After bearing witness to his parents' disastrous union, Jordan Willis, the Earl of Blackmore, has no desire to give his heart to a woman. He's seduced many high society ladies looking for a fun time, but worried that he might get roped into a marriage he doesn't want, he never toys with innocents. That all changes one night at a masquerade ball, where a case of mistaken identity leads to the most passionate and memorable kiss of his life with none other than sweet, minister's daughter Emily Fairchild. For two months, he's tried to put her out of his mind, but then she suddenly appears again, this time claiming to be Lady Emma Campbell. Jordan is all but certain that she's lying, but he has no idea why and is determined to find out. When Emily can no longer deny her true identity and offers her body in exchange for his silence, Jordan knows something serious must be amiss, and he sets about trying to determine what it is and free her from the hold her friend's father has over her. Each encounter with Emily connects Jordan to her more deeply, but if he can save her from the threat of prison or worse, will he ever be able to admit his feelings for her?
Accidentally mistaking Jordan for her cousin at the masquerade ball, Emily Fairchild finds herself alone with him in a carriage, which leads to a scorching kiss she's never been able to forget. After her best friend was caught trying to elope with a mysterious man, her friend's father, Lord Nesfield, demands that Emily help him find out who the young man in question is. Lord Nesfield knows things about her own mother's death that no one else does and threatens to use this knowledge to unjustly imprison Emily, or worse, send her to the hangman's noose if she doesn't help. With such a dire threat hanging over her head, she has little recourse but to comply with his wishes. She takes on the guise of Lady Emma, the daughter of Lord Nesfield's sister, so that she can infiltrate society functions and suss out the culprit. A chance reunion with Jordan, though, leaves her wishing she could tell him the truth, but fearing that it would lead to disastrous consequences. The more time she spends with him, though, the more she begins to fall for him. But even if she can get out of her predicament, can she ever truly be with someone who seems so determined never to fall in love with her?
The Forbidden Lord is the second book in Sabrina Jeffries' Lord Trilogy. Jordan, the stepbrother of the heroine from the first book, is a jaded aristocrat who doesn't believe in love and has little interest in marrying. Emily is the daughter of a mere rector and something of a romantic. A case of mistaken identity at a masquerade ball leads to these two ending up in a carriage alone together and a steamy kiss. Two months later, neither has forgotten the other, but circumstances have become complicated for Emily. Her best friend, Sophie, who is the daughter of the controlling Lord Nesfield, the man who provides Emily's father's living, was caught trying to elope with a mysterious man. The man got away and Sophie was sent to Scotland for safekeeping. Meanwhile, Lord Nesfield and his sister, Lady Dundee, have contrived a plan to ferret out Sophie's suitor so that Lord Nesfield can make him pay for his "sins." They want Emily to pretend to be Lady Dundee's daughter who has just arrived in London for her come-out, and then Emily can try to gain trust with the young men who are suspects to discern which one it is. Not usually one to lie, Emily is reluctant to go along with the masquerade, but Lord Nesfield holds a family secret and the promise of a false murder charge over her head to get her to comply. In her guise as Lady Emma, Emily chances to meet Jordan again. He immediately knows who she is, but she tries to dissuade him from that notion by playing her part to a tee. The more she sees of Jordan, though, the more she begins falling for him, but can she ever be with someone who's determined never to fall in love? And when Emily's true identity comes out, can she trust Jordan to help her out of her predicament?
Emily is talented in the art of physic and uses her medical knowledge to create remedies and treat the ailments of the people in her community. When her mother became ill with a wasting disease, Emily put her skills to work, making her own laudanum, which her mother then used to commit suicide. Emily blames herself for not keeping a closer watch on her mother. She and Lord Nesfield were the ones who discovered her mother's body, and as such, she believes they're the only ones who know how she died. Emily hasn't wanted to burden her father with the knowledge and she also doesn't want her father's ministerial position to be jeopardized if anyone found out the truth. That's why when Lord Nesfield threatens to not only reveal all but to falsely charge Emily with murder if she doesn't help him find his daughter's erstwhile suitor, she has no choice but to comply. She's never been able to forget that one memorable kiss with Jordan, so when they meet up again while she's in the guise of Lady Emma, she wishes circumstances were different. Regardless, though, she finds herself falling more and more in love with him. But when her masquerade starts to unravel and Jordan wants to know what's really going on, she can't bring herself to tell him. Instead she offers herself up on a silver platter in exchange for his silence. But eventually they both come up with independent plans to expose Lord Nesfield's scheme while hoping to prevent Emily from going to jail or worse.
