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REVIEW: Fortune’s Forbidden Woman by Heidi Betts

Dear Ms. Betts:

Fortune\'s Forbidden Woman (Silhouette Desire)I have been gaining newfound respect for category authors of late and when I saw that your book, Fortune’s Forbidden Woman, was selling like hotcakes I thought I better see what the fuss was about. After all, Keishon had very good luck with buying one of the e-Harlequin bestselling titles’ Billionaire’s Bidding by Barbara Dunlop. I had determined, prior to reading this book, that perhaps the cringe-worthy titles of the Harlequin/Silhouette Categories were the only thing that were bad about these books. Alas, Fortune’s Forbidden Women is one of those stereotypical romances that give fodder to its critics and provide no footing for its supporters. In fact, my head hurts from all the desk banging that went on during the reading of this book. (I had to give up throwing my e-reader around whenever I was unhappy with a book).

Maya Blackstone is a 25 year old virgin who has been dating a very nice young man for over a year. While she sometimes has some physical feelings toward Brad and actually leads him to believe that he is going to get lucky, she finds that she cannot bring herself to actually consummate their relationship. In fact, she becomes quite fearful and panicky when the two of them become close hinting at some type of terrible sexual experience in her early years.

Her stomach clenched, but not with desire. Nerves flared to life in her bloodstream, her muscles growing tense, her breathing growing labored as panic set in.

Since the origin of her sexual dysfunction is revealed in the first chapter, I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to talk about it here. After your lead up, what do I find to be the cause of her intimacy problems? Her fear? Her panic? Well, apparently, her stepbrother caught her in the arms of some teen punk and lashed out at her, calling her a slut. And this is the reason that she cannot be intimate with her boyfriend of over 1 year and why, at the age of 25, she is still a virgin.

"This is all your fault. You've ruined my chances of ever having a normal relationship with a man, ever sleeping with a man. You blamed a seventeen-year-old girl for being attacked by her boyfriend and called me a slut. You're the reason I can't have a normal relationship, and I hate you for that!–?

Seriously. The heroine sounds like she is still 17. Melodramatic and immature. Creed isn’t much better.

Creed Fortune has had the hots for his stepsister since before it was really age appropriate and he doesn’t believe it is appropriate now. So of course, he treats her like crap because he cannot give in to his FORBIDDEN feelings. You really made sure that I understood that he believed it was forbidden and because it was forbidden, he immediately goes over to Maya’s house and impales her with his FORBIDDEN stick which she completely welcomes despite her previous panic attacks at being intimate. And then he leaves her with this classic line:

"Why would I stay? Now that I've gotten you out of my system, I can leave you alone. Get on with my life.”

While ostensibly Maya is all hurt by Creed’s callous attitude, it doesn’t stop her from dropping her drawers whenever he snaps his fingers. Further, Maya doesn’t have decency to let Brad know that she is playing the bonefish grill with Creed, several times. In fact, Brad conveniently disappears for the remainder of the book until Maya, at the end, gives him his walking papers without telling him that she had been cheating on him non stop since the aborted attempt to make love.

She'd been dating Brad for nearly a year, growing closer by the week. She even thought they might have eventually ended up walking down the aisle. Even so, when it came to moving past first or second base, she'd kept him at arm's length.

But the minute Creed looked at her with so much as a hint of passion in his shadowy blue eyes, she'd fallen into bed with him faster than he could say "pretty please.–?

There is some character arc for Maya that doesn’t include being a sneak and a cheater and that is that she never felt comfortable being part of the Fortune family even though her mother was the love of papa Fortune’s life. The external plot force was that Maya’s mother disappeared 3 weeks before and hasn’t been seen since. I found this to be lacking in authenticity since Maya seemed fairly unconcerned about it.

Creed is given the main characteristics of the romance alpha male. He’s rich and full of angst over his FORBIDDEN love. And that was about it. His big character arc was getting over the idea that this love was FORBIDDEN because after all, as many characters tell him, the two have no BLOOD connection despite being raised as brother and sister and so this is no FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.

All the previous couples in the series make an appearance in different stages of pregnancy because love is fertility, baby. I am sure that you are a better writer than what is in this book, but I could not find one positive to thing to say about it. D.

