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REVIEW: The Forbidden Ferrara by Sarah Morgan

Dear Ms. Morgan:

Secret baby stories are often hard for me to swallow, particularly in this modern day when fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before. Ordinarily, I likely would have set this book aside after the first chapter when it is revealed that the heroine, Fia, has kept her son’s parentage a secret for over three years with her only excuse that the relationship had been a one night stand.

The Forbidden Ferrera Sarah MorganThe Ferrara family and the Baracchi family have been feuding for two generations.  Santos Ferrara, a younger son, and Fia Baracchi shared one explosive and secret night with each other which resulted in the creation of Luca.

Santos reconnects with Fia when he decides that he will win back the property lost to his family two generations ago. He needs Fia’s cooperation, cooperation he stupidly (in my opinion) believes he will be able to obtain despite having a one night stand with her and never speaking to her again.  But this is Santos Ferrara and throughout the book, he is treated as a man who makes no mistakes and thus if someone like Fia would not speak to him it is only because she is a foolish child hanging onto foolish grudges.

While I was perturbed with Fia keeping Luca a secret from Santos, Santos never thought to connect with Fia after their one night stand either. Santos refers to their one encounter as a relationship but from the description, it more resembled an anonymous hookup:

Before tonight they’d never actually spoken. Even during that one turbulent encounter, they hadn’t spoken.

Much of the first half of the book was spent reading the two trade accusations, insults, and assumptions about each other. Santos assuming the worst about Fia’s parenting skills and Fia responding with barbs about his lack of experience with children. Santos is often putting Fia in a position to have to apologize. Santos, of course, is never wrong even when he is wrong. Weirdly, when Santos is incorrect, he never apologizes whereas Fia’s dialogue frequently begins with “I’m sorry.”

Santos assumes that Fia is a bad parent because she grew up in a shitty household.  When Fia explains that she would not want for her son the same childhood that she had, Santos questions how she could have even learned good parenting skills:

And if you know what mine was like then you should also know that I would never want that for my son. I don’t blame you for your concern but you are wrong. I do understand what a family should be. I always have.’

‘How? Where would you learn that? Certainly not in your own home.’ Her home life had been fractured, messy and unbelievably insecure because the Baracchi family didn’t just fight their neighbours, they fought amongst themselves. If family was a boat built to weather stormy seas, then hers was a shipwreck.

Santos even believes that Fia has allowed their son to be abused, at least emotionally, on the basis of his years ago past interaction with Fia.

Sweat beaded on his brow. He could barely allow himself to think about what his son’s life must have been like. What was the long-term impact of being raised in an emotional desert? And what if the abuse hadn’t just been emotional?

Santos doesn’t like that Fia uses nannies.  His aunts and cousins could watch Luca but no stranger and certainly not “paid” help. Interaction with Fia shows Santos that she is a good mother, but no apologies are forthcoming from Santos. His outrage and assumptions are justified.

He just took control, she thought numbly, the way the Ferraras always took control. Not once did he hesitate or fumble.

His insistence that they would be passionate lovers again and that he would make her feel for him made me uncomfortable. Certainly this was a romance book and that may be the end result but at the time he was making these delcarations, Fia had just placed her only relative in the hospital, was reeling from having to face the father of her child, and was doing her best to cope. Telling her that she was going to be naked and under him soon enough sounded like an ominous threat and not a passionate promise.

This book hewed so closely to a pattern of HPs and lacked the originality and freshness other Morgan HPs have brought. I wasn’t surprised at anything that came out of Santos’ mouth because it comprised mostly of him telling Fia what she was going to do, where she was going to do it, and how she was going to feel while doing it. Fia, for her part, lived up to the fragile adjective that was used to repeatedly describe her. She would often jump to conclusions which would necessitate her apologizing. “I’m sorry” was her regular refrain.

At one point, Santos admonishes Fia for appearing angry with him in front of the child. How obvious that Fia would be the one to be angry and not Santos because everything Santos does is either right or with the right intentions. Fia is the flawed one.  By the end, of course, Fia opens up beautifully as Santos predicted she would, under his tutelage and passionate hands, and they live happily ever after.  Blergh.  C-

Best regards,



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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. SR
    May 28, 2012 @ 06:48:03


  2. Tabs
    May 28, 2012 @ 07:02:42

    I usually hate secret baby stories, but I really enjoyed this one.

