Absolute naughtiness . . . which I love
When Lisette Delornay-Ross meets Lord Gabriel Swanfield among other members of the London aristocracy, neither of them suspect the other true sexual proclivities, although the mutual attraction is inevitable. Unlike the previous books in the House of Pleasure series, Simply Forbidden starts as any romantic Regency historical. What makes it stand out is Kate Pearce's talent to show the strongly emotional and tumultuous inner nature of all the characters, including the secondary ones. We get to know Lisette and Gabriel simultaneously as they discover each other's real selves. And it's an unrestrained sultry path. Simply Forbidden includes some of the most sexually explicit scenes I'd ever read. And I'd read many.
Lisette is the daughter of Philip Ross, an aristocrat and Madame Helene Delornay, whose exclusive House of Pleasure caters London society's erotic cravings. Philip and Helene story is told in Simply Shameless. Lisette and her twin brother, Christian, grew up away from their parents in a Paris orphanage. While Christian expresses his rancor openly, Lisette lives a double life, being the respectable lady of the ton whose wild life is rumored, and secretly enjoying the pleasures her mother's establishment offers.
Gabriel found a way to fulfill his sexual needs at the House of Pleasure. Although he does it in a restrained way until he meets Lisette. Who turns his world upside down and force him to face the life that, inside and out of the House of Pleasure, he avoided before. Being the heir of a duke, who raped one of his maids, Gabriel has suffered by the actions of his evil father, so he decided that none of his possible children would be a bastard, and is determined to never marry, but if he ever does, he would be faithful. Naive thinking from someone with his sexual appetites.
Being both born out of wedlock and later misunderstood for their behavior, Gabriel and Lisette realize they match in more ways than the BDSM games they play.
What I like the most about this book is its realism. The author brilliantly takes on a delicate subject a few writers flirted with, but never dare to express as elaborated as Kate Pearce does - the bisexuality of a hero. I read books where the sex is explicit, while the emotions are never revealed. I was surprised by the extent of Gabriel's inner thoughts. Yes, Gabriel is bisexual, and his sexual preferences are part of his inner conflicts.
Besides the fear of public exposure, Gabriel truly prefers women. At least, this is what he tells his best friend Paul. With who he shares a strong bond developed while they were tortured and imprisoned during the war. When they saved each other's lives and became lovers. Back in England, Paul is Gabriel's emotional support, and unconditional accomplice. I like Paul's loyalty to Gabriel, in spite of their relationship changing from lovers to unrequited passion. Of course, Paul ignores Gabriel is fighting his lingering emotions for him, while making efforts to be faithful to Lisette. I would love to read Paul's story, and also Christian's book.
Gabriel's reaction surprises even Lisette, when he turns around and become the perfect gentlemanlike husband. One who isn't the man she fell in love with, but the one he thinks she would be proud of. The real conflict of Simply Forbidden is their journey as a couple, the quest to find their perfect balance while remaining true to themselves. The harder part for Gabriel is to understand that Lisette didn't want a traditional marriage, but the man she conquered at the House of Pleasure. An unforgettable read that I recommend.