I initially thought I would like Emily because she seemed sweet in the beginning, but I have to admit that for someone who allegedly despised lying, she did an awful lot of it. I realize her arm was being twisted by Lord Nesfield, and because of his threats, there was a lot at stake, but I kind of expected her to maybe feel a bit more guilty for the deception than she seems to. Still, I maybe could have lived with all that, but when she lied to Jordan about not being a virgin to get him to sleep with her as payment for keeping quiet about her true identity, I kind of lost patience with her. She's also among the most stubborn heroines I've ever read. Again, I know that she was worried about the truth coming out, but she had both Lady Dundee (who wasn't in on the blackmail part of the scheme and eventually realized her brother was probably holding something over Emily's head) and Jordan, both offering to help her out of whatever was going on, but she obstinately insisted on handling matters herself instead of trusting either one. If not for a coincidental, eleventh-hour revelation and Jordan's meddling, Emily likely would have ended up at Lord Nesfield's mercy. So while I didn't thoroughly dislike her, she's definitely not going to end up among my favorite heroines.
Jordan's parents had a disastrous marriage in which his social-climbing mother seduced his father into compromising her, forcing the union. While his father loved his mother, she didn't feel the same and often took out her unhappiness on Jordan. Even though he had a much better role model in his stepmother, Jordan is determined never to fall in love or give his heart to another, convinced it will lead to nothing but ruin. As such, he's known as a rake who only consorts with women who won't try to trap him into a loveless union and never goes near innocent, marriage-minded, young ladies. That all changes the night he mistakes Emily for a merry widow who's propositioning him, an encounter that ends in a sultry, unforgettable kiss. Two months go by, during which he's thought of her often. Then he meets her again, but this time, she's insistent that she is actually Lady Emma. Jordan isn't convinced and sets out to expose her charade and find out exactly why she's putting on such an elaborate ruse. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more insistent Emily becomes that he cannot unmask her to the point of even offering her body in exchange for his silence. Her desperation convinces Jordan that something serious must be going on, spurring him to figure out what Nesfield is holding over her head and save her from utter ruination. Along the way, he comes to realize that perhaps love with the right person actually isn't a weakness at all.
Unfortunately I had similar feelings about Jordan as I did about Emily. I started the book, thinking he'd be one of those dime-a-dozen rakes with a closed-off heart who changes his mind when the right woman comes along, which on some level is true. However, I didn't feel like his character development went deep enough for someone with the kind of emotional baggage he seemed to have. Also, once he finally gets Emily to confess her true identity, he badgers her almost constantly to trust him with her secrets. However, trust must be earned and I felt he did precious little to do that. Instead, he practically browbeats her, and at one point, even threatens blackmail of his own (although he didn't intend to go through with it, but she didn't know that) if she doesn't tell him everything. Under those circumstances, I doubt I would have trusted him either. I felt like it would have been a better story if he'd shown her compassion and slowly gotten her to open up. Then there was the whole scene where she offers herself to him in exchange for his silence. Even though she was lying to him about not being a virgin, he suspected as much, and yet he still slept with her anyway, seeming rather surprised when he discovered she was indeed a virgin. I felt like him giving in to the temptation and pushing his misgivings to the back of his mind rather than trying harder to get her to open up made him seem unchivalrous. He kind of made up for it somewhat at the very end, though. So again, I didn't completely dislike him, but he didn't entirely exhibit all the qualities I like to see in a romance hero.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of the Lord Trilogy, so I was very excited to read The Forbidden Lord. It actually has a slightly higher rating on GoodReads, so I was hoping that it would be equally as good. Unfortunately that wasn't really the case for me. In addition to my issues with Emily and Jordan, I felt like the plot was a little too contrived to be believable. It seemed like there would have been an easier way for Lord Nesfield to ferret out the man who was trying to elope with his daughter instead of blackmailing an innocent young woman to get her to engage in an elaborate masquerade that was overly convoluted. Also the man's identity was pretty obvious to me from the start. The fact that Emily is trying to maintain her cover for a large part of the story left a lot of distance between her and Jordan as a couple. Although he's pretty sure she really is Emily, he occasionally has doubts, so he's not entirely certain who he's falling for. Then there was their respective stubbornness, her with her secrets and him withholding his love, that doesn't fully get resolved until the final pages. The entire plot just didn't lend itself well to creating the heart-stopping romantic moments I prefer or to building that all-important emotional connection between Jordan and Emily as a couple. Unfortunately the few steamy love scenes simply couldn't make up for that. Therefore, The Forbidden Lord was something of a let-down after enjoying the first book so much. Overall, it was an okay read that had some good moments, but one that also left me rolling my eyes several times. I was also a little disappointed that Gideon and Sara (The Pirate Lord) only show up in the epilogue, but I did get to know Jordan's friend, Ian, who becomes the hero of the next book, The Dangerous Lord, well enough to be interested in finishing the series sometime.
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