"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
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.
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