Forbidden Love by Jill Noble

Forbidden Love is an historical anthology edited by Jill Noble featuring four short stories by authors (in order of appearance) Stormy Glenn, H. C. Brown, Anna O’Neill and Aleksandr Voinov.

My Outlaw by Stormy Glenn
After getting injured and losing his horse during a cattle drive, Daniel Branson is ordered to ride the stagecoach back to his home ranch just outside of Brownsville, Texas. Little does he realize that it will put him in the hands of notorious outlaw Black Bart and his posse who take Daniel for ransom. While Daniel should be afraid for his life, all he can think about is getting naked with this handsome outlaw and Black Bart has plans for Daniel that don’t involve holding him for ransom!

Forbidden by H.C. Brown
It is England in the year 1075 and Sir Renoir Danier finds himself in an intolerable situation when he is ordered by King William to marry an elderly Spanish countess Lady Isabella d’Coutier. Five years earlier, he met the great love of his life, Sir Sebastian. This deeply sensual dark angel taught him all that a man could give to another. Renoir became a slave to his erotic punishment. After a month of bliss, Sebastian sailed to Spain leaving Renoir with a shattered heart. A wedding gift from El Cid sees the return of Sebastian to England and the possibility for a second chance for Renoir and his dark angel.

Poisoned Heart by Anna O’Neill
In Edo-period Japan, a prominent family might choose to foster a son from another clan in order to encourage peaceful political relations. When Raiden’s family invites twenty-three year old Masashi into their lives, their gesture has the opposite effect: Masashi kills Raiden’s parents. Now years later Raiden is studying with a master of magic who allows Raiden the chance to go back in time to kill Masashi before Masashi can lift a finger against his family. But when Raiden is faced with his guest-brother once again, much to his horror he finds that his old feelings for Masashi return. With the weight of the future bearing down on Raiden’s shoulders, can he overcome these troublesome emotions, or will his new weakness destroy everything?

Deliverance by Aleksandr Voinov
Deliverance takes us on a journey to Jerusalem during the time of the Crusades. Former professional tournament fighter and mercenary William Raven of Kent has joined the Knights Templar to do penance for his sins. He has pledged his life to God and to the defense of the Christian heartlands. One evening during prayers, the Templars are summonsed to battle in defense of Christian pilgrims who are under attack. As the fighting ensues, William takes notice of a pilgrim who is fighting along side displaying “knightly” skills. It is Guy de Metz his former lover and one true love. Their unexpected reunion brings William face-to-face with a past he thought he’d escaped and one that now threatens to shatter the life he has vowed to God.

As an anthology Forbidden Love offers up an eclectic mix of historical shorts from different periods, geographic locations and cultures, with Poisoned Heart adding a touch of time travel paranormal to the mix. All four stories are about twenty or so pages in length and each is well developed, with some reading as novellas or fuller length stories. They come together under one roof offering the reader a variety of story settings, characters and moods. Their unifying theme is love that is forbidden but cannot be denied. Because they are all so different, the stories can be read in sequence by order of appearance or at random without detracting from the overall theme of the anthology. While I found each of the stories in this compilation to be erotic in its own right, overall, there were some that I enjoyed more than others.

My Outlaw by Stormy Glenn – 3.5 Stars
Some light bondage and outlaw-captive Dom/sub play make My Outlaw by Stormy Glenn an altogether sizzling cowboy tale, and since all is not as it appears, with some interesting twists and surprising turns along the way. The dialogue between Daniel and Bart at times slipped into twenty-first century colloquial expression, in particular during their sex scenes (“I love it when you beg, cowboy. It makes me hot.”), which I felt was out of place in respect of 1880 Texas-speak. However, I was able to overlook this because quite frankly the sex was hot. My Outlaw is one scorching hot cowboy ride with a surprise ending that is quite tender and sweet. A warning though, you may require a cold shower or maybe even a good hosing down of the garden variety after you’ve finished reading.

Forbidden by H.C. Brown – 3 Stars
Forbidden is an erotic tale of knights errant, bondage and submission, lust and love. The plot is well developed and it reads more like a novella rather than a short story. However, some liberties have been taken with historical facts in this story. For example, El Cid is presented as a Spanish monarch, which he never was. Despite this, Renoir and Sebastian’s coming together is deliciously erotic with an equally delicious dark edge and their sex scenes were the best part of the story for me. Also, I found the high jinks quite humorous and amusing, and very reminiscent of “les liaisons dangereuses” as Renoir enlists the help of his former lover Sir James and young groomsman David in a game of musical bedchambers in order to foil the King’s demand that the consummation of his marriage to Lady Isabella be witnessed. For those who seek out historical accuracy in period pieces, there was some license taken with this one. However, those who are more interested in the historical mood the story sets with a focus on the characters and their relationship will enjoy Forbidden.

Poisoned Heart by Anna O’Neill – 4 Stars
Poisoned Heart is well written with an equally well-developed plot and a balanced mix of historical, time travel and paranormal elements. I felt that the writing captured the essence of the Edo-culture, way of life and social nomenclature during this period in Japanese history. What I found most interesting and enjoyed in this story is Raiden’s rich point of view, in particular his inner turmoil with on the one hand, his insistent hatred of Masashi and thirst for revenge for the murder of his parents, and on the other, his lust and love for his guest-brother. The coming together of Raidan and Masashi happens at the end of the story, and the manner in which the story itself ends took me completely by surprise but in a good way. While some readers may wish for a different turn of events, I thought it was quite daring and very clever of the author to end the story as she did. Rating – 4 Star Rating

Deliverance by Aleksandr Voinov – 4.5 Stars
Deliverance is by far the most developed of the stories in terms of both plot and characterization. It is also the best researched and written. I found this story and its characters most compelling and it is my favorite in this anthology. The historical events are accurate and the beliefs, customs, dress and manner of speak of the Knights Templar are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the story to the point that the transfer of historical information is accomplished almost through nuance, never breaking the story’s rhythm or flow. For those who are familiar with Voinov’s previous works (he also writes under the pen name of Vashtan) you will recognize this penchant for historical accuracy sans “information dump” as a personal standard of this author, regardless of the nature or length of the story, its setting, characters or time period in which it takes place. Another staple of Voinov’s style is his ability to write characters that are so multidimensional and complex that they blur the lines between fiction and reality. The author achieves this mainly through the writing of personal introspection that is so intimate the reader often feels that they have crawled inside the character’s head and dialogue in which one word or phrase carries with it volumes in meaning. Voinov achieves all of this in his writing of the story of William and Guy, who are fierce characters that live and love very hard. In this sense, Deliverance screams of the possibility of a future epic novel and love story. I hope Voinov will write about these two compelling characters again as their full story is just begging to be told.

Forbidden Love by editor Jill Noble is available at Noble Romance Publishing.

NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.

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