Forbidden by Nicola Cornick
Margery Mallon is a ladies maid who has served some quite scandalous ladies of the ton and she hopes one day to open her own confectionary shop. Her family consists of three older brothers, two of whom are engaged in questionable business dealings but she loves them and is content with her life. Henry, Lord Wardeaux, is heir to Lord Templemore, which is one of the few titles in Britain that can be passed down through the female line. Twenty years ago a horrible carriage accident left Lord Templemore's daughter dead and his grandfather missing, but a locket has appeared that leads them to suspect that Margery is actually Lady Margaret, Lord Templemore's heir. Henry decides to investigate myself and arranges to meet Margery and even take her out for an evening on the town where he realizes she is someone quite special who he would like to get to know better. Margery is horrified when she discovers who she is and feels as though Henry has lead her on and tricked her. She moves in with her grandfather and finds herself spending more time with Henry, and her new family, then before.
Even though Henry was set to inherit he does not begrudge Margery her newfound fortune and tries to ignore his mother's insinuations that he should marry her to maintain the estate. He agrees to show Margery around the land and introduce her to tenants and accidents begin to happen as an arrow is shot remarkably close to her head and then her bed curtains catch on fire while her door is mysteriously locked. Henry wants to discover what truly happened to Margery and her mother all those years ago and begins to worry that whoever hurt her mother has come back to hurt her. Margery is still confused about her new status and distrustful of Henry after the way they met, but he is convinced that marriage is the right thing for them as he knows that both of them will be happy together and be good for the estate. He is willing to do whatever it takes to convince her of the same, but first he must fend of those who wish to harm her and discover the secrets behind her mother's death.
Like most people I love a rags to riches story and so I was immediately attracted to the premise of a servant elevated to the peerage and this book pulled off that feat in a surprisingly realistic manner. While the murder of a her mother and her kidnapping was a tad melodramatic it was resolved and explained enough that I could believe it, at least in a romance novel world, and I also liked that Margery underwent an adjustment period as she got used to her new life. Margery was independent and strong and I really liked her and the dedication she had towards being an successful woman on her own. I could really empathize with her and truly felt like she was a real person that I would like in real life. Henry was incredibly strong, noble, and self-sacrificing and had a great sense of responsibility towards those important to him. I really liked the way that he treated Margery, even if she did become a little upset about him hiding the truth from her, because it was respectful and he did not go about doing what was best for her in a heavy handed, domineering fashion.
Margery and Henry worked incredibly well together as a couple and I really enjoyed reading about their relationship and watching it progress. They spend a lot of time together, some while she was still a servant, and I liked the wide range of interactions they had in different circumstances. There was not very much sex between them at all and it was towards the very end of the book, but it was pretty hot. Because the rest of their relationship was so fleshed out and completed the sex was really just a nice little bonus. The mystery of what happened to her mother was a wonderful side plot to the book because it was important and worked throughout the book, but it did not detract from the relationship. The resolution was a complete shock to me and served as a nice surprise, but there was a hostage situation that kind of fell back on romance novel staples. Cornick's writing is always spot on; easy to read with a fun, fast pace and previous characters made cameos without overwhelming the main story.
Rating: A very enjoyable romance between two likable and realistic characters who worked so well together with an interesting little mystery to solve.