    I thought the heroine’s actions made sense (and there were more compelling factors behind it than just the one-time monkey sex). I thought Santos’ anger and grumbling was more than justified and I actually thought he didn’t handle it too badly.

    And I actually really liked, for a change, that the hero was the one who mostly had his shit together and the heroine was the one who had issues to work out.

  3. Mandi
    May 28, 2012 @ 07:09:07

    I didn’t mind the secret baby, but I really didn’t like Santos in this one. He was way too domineering and I didn’t understand how Fia could fall for him.

  4. AnimeJune
    May 28, 2012 @ 08:00:34

    I see now why the Ferrera was forbidden – because he’s a jackhole.

    I seriously hate how so often the woman has to be “corrected” in secret baby or fractured family stories. I had to read a Susan Mallery novel (“Sweet Trouble”) where the heroine gets pregnant by the hero, but when her brother-in-law is caught putting the moves on her, everyone blames the heroine because of her slutty party-girl past.

    This includes the hero – when she shows up to tell him she’s pregnant, he calls her a slut, says he doesn’t care if her kid is his, and slams the door in her face. To me, that is a perfectly understandable reason for the heroine to completely wash her hands of him and her relatives.

    Of course, when she comes back with a 5-year-old son, the hero is appalled that she “withheld” her son from him, and that she “intentionally” told him about her pregnancy at a time “when she knew he wouldn’t be in a right frame of mind to believe her” (because SHE’D been so foolish as to have been sexually harassed by her BIL).

    And soon everyone in the entire book is blaming the heroine for being “hasty” and “running away” when she should have just WAITED for the hero to get over his man-tantrum. But I guess that’s just what happens when YOU HAVE A PARTY GIRL PAST. Seriously, the slut-shaming in that book made me want to throw that novel at a wall.

    With the Forbidden Ferrara, the idea of a man storming in and telling a woman how to raise her kids makes me think very unbook- and unwall-friendly thoughts.

  5. cbackson
    May 28, 2012 @ 10:03:41

    There are many buttons this pushes for me, but I’ll just hit on the “paid help” one. Why, why, why must we continue to reinforce this idea that people who happen to share genetic material with a child are, by default, better caretakers than trained professionals?

  6. Barb in Maryland
    May 28, 2012 @ 10:04:15

    Are you absolutely positive that this book came out recently and not in 1979? Because it reads exactly like an Old Skool HP, doormat heroine , alphahole hero, secret baby and all.
    After reading your review I was expecting a much lower grade. What made the book good enough to rate a C- instead of a D or F? Just curious. I doubt I will read it, as my tolerance for Old Skool HPs died some time about 1985.

  7. leslie
    May 28, 2012 @ 16:18:52

    @SR: x10

  8. Kathryn
    May 28, 2012 @ 19:44:02

    I’d give this book a C+. I didn’t dislike this book as much as you did, but did think it was one of Morgan’s weaker books (and definitely weaker than the one about Santos’ brother Cristiano and his wife Laurel–Once a Ferrara Wife.

    The first time I read the book I thought like you that Santos was unrepentant and that Fia did all the apologizing–but rereading the book I realized that Santos does apologize and does recognize that Fia has been a great mother and that her co-workers have created a great environment. The problem is that in this book is that comes way too late after way too much sniping and stupid misunderstandings. The pacing just felt off in this book.

    The book also felt way more undeveloped than some of Morgan’s others. Several times I felt she was doing too much telling and not enough showing. Which is too bad because I think if she had set this up a bit better the whole secret baby thing and the HEA would have been more believable.

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  10. Jinni
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 21:08:51

    Love secret babies, but hate asshole heroes – so this one is off the list.

  11. Alina
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 21:48:19

    I just finished the preceding Ferrara book – Once a Ferrara Wife – and I was considering moving on to this one, but now I’m going to skip it. I have a pecular relationship with HQ Presents books: I feel enraged by the clichéed arrogance of the heroes, but can’t keep myself from buying them whenever a new Sarah Morgan one appears on my radar. Once a Ferrara Wife was actually a pleasant surprise, it had the clichés, but didn’t annoy me at all, I quite liked the way Sarah Morgan fit that plot into the HQ Presents pattern.

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