REVIEW: My Forbidden Desire by Carolyn Jewel
Dear Ms. Jewel,
It isn’t easy to summarize the plot of your newest book, the paranormal My Forbidden Desire, and doing so necessitates giving away some spoilers for the first book in the series, My Wicked Enemy. That’s because the series is set against a backdrop of a complex battle between paranormal beings known as demons or fiends and humans who possess magic, called mages or witches.
It’s established in both books that centuries ago, fiends sometimes took advantage of normal, “vanilla” humans using their powers, whereupon some humans developed magical abilities that they used to keep the fiends in check. By the time the series begins, though, mages and witches have long been abusing their power over the fiends by killing some of them to increase their own lifespans, and taking others “mageheld,” a practice which allows a powerful mage to control nearly every action of the fiend in his possession.
In the first book in this series, My Wicked Enemy, Xia was one such mageheld fiend. He was controlled by the mage Rasmus Kessler, who commanded him to commit terrible crimes, up to and including murder. Xia could do nothing about that, but now he is free, and wants nothing more than to kill mages and witches in revenge, starting with Rasmus if at all possible.
Alexandrine Marit is Rasmus’s biological daughter, though she was raised by adoptive parents, along with her brother Harsh, who as it turns out (unbeknownst to Alexandrine) is a fiend. Alexandrine possesses some of the magic that her biological father passed on to her, but her magic is mostly stunted and inept, and she is far from powerful.
Alexandrine’s brother Harsh disappeared for years and was presumed dead, and while he was missing, Alexandrine went looking for her biological father and found out his identity at the same time she came into possession of an amulet. She sent off an email to Rasmus, who is an expert on such artifacts, partly hoping for information on the object and partly hoping to rekindle a father-daughter relationship with him.
Not long after that Harsh reappears in Alexandrine’s life, with a warning that she is in danger. Her biological father could care less about her, but he wants the amulet and is willing to kill her for it.
This is where the story begins. Harsh is insistent that Alexandrine needs protection, and he has brought Xia along to act as her bodyguard since he himself must accompany Nikodemus, the warlord he has sworn fealty to, and Carson, Nikodemus’s mate, on an important mission in Paris.
To say that Xia is less than thrilled to learn that he will be protecting a witch, and Rasmus Kessler’s biological daughter at that, is quite an understatement. It was a witch who entrapped Xia and turned him over to Rasmus. But even loathing witches as he does, Xia is determined to protect Alexandrine since he too is sworn to Nikodemus. That’s not to say that he keeps his prejudices against all witches to himself — and of course, Alexandrine doesn’t appreciate his attitude.
Fortunately, Xia and Alexandrine stop sniping at each other long enough to defend their lives when Rasmus’s mageheld fiends attack them, and they begin to see each other with new eyes. Complicating things is the powerful attraction between them, and Alexandrine’s attachment to her amulet, which she compares to Gollum’s attachment to the ring in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Despite the initial animosity between them, Xia and Alexandrine want badly to jump each other’s bones. But Xia isn’t willing to put himself at risk of being taken mageheld ever again, and will only do the deed if Alexandrine agrees to give him total control over her magic while they have sex. Alexandrine thinks Xia is beyond gorgeous, and sympathizes with his needs, but that doesn’t make her willing to be that vulnerable with him.
Eventually, Xia and Alexandrine have to make a getaway, and when they find a safe place, they decide it is time to try to separate Alexandrine from her talisman, which holds the spirit of a murdered fiend within it. That’s when things get even more complicated….
My Forbidden Desire is a sexy, engrossing read, one that I really enjoyed. The action is fast at times but not so fast that there aren’t also some wonderful slower moments in which Xia and Alexandrine become intimate, and I don’t mean just physically.
I could find nits to pick in this book, such as that we are never shown Alexandrine’s reaction to realizing that her brother Harsh is a demon, or that Xia’s past actions in the previous book, which include murder that Rasmus coerced him to commit, are never really dealt with head on. Some of the magical stuff involving Xia and Alexandrine’s abilities is a bit confusing, too. I could also wish for less slang in this book, and in many other paranormals. I don’t find it believable that so many immortal or millennia-old beings speak like eighteen year olds.
But the truth is that I was thoroughly entertained by My Forbidden Desire nonetheless. Xia is an immensely appealing hero, dangerous yet vulnerable at the same time. His “I don’t give a fuck” attitude makes his slow awakening to his feelings of admiration for Alexandrine and ultimately, caring for her, both touching and deliciously sexy.
Alexandrine took a little longer to win me over, since she started the book feeling sorry for herself and trying to lie to Harsh and Xia about her amulet, but I later came to see her through Xia’s eyes and admire all that she had overcome in her past. She undervalued herself more than she should have, in my opinion, and took a little too long to acknowledge Xia’s feelings for her and believe in them, but that made the moment when she realized just how much she meant to Xia wonderfully romantic.
The secondary characters also intrigued me, especially the fiend Kynan and Alexandrine’s friend Maddy, a witch who knows how to use her magic. If there is a book in the works about Maddy, I will definitely look for it when it comes out.
My Forbidden Desire reminded me a bit of the earlier books in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, those in which there was a strong focus on the main couple’s romance. Whereas the first book in your paranormal series, My Wicked Enemy, felt like it was midway between paranormal romance and urban fantasy, this one feels more firmly in the paranormal romance terrain to me. I like the greater focus on the hero and heroine’s relationship. I like a lot of things about this book, and Xia especially. B+.
This book can be purchased in mass market from an independent bookstore. No ebook format.