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. katieM
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 15:04:23

    I read this book and I thought it was a reprint from the early 80’s. Maya was such a stupid one-dimensional woman. Her mother was stupid and one-dimensional, her stepfather was stupid and one-dimensional and every other character who made an appearance was less than one dimensional. I read the book and promptly threw it away. To make matters worse, at one point, the character was called by the wrong name! Bad editing, terrible plot, and pointless story made for a very unsatisfying book!


  2. Wendy
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 16:36:33

    “All the previous couples in the series make an appearance in different stages of pregnancy because love is fertility, baby.”

    *snort! Awesome!

  3. Rosario
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 17:34:33

    Oh, yeah. And the “FORBIDDEN stick” is even more awesome!

  4. Ann Bruce
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 17:53:33

    the “FORBIDDEN stick�

    Isn’t there a rule book somewhere that’s banned this? This kind of stuff makes me cringe and remember why I usually hide my reading material in public.

  5. Devon
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 20:17:59

    I ran to the bookstore for this one, such a sucker am I for the stepsiblings in FORBIDDEN love plot. I pretty much agree with everything you said. Didn’t like Maya or Creed all that much, but somehow this worked for me. I dug it.

    “The bonefish grill”? Awesome.

  6. Estelle
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 03:13:04

    Oh boy, I’m such a lemming that I bought this book when I heard all the buzz about it.

    I’m still amazed that I managed to finish it. It’s a ‘watching a trainwreck with horrified fascination’ kind of book.

    You know, to me it actually didn’t even feel like a reprint from the 70s-80s. Most of the Harlequins I read from that period were miles above that book. At one point I thought it might have been a spoof. But that Harlequin line doesn’t do spoof.

    I agree with all the things you said Jane. But what got to me the most was not Creed with his forbidden lust (no way I’ll call it love) and forbidden stick thing but the way Maya was always devasted after each encounter but kept dropping her panties in the blink of an eye any time Creed so much as glanced her way. Seriously, I lsot count of how many times that happened.

    I do so miss the 70s-80s crop of Harlequin books. The heroes were all tall, dark, handsome, rich and overbearing but at least we weren’t subjected to the seriously underwhelming trip through their mind since we only got the heroine’s point of view. The Harlequin line worked much better that way IMO. And I seem to remember the heroine had more pride usually, often leaving in a snit because they thought they’d been slighted or thrown over. Then the hero came charging in to bring her back ‘where she belonged’. Campy and over the top but somehow much more satisfying that what we get in Harlequin books these days.

    What’s frustrating though is that, sometimes, you come across some little gems (such as Into Temptation by Jeanie London which I recently read or Secret Admirer by Susan Napier). So I always feel obligated to ‘keep looking’, hoping to find one such gem.

  7. Sybil
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 05:06:40

    I have a post to finish up about this book cuz it worries me. le sigh…

    oh but first… Estelle where did you here ‘buzz’ about this book? Was it THIS book, the series or just hearing about Betts in general? I have been curious as to WHY this one seems to sell so well. Because man talk about a book you DON’T want to be your introduction to the masses.

    I love Heidi Betts like a fat kid loves cake (tm karens). And I really think she found her feet in the Desire line. I am not certain if this is the last one until her St Martin’s books or not although she has an novella in a HQN antho this month.

    But man if this is her last one… that so sucks.

    She has done eight Desires and none have been this bad. In fact I can’t recall the last Desire I read that was this bad of a book. I don’t know if it sold so well because her other books have been great and in fact the last one (horrid title aside) was one of her best, if the Dakota Fortunes series is that popular or if it is the ‘forbidden’ stepsibling plot.

    All I know is if you have never read Heidi Betts, don’t toss her aside based on this book. If you haven’t read a Desire in a while, don’t toss the line because really they have gotten better and more interesting as of late.

    This book… not so much. It is the worst Betts I have read and up there with the worst Desire. It is prolly a good thing she is moving because really I would say her first four Desires: Bought by a Millionaire, Blame It on the Blackout, When the Lights Go Down and Seven-Year Seduction were her all good A- to C+ range. Her last four, except for Blackmailed into Bed which was the best, are more to C- to F.

