in the end I was able to keep them all straight.
THE FORBIDDEN ROSE was my first encounter with Joanna Bourne’s work even though I have the two other books in this series, to which this one is a prequel, on my shelves since they were released. I just never got around to reading them. This is something I will have to correct in the very near future because I immensely enjoyed THE FORBIDDEN ROSE. It’s historical romance just the way I like it and in a time-period I love: The French Revolution.
I’ve already mentioned the beautiful writing Joanna Bourne brings to the table; well that also extends to the love scenes. They are exquisitely written, so beautiful and powerful yet they are never really explicit or crude. They were a perfect addition the romance and the writing style. Though I would’ve chosen a different moment and location for a certain scene in the prison. People who’ve read this book will probably know which scene I mean. It was definitely a hot and lovely scene but time and place were a bit off for me, in view of the plot.
Another thing I love in my romance novels is humor and though not the laugh-out-loud humor, which wouldn’t be appropriate, THE FORBIDDEN ROSE contains quite some subtle almost imperceptible humor. The banter between William and Hawker, Hawker’s love/hate with the donkeys and Maggie’s dry sarcastic sense of humor were good examples of the humor I liked in this book.
THE FORBIDDEN ROSE held me captivated from start to finish with an intricate plot and beautiful lyrical writing and Ms. Bourne has definitely captured my attention in the historical romance scene.
Fine pair of breasts she had. White as split almonds. Round as peaches. The nipples peeked out, since the fichu wasn’t doing its job. A pair of dark little roses, pulled up into buds. Tasty looking. And if he got any closer he could put his mouth down and lick them.
That’s going to reassure her–you slavering at her tits.
“Give yourself. You mean lie with me?”
She did not say that she had begun to ache for him at the threshold of her body, between her legs. That he was simple bread to someone who had been hungry for a long time. That he was the shelter of trees to a traveler lost in the freezing rain. That he set her free, for the space of one night.
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