Roseline Enescue is just a 17-year-olg girl in Romania in 1689, when her father orders her to marry the wealthy Vladimir Enescue, brother to the equally wealthy and equally sadistic Lucien Enescue. Lured in by their wealth her father can't deny giving Roseline's hand, but he comes to regret it as he, along with all guests at the wedding are killed by the two monsters of brothers. Not even her little sister, Adela, isn't spared by their homicidal rampage and Roseline, having seen everyone she loves murdered in front of her eyes, has no choice but to comply to Vladimir's wishes, but not before she is killed and turned into a vampire like them.
This actually is the opening scene of the book and it is fast and exciting, really urging you to bond with the heroine in her struggle to save her loved ones and herself, alas you already know, just like she does, that there's no chance of that.
Then over 300 years later, Roseline, sees a way out, a chance to escape and she seizes it, knowing that if she fails to get away, she will suffer Vladimir's wrath once again, because she has tried this before, but it has never worked. Still, she gives it her whole and eventually she finds herself in the United States, posing as a 17-year-old girl (because that's the age she looks), going to a somewhat exclusive school, trying to go undetected, never attracting attention to herself. During her time there, though, she is befriended by the eccentric Sadie and her brother William, knowing very well that with her being Immortal, her looks are by default mesmerizing to humans causing them to be attracted to her. Consequently, she doesn't go as undetected as she would like to, but she tries. She is buried in some kind of comforting routine till Gabriel, the school's star student and athlete and most sought-out boyfriend is smitten by her, and an exchange student from Romania, Nicolae, comes to stay with Sadie and William. Nicolae keeps staring at her and it's not long before he reveals to Rose that he knows who she is and what she is, and that he is there to check up on her. Rose doesn't know in what capacity, but she is afraid that Vladimir knows where she is and Gabriel chasing after her all the time doesn't help one bit.
Now, it sounds a little cliche or rather like something that's been described before, but the story finds ways to be original and refreshing. I really liked that the book started the way it did, because it was fast and it immediately drew you in and made your heart beat a little faster. It was told in a smart way in the sense that in the first chapter, you already know why Roseline was running, who and what she was and why it was instrumental that she get away, making you feel like you already knew her and really ready to become invested in the actual story to start in the following chapter. Actually, the majority of the book's most important characters was really introduced in the first chapter, although Sadie, William, Gabriel and Nicolae were introduced later on.
The characters were quite diverse without coming off as caricatures, which was really good. Even Sadie, with her continuously changing wardrobe and make-up going through punk, goth, bad girl and Christian phases didn't come across as fake, while all characters were not good or bad, black or white. There were shades of gray which is the way it seems to me in real life.
It is important that the characters seem real and plausible without being too saccharine or "perfect". Rose isn't perfect either. She has been through a lot, but she is not a little lamb, nor is she a hyena (as a vampire). She is a person with her faults and shortcomings, never, however giving up the attempt to become a better person. Gabriel isn't a jock or a perfect guy either. The characters get mad, yell, lose their patience, laugh, fall in love and act crazy just like they would in real life and that's the best aspect of the book.
The writing is not exactly factual, nor overly decorative. I think it's a nice balance between the two and it makes reading the book quite entertaining. I also liked the fact that even though there is an aspect of insta-love between Rose and Gabriel, it is not pursued in a rushed way and Roseline doesn't trip all over herself in order to avoid or chase the charming human boy. Throughout the chapters it feels like Rose really lives her life in a normal way not changing dramatically just because of Gabriel (although why she run away towards the end I'll never understand). Gabriel is more smitten than she appears to be and faster than her, but he is a teenage boy so hormones and their "bond" can quite explain that.
I have to admit that I didn't see a few twists around the end coming and it was a welcome surprise as for the most part of the book we didn't see or hear from Lucien and Vladimir again, letting us enjoy Rose's new life but also making us wonder what was going to happen.
On the other hand, there were some aspects of book that left me wanting a little.
For the most part we did get to see what Immortals were. They were more than humans. Stronger, faster, prettier and intellectually superior in certain ways as they lived history and did not just read about it.
I quite enjoyed the twist in the lore, where what we consider Vampires are just Immortals that have been addicted to the taste of blood. They don't need the blood to survive, they can live off human food, but they need blood to heal, as blood is a life giver, and if they consume it too much, it becomes like a drug clouding their judgment and affecting them physically and psychologically, turning them blood-thirsty and eventually sadistic monsters (like it happened with Lucien and Vladimir). Blood is like cocaine for vamps, then, but they do have a choice which is a nice difference from the usual lore that Vampires always feel the thirst.
However, I feel like it could have been explained a little more and in greater detail so the whole thing could have been made distinct and invested upon so that in the future books we could see how the whole addiction process happens and how easy it is for a vamp to go to "rehab". XD
I'd love to have seen that in relation to Rose, as I'm