Forbidden (The Druid Chronicles #1) by Christina Phillips
Purchase link: Amazon
Purchase link: Amazon
Forbidden is a sensual journey, a dance between Carys and Maximus as they negotiate the chemistry between them in a time when they are supposed to be enemies, not lovers. It's also a story of how two very different people from very different backgrounds can find common ground with this thing called love.
I'm not a fan of enemies to lovers stories for the most part but the setting of this story intrigued me. I am a huge history buff and I love Ancient Rome and the mysticism surrounding the Druids and their culture. Ms Phillips manages to weave a sensual love story filled with intrigue, politics and opposing loyalties when two warring cultures clash and two people find love. The passion between Carys and Maximus sizzled off the pages.
Carys is a princess and a high born noble in her Celtic world. She is a Druid and a beloved one, revered and honored by her people. She's also a very proud Celt. Strong willed, independent, intelligent. Perhaps a little too proud. Carys frustrated me. Her tendency to run and her resistance towards Maximus got tedious after a while. She was constantly berating herself for wanting Maximus, and yet she was not willing to let him go but wanted him for herself nonetheless. I thought she was being very unfair towards Maximus with all the things she was hiding from him, constantly citing their differences in culture and understanding as her reasons, while taking what she wanted from him. I didn't think Maximus deserved her disdain and her reticence considering he showed her nothing but kindness, generosity and understanding. Carys was as close-minded and uncommunicative and evasive, as Maximus was open-minded and understanding. For the most part, I understand the position Carys is coming from but it bothered me that much of her internal dialogue treated Maximus as though he was beneath her despite her feelings for him.
As for Maximus. I adored Maximus. Tiberius Valerius Maximus. Even his name sounds noble and commanding. Maximus was wonderful right from the start. He was noble and honorable, and he did everything he could based on his understanding of Carys' culture and the situation to treat her with respect and care. He even put her in a position of safety and protection (after she needed rescuing several times!) while Carys continued to resist him and all she was worried about was how her people will think of her and how their mighty princess has fallen for consorting with the enemy. There were moments when Carys said things to others which caused Maximus unease, making him wonder if she was similarly dissembling and omitting things in their conversations and hiding the truth from him and I really wished I could yell into the book and tell Maximus "YES, SHE IS!!" I really didn't think Carys deserved Maximus considering how poorly she treated him.
In spite of me heartily disliking Carys more and more as the book progressed, Ms Phillips managed to captivate me with her thorough research of the Ancient Roman and Celtic culture. The story felt authentic and real. I enjoyed what I learned about the Celts in particular but I confess I had a moment of cheekiness when I read about Carys taking a root of some sort to put her in a trance and to get visions from the gods. I couldn't help but wonder if someone way back when had wandered into the woods, got hungry and decided on gnaw on a tree root which had hallucinogenic properties and went on an almighty trip. Then said fellow decided that the trip so good and he was communing with the gods and decided it was restricted only to the special priests and druids. Of course, I do not mock their culture and beliefs since the stuff fascinates me but I couldn't help the magic mushroom reference as I was reading that particular scene. But seriously, Ms Phillips did a fantastic job of showing the other side of the Roman occupation, of a people and a way of life being progressively obliterated and assimilated into the Roman culture to make way for the future, and how desperately those people clung to their heritage and did everything they could to resist though they were fighting a losing battle.
And speaking of special priests and druids, I need to give an honorable mention to Aeron, designated bad guy of the story. What a delusional fellow he was. I'm told the name for people like him is a narcissistic sociopath. He had a very special way of justifying some rather heinous acts as sanctioned by the gods and therefore perfectly acceptable. There's a special place in hell for people like him. I enjoyed seeing him get his just desserts!
I thoroughly enjoyed this world Ms Phillips has created and I look forward to reading the next books in the series. Hopefully, I will like the other heroines more.
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