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Forbidden Fire by Charlotte Lamb

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An absolute corker of a vintage Mills & Boon. Virginal schoolgirl bride, endless smouldering sexual tension and an angry older alpha man-of-the-world struggling to control himself. Plus a wonderfully silly plot where after nearly ravishing her every few pages he marries her, and then tries to remain celibate because “she’s not ready for marriage”. You can imagine how long that resolve lasts!

There are a lot of similarities to Return to Santa Flores but this is much more enjoyable. The heroine, although perhaps disappointing to a modern emancipated woman of the 21st century, is pleasant enough. The hero is arrogant and rich and sexy and dominant and a complete male chauvinist, but hey, this is Mills & Boon and this is the 1970s. Just: 1979.

Now the caveats: if you’re someone who takes “offence” to certain themes or has “triggers”, skip this book. There are a couple of scenes of sexual assault (low grade, no actual rape). The hero-heroine sexy bits, mainly just kissing, are very mDom. And if you’re repelled by an adult male confessing arousal at the sight of a teenage girl (in fairness: he does not act on it and castigates himself for it, and it’s something that happened in the past) then again, this is one to skip.

While the hero and heroine are step-siblings, to my mind the author would have written them as half-siblings if she could have got away with it. It frankly feels like she’s paying lip service to the step thing: they’re pretty much presented as half-siblings for the majority of the plot, and other people mistake them for full-siblings. The subtext is pretty clear!

For me, I found it a glorious, sexy, vintage romp, with plenty of those wonderfully cringeworthy vintage M&B moments when an author is trying to write about “bright young people” without really having much of a clue about contemporary youth culture.