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REVIEW: Forbidden by Helen Kirkman

Cover of Forbidden

Dear Ms. Kirkman:

I wanted to like this book. Honest. A good friend of mine thought it was the bomb. Plus you have kick ass covers. And by kick ass, I mean, who at Harlequin’s art department are you boffing because your covers, unlike the book itself, are truly the bomb. If I were to judge a book by its cover, you would be getting an A. If I were to judge a book by its blurb, it would be an A. Unfortunately for both of us, I actually read the book. You are not getting an A. Just thought I would tell you that right up front so there isn’t any suspense.

The plot is thus. Rowena is at the market and sees a slave, Wulf. He is strong and gorgeous and she buys him because he can do something for her that no one else can (and yes, I have a dirty mind so I thought that something was sexual). Alas, it is not sexual. Rowena wants the slave to steal documents from the Reeve because she believes the Reeve is dishonest and caused her father to be killed. Wulf sees something in Rowena that keeps him to her task even though it would be simple to flee. Hijinks ensue. HEA.

You have an extremely different writing voice. You like to talk around things and you take a hundred and five words to do it. Half the time I had no idea what was going on. I know I am not the brightest bulb in the chandelier but I can actually read. Even when I read every paragraph three times over I wasn’t sure what happened. It is as if I was reading with a veil over my eyes that was obscuring the words and making me miss key points. When I re-read, however, those key points were non existant. Yes, you did reveal the true circumstance maybe one or two pages later but for many moments in the book, I was lost and confused.

Perhaps I can give you an example:

She had done that. The disdainful, overproud thrall was not inviolate to what she did at all. So her shaking hand reached back and touched him, in wonder, this time. Her fingers moved over the smooth flesh then– caressed it, and the bunched muscles moved with her touch. The longing dragged claws through her heart and she knew it was doomed. Because it would never be satisfied with less than what it truly desired: trust.

Her hand buried itself under the weight of the stranger’s hair; her face buried itself in his neck. Even though she knew it was pointless. She couldn’t stop herself. She felt the slight movement of his head, not away from her, but towards her.

The cruelty of that slight movement took her breath and the longing clawed its useless way through her heart. It made her know just how deeply she craved the man’s warmth and all the comfort his formidable strength might bestow. If she could just rest in that for one moment, feel that unconscious strength take just some of the weight pressing on her heart, the way it had taken all of the weight of her body.

She shut her eyes. It was false, what she did, as false as anything that had happened to her in her life. If was for the weak and for dreamers. She had trusted the enticement of its promises like the child Eadward had likened her to. Never again.

She must take care. She must see things as they were. She took a steadying breath but that only made her inhale the scent of the slave’s oiled skin, the beguiling scent released by his warmth–"dark, full of foreign spices, and under it the scent of him. Man. Clean heat and the promise of such power as would ravish the senses, just as it had done in the marketplace.

This description goes on for about 2 more pages until there is finally dialogue. I might be exaggerating here, but I think there were only about 20 lines of dialogue in the entire book. Then there is your Schone and Lauren’s like habit of the five sentence paragraph.

Very annoying.

It is hard to read.

Is this prose or poetry?

Your rhythm…iambic pentameter it is not.

She would want to flay him when she woke in the morning and found her thrall taking his ease in her bed.

She would be mortified.

She would have to stew in it.

She would wonder. And she would not like it.

There was something in the bed.

How odd.

Rowena could not remember it being there last night. On reflection, she could not remember anything about last night.

She was ale-sick. She had the worst hangover in the world.

Except– she could not even remember drinking that much.

But your worst transgression is that you have a whiny heroine who is constantly saying to the hero, “I am worthless”, just to hear the hero expound on her worth. And you have the heroine acting like a raging bitch, betraying Wulf again and again for no good reason other than because she feels “worthless.” This is all so disappointing. D for you.

Best regards,


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jayne
    Apr 16, 2006 @ 04:27:58

    Having read two Kirkman books myself, including this one, I would tend to agree with the wordiness claim. Kirkman seems to take forever to set her stories up and it’s usually not until well into the story that we actually see some action.
    Up until then, we get talked and descriptioned to death. I tried to start her latest book but frankly got bored 3 chapters into it. Talk, talk, talk, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. Pages of nothing.

  2. Keishon
    Apr 16, 2006 @ 10:25:15

    I like her covers. Never was curious enough to read it, tho.

  3. Keeton Romance Novels
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 16:10:07

    Looks like I won’t be reading this author. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Ella
    Apr 23, 2008 @ 17:53:23

    Darn. I was going to read it. But now, maybe not. I saw the cover in the back of a book and thought, Wow. I, too, have a (very) dirty mind. But it sounds like crap. Ah well.

  5. leah
    May 16, 2008 @ 18:30:29

    Reading Forbidden was a real treat for me, especially after reading three other romance novels that were completely horrible. A friend recommended the book to me and I fell in love with the cover as many people before me had. I felt Helen Kirkman's story was quite refreshing and I admired Helen's writing of â”more plot less sex” style. I actually liked knowing what the characters were thinking. It made the book that much more captivating for me and I read the entire novel over a two day period in the working week, then turned right around only to read it again. I agree that the book was a bit wordy and I also felt the ending was rushed. A contradiction compared to the rest of the story that took its time and reminded the reader of what was going on. Other than that I felt Forbidden was a wonderful read especially to those out there who adore history and time pieces like I do. If sex is something that you want in a book there is a wonderful genre called erotica. I recommend Maxim's Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. A collection of short stories all sexually saturated if that is what you want. But for those who like romance I really feel you got a winner with Helen Kirkman. She dives into the most intimate thoughts of her characters to create the best kind of sex there can be for a woman. Sex of the mind. Seduction. Yes there is sex in Forbidden but it is not the main focus of the story and I think that is what a true romance novel is all about.

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