Forbidden - Christina Phillips
I was really drawn to this book when I first read that it was set during the Roman conquest of Britain, and I am always on the lookout - and a fan – for unusual settings and premises for historical romances. I am also a fan for romances that feature a hero and heroine on opposing sides which Forbidden uses as a backdrop, so when I had read the first couple of pages, I was instantly hooked!Whilst her land has been conquered by the Romans, Carys, a powerful druidess, is being pressured to stop caring for her patients by her head druid, and she is struggling to fulfil her duties as a healer to the people she serves. However, she soon finds herself being fascinated by a Roman soldier, Maximus, who is second in command of the Legion stationed close to where she lives. When Carys sees him regularly bathing near where she works, she finds herself spying on him to catch a glimpse of the man she soon yearns for, but is unable to act on her attraction. But when Maximus discovers her, and realises that she is related to the rebel Druid clans, he also can’t help his growing attraction, and both find themselves drawn to each other first sexually, and then emotionally.Forbidden is a refreshing take of a tale of prohibited love between two people who are sworn enemies. Unlike most books with this premise, the taboo of loving an enemy did not feel forced – or the fact that the characters spent a lot of time blaming and angsting with each other about their opposing backgrounds.Within their first meeting, Carys’ and Maximus’ romantic and sexual tension is palpable. If their relationship was like the mercury in a thermometer, it would have blown it apart! The sexy elements of the book did not overpower the plot or the characterisation, but added to their love story. The real heart of the book is the emotional elements between them, and I really liked how that was played out throughout the book. Although the well written love scenes added a sensual layer of heat and passion, and *fans self*, I will never think of Roman Baths the same way again.Carys is a strong and independent women and it was really interesting to see how she interacted with Maximus about her status as an independent woman in her own right, while he was more accustomed to submissive women from his own culture. What I really liked – which really fleshed out their romance – was the fact that Maximus gave her the space and did not try to overpower, or dominate her. He respected her culture, but he also didn’t lose his own Roman sensibilities. But as well as facing their inner conflict about their different cultural backgrounds and stance about the war, Carys faces exile or even worse from her own people if they discovered her relationship with Maximus.This then leads to the mystical and magical elements of the book, such as the Druids way of life, and their Gods and Goddesses influences on the Druids lives and the people around them. I loved this aspect of the book! It was so detailed and well thought out and I could tell that Christina Phillips paid attention to detail about the beliefs of the Druids, but with her own take. I have to state, though, that I found it ironic that her former lover, the head druid, Aeron, was more domineering and oppressive than the Roman’s rules were to Carys’ duties, but there is a good reason why this is the case.Forbidden is a solid historical romance with fleshed out characters against a setting that is not commonly explored in this genre. Because of this I found it was refreshing, passionate and imaginative. Although Maximus and Carys were on opposing sides, there was no forced angst or obstacles that made the book feel forced or melodramatic. And with a strong focus on the romance and relationship against a magical and mystical setting, you can’t go wrong with picking up Forbidden. If you have a hankering for a really passionate romance that is magical within the romance – as well as with the tone and atmosphere of the book – Forbidden is the book for you.