The Forbidden, by Heather Graham

July 28, 2021 Book Reviews 12

The Forbidden, by Heather GrahamThe Forbidden Series: Krewe of Hunters #34
Published by Harlequin MIRA on July 27, 2021
Pages: 336
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible
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Also in this series: Phantom Evil, The Hidden, Heart of Evil, Haunted Destiny, Deadly Fate, Darkest Journey, Dying Breath, Echoes of Evil, The Summoning, The Seekers, The Unholy, The Dead Heat of Summer, The Unforgiven

She is someone's darkest desire

Playing the victim of a vampire king on an island off New Orleans is actress Avalon Morgan’s creepiest role to date. It’s also scary good fun—until the victim of a real killer is discovered on set, laid out for all to see. With production shut down, Avalon can’t stop thinking about the chilling crime scene, or Finley Stirling, the FBI agent working the case.

With a rising body count and zero leads, Fin can’t help but be impressed by Avalon’s amateur sleuthing, which takes her to the darkest corners of the internet, where killers confess their crimes. One such account is a dead ringer for the murders, but when the evidence vanishes, nobody believes Avalon—except for Fin. With no one they can trust, Avalon and Fin are determined to unbury the truth at any cost, but a return to the deadly island could be the last thing they do.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

This book contains mature content and may not be suitable for younger readers.

Gripping but disturbing

The Forbidden was more gripping than The Unforgiven, the previous book in this series, but I ended up with mixed feelings about it.

Like The Unforgiven, The Forbidden takes place in New Orleans; the hero, Fin Stirling, was involved in the former case. While the book is just as formulaic (which is admittedly one of the things I like about this series), it has more tension, both in the narrative and between the main characters. I also felt more invested in Avalon and Fin and their relationship than I was in Katie and Daniel, the main characters in The Unforgiven. They are both a little stereotypical for this series, but I found them enjoyable despite the antagonism Avalon feels toward Fin for suspecting her friends and colleagues… which goes on for quite a while, even as they work together to solve the crime.

The mystery kept me guessing almost until the end. There are a number of suspects, and circumstantial evidence could apply to most of them. I wasn’t able to narrow down the field any faster than Fin does, and at least one aspect of the eventual solution came as a surprise, which is always a plus.

Given those qualities, I would have enjoyed The Forbidden as a light summer read (in the sense of easily and quickly devoured.) However, I found one aspect of the serial murders deeply disturbing, enough to creep me out and leave me feeling very uncomfortable. Frankly, I would have avoided reading the book if I had been aware of that aspect of the content. Since I know that comfort levels vary widely when it comes to reading about the darker side of human psychology, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. On the other hand, if you’re curious, squeamish, or have specific triggers, I think a warning here is appropriate (click to view):

Spoiler/CW
CW #1: The murders involve literal necrophilia – sex with the victims after their deaths. Eww. CW #2: There is a “lite” BDSM venue that turns up several times in the course of the novel. It’s about the fantasy rather than the reality, and not particularly graphic. For that reason, it didn’t particularly bother me, but some readers may find it uncomfortable.

To be honest, I considered DNF-ing the book several times, but it was an ARC, so I felt sort of obligated… and I did want to know whodunnit. In the end, though, I kind of wish I hadn’t read it. It took a day and a nice, palate-cleansing romance novel before I could stop thinking about the really creepy bit. I know plenty of other readers will be able to take that in their stride, because it’s fiction. If that’s you, and you enjoy this series overall, go for it—there’s plenty here for series fans to like.

Note: I compromised on the rating. Had it not been for the part that made me so uncomfortable, I would probably have given the book 3.5 or 4 stars. Based on my personal reaction, I would have dropped it to 2 stars. So 3 stars seemed like a fair compromise.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Seasons 2021: Summer

12 Responses to “The Forbidden, by Heather Graham”

  1. Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits

    That’s… huh. I do not blame you one bit for feeling squicked out after that. I would be, too. I’m not usually a fan of darker plot elements, and that spoiler falls into the too-dark-for-me category. It sounds like the story would have been plenty enjoyable with it left out. Oh well. 🙁
    Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits recently posted…WIP Wrap-up for July 2021My Profile

  2. Sophia Rose

    Glad this one engaged you better than the last one, but bummer that it gave you the shivers and not in a good way. Depending on how much the disturbing theme was dwelt on would determine how squicked out it would get me.
    Sophia Rose recently posted…Say Goodbye by Karen RoseMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      The killer wrote out their fantasies (which they appeared to be living out) with a middling amount of detail. It could have been worse, but it was uncomfortable to be that much “inside their head.”

  3. Anne - Books of My Heart

    A lot of what I read is probably too squicky for you. I read all sorts of things because even if it is bad, it’s out there in real life and my ignoring it won’t make it go away. Luckily, most of us, including me tend to be removed from that sort of thing on a daily basis. Forensic work or police work is not for me. I just want to read about it, not live it. I like the part where it gets solved and gets stopped.
    Anne – Books of My Heart recently posted…Say Goodbye by Karen RoseMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’m not THAT squeamish. I mean, I really enjoy mysteries and romantic suspense — and not just cozy mysteries. Plenty of traditional mysteries involve all kinds of ways that people can be horrible to each other, and I can usually take it in my stride. But I have some specific areas that make me really uncomfortable, and I’ve learned to respect that. They tend to involve either violence toward children, really twisted sexual motivations for murder, or a love of killing for its own sake. Even then, it can depend on how the author handles it; if they allow me a little distance from it, I deal with it much better than if I have to be inside the killer’s head. (Or the victim’s, in some cases.) But it’s not a case of ignoring it; I’m well aware of the bad things that can and do happen in real life.

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