    I am curious as to why you gave it a D, if you couldn’t find anything positive to say. I still can’t decide my grade.

  8. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 05:36:39

    I’m curious about the D grad too, oh blogging buddy. I’d’ve thought this one would be an F.

  9. Keishon
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 05:49:02

    I didn’t purchase this one – was tempted but, I didn’t. Instead, I bought a baby book by Lynn Graham that’s selling like hotcakes over there now.

  10. Jane
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 06:01:45

    I wavered between a D and an F but in the end thought it wasnt as bad as Ben’s wildflower et al.

  11. Gennita Low
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 06:52:47

    I may be wrong but isn’t Fortune a reference to a family of books (and I mean a long series with Fortune in the front of the title)? I recall (vaguely) that the first set of Fortune books in the last decade (?) which were really popular, and talked about in forums, and I probably read a number of them. The saga continued in another Fortune series (you know, to the cousins and children, etc).

    Is this Fortune book connected to that series? If so, there might be many readers who bought it to make a set, like buying every book that’s connected to the Mallory family (Johanna Lindsay) or MacGregors (Nora Roberts, when she used to write for H/S).

    I know that I make extra trips to the Walmart to pick up Merline Lovelace’s “Code Name Danger” books whenever she comes out with one. She started that in 1995! And I don’t really read that many categories these days, but Code Name books? Must. Own. Don’t know why, since a few of them are in my TBR. I think it’s from my love of the first set of the “Code Name Danger” books, which were so good.

  12. Lettetia
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 08:00:49

    Oy! I’m gald I haven’t bought this one. I think I will just pass it by.

    Too many great books out there waiting for me to read them without having to settle for a “stinker”.

    Thanks, ladies, for the “heads-up”!

  13. Estelle
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 09:02:52

    Sybil, I saw this book featured on several pages over the internet. It’s not the same kind of huge buzz that, say, JR Ward got after Dark Lover was published but, for a Harlequin book, it was surprising so I went ahead and bought it after reading some positive comments and reviews about Betts’ work in general.

    I actually also bought Blackmailed Into Bed. I thought it was much better than FFW but I gave it an unremarkable C-.

    I think it’s just that modern Harlequins don’t do anything for me.When I say modern I mean the books they’ve published since the mid 1990s. They’ve changed so radically from what they used to be–and I don’t only mean the abysmal titles we get nowadays. I know society has changed and evolved but, to me, most of the new Harlequin books don’t reflect that change in a positive way. A shame too.

    I’ll just keep collecting the vintage harlequins from the 70s-80s, I think. There are some gems there and even the worst ones are campy enough to make me laugh instead of making me want to throw them against the wall.

  14. Ann Aguirre
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 09:47:11

    Estelle said:

    There are some gems there and even the worst ones are campy enough to make me laugh instead of making me want to throw them against the wall.

    Man, I totally agree. I loved me some Anne Mather and Violet Winspear. I would love to re-read this one, but I can’t remember title or author. It was set in Australia (or maybe New Zealand?). The heroine has come back after being away at university. The hero is her uber-alpha stepbrother, and he had a super weird name like Kano, or something stranger than that even. She brings a boy home with her, which really causes some trouble. Damn, if I could remember the name, I would so buy it.

  15. Casee
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 10:24:02

    The FORBIDDEN stick? LMAO. I love that!

  16. Barbara B.
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 10:57:18

    Annie, would that be a book by Robyn Donald?

  17. Estelle
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 12:01:10

    IIRC most of Robyn Donald’s books are set down under so you may very well be on to something there Barbara.

    There are only a few Harlequin authors who set their books in Australia or New Zealand and I’m sure it would be possible to track your book down like this Ann. Helen Bianchin is another author who writes Down Under books

    It sounds like a book I’d like to read!.

  18. Ann Bruce
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 12:53:58

    author who writes Down Under books

    Susan Napier usually does New Zealand, but she occasionally does Australia. And all her books are exceptional.

  19. Read for Pleasure
    Sep 20, 2007 @ 09:13:34

    Sexual health and romance novels

    The 9/24 issue of Macleans takes a slightly startled look at women’s sexual health in Harlequin romance novels.The article discusses several recent novels that tackle sexual violence and sexual health…

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