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"By giving up his fondest dream, Robert gains his heart's desire"

ONCE FORBIDDEN returns to Dunnedin, Scotland and the McKendimen clan, one year after the time travel visit of Alex MacKendimen and his Maggie (A LOVE THROUGH TIME). Alex's resemblance to Alesander MacKendimen had allowed him to impersonate him for a time. He had been everything the clan had hoped for in their future laird. Sandy's betrothed had found him irresistible. But Alex, having learned what he had been sent to learn, had returned home with the woman he loved, leaving Anice behind to face the true heir's wrath. Sandy was not the man his look-alike had been. He was a vicious, brutal man, enraged by his betrothed's supposed behavior toward the imposter. His father, Laird Struan, had sent him back to England for a year, hoping that his ire would cool with time.

Seventeen year old Lady Anice McNab had been a feisty, willful girl, but that had changed overnight. Her spirit had been crushed out of her on the wedding night she'd once looked forward to with such anticipation. She been used, and beaten nearly to death, by the man to whom she now belonged to for life. Sandy's rage at her supposed sins had only grown stronger over the time he'd been away, and he'd promised her more of the same would be her fate -- until death parted them. Horrified by her condition, Struan had sent his son away once again.

Anice had wanted to die rather than face a life of misery, but then she had discovered that she carried the next heir, and Struan had promised his protection from her husband, until the time her babe was born. She had kept her mind occupied with her duties as chatelaine, a job which had expanded with the illness of the steward, Dougal Mathieson, but allowed no one's touch. As it became clear that the pregnancy would be a difficult one, Struan decided that a new steward must be trained to take over her tasks.

He sends for Robert Mathieson, the man the clan recognizes as the steward's son. Both Struan and Robert know otherwise. It is with mixed emotion that Robert leaves the clan MacKillop, where he'd been sent to foster eight years ago, when his true heritage had been revealed by the Struan's furious wife. Neither his real father nor the man who had raised him had wanted him then. Duncan MacKillop and his wife had treated Robert with the affection, and later with the respect he deserved, making him their castellan. Though a bastard, it had always been Robert's fondest desire to be recognized as Struan's eldest son and heir. It is difficult for him not to entertain a small hope that he will finally be acknowledged.

His hopes are dashed by Struan's cold orders to make his peace with his dying "father" and to take over his responsibilities until a new steward can be trained. Hurt by this rejection, Robert realizes how much he covets what belongs to his brother, his title, his home, .... his wife. If the truth were known HE is the eldest, and much more worthy than the legitimate heir.

Anice is a puzzle. From the first she refuses to answer to her title, and fears the touch of anyone other than her maid, and the village wise woman, Moira (the seer gives the story a touch of the paranormal). It doesn't take long for him to realize the cause of her trepidation, which makes him want her and hate his brother even more.

In spite of Struan's promise, word is received that Sandy' approach is imminent, sending Anice into terror and early labor. The birth goes poorly, and only Robert's intervention spares the life of Anice and her tiny son. Sandy never arrives, and is later found dead in the forest. Anice's has born the next heir, but her feelings of safety are shattered when she is informed that her father has negotiated a new alliance for her. She had been determined never be subject to marriage again.

Having finished what he was brought to do, unacknowledged by his father, and with no hope for a life with Anice, Robert departs for the one place he had ever felt wanted. Following on the heels of the only man she has ever had reason to trust, is Anice, who begs him to find a solution to her plight. He has but one to offer, a marriage in name only. In doing so he would have to forsake any hopes of his birthright, and deceive the woman he loves, just as she is beginning to trust him. The church would never condone the marriage of a man to his brother's wife. But can she trust him enough to accept his offer? Can he handle the repercussions that are sure to come from his father and hers? Can he keep his promise, denying himself a true wife, when ever fiber in his body wants to make Anice his own, and what would she do if she learned the truth about him and his reasons for marrying her?

Never fear, for it is not quite Robert and Anice against the world. Robert has a powerful ally in Laird MacKillop and his wife, who love him like one of their own, and who stand by him through thick and thin. One also gets the feeling that Moira has more than a small hand in directing the outcome (as usual). Even Anice's mother, whose allegiance is to her father in this matter, gives Anice a timely bit of knowledge. But it is Anice's true spirit which at last breaks free to defy her fate, and to stand with the courageous and honorable man who has earned her love.

These characters are remarkable, particularly when one realizes how young they both are. Anice is a mere seventeen, and Robert a little more than twenty three. What they endured and accomplished would have overwhelmed many far older. Neither is perfect. Anice had been imperious and condescending before her marriage and some of this reemerges with her recovery, but her relationship with Robert has made her more introspective and analytical. She thinks more about the results of her behavior. Robert is intrinsically decent, but he has his flaws as well, most of which stem from his jealousy of his brother. He is honest with himself, and feels shame for these feelings. He practices deceit in order to have Anice, but he also gives up what he'd coveted for most of his life, in doing so. In short they are human, humans who have suffered great physical and emotional pain, who survive and find the courage to begin again. They are truly sympathetic.

ONCE FORBIDDEN does not disappoint. True to Ms. Brisbin's previous style, it is a character driven tale which evokes intense emotion from the reader, drawing them into the lives and woes of the hero and heroine, and filling them with elation at their triumphs over adversity.

Copyright 2002

Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted March 20, 2002

SUMMARY

Anice MacNab barely survived her wedding night. The death of her husband forces her to flee a new political alliance, seeking the one man she trusts.

Raised the son of one man, Robert Mathieson discovers he is the son of the MacKendimen laird. Denied recognition and refused his heritage, Robert finds himself drawn into the intrigue surrounding Anice and wanting the one person he cannot have--the woman he loves.

Robert and Anice's newfound love threatens to expose long- buried secrets within the Clan MacKendimen and they must find the strength to fight the darkness that surrounds them. Will love be enough to unite them forever?

 

Once Forbidden
(A Highland Fling Romance / MacKendimen Family)
by Terri Brisbin

Jove
March 1, 2002
ISBN #0515131792
EAN #9780515131796
320 pages
Paperback
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Other Books by
Terri Brisbin

Taming the Highlander
The Maid of Lorne
The Countess Bride
The Norman's Bride
The Dumont Bride
The Queen's Man
A Matter Of Time
A Love Through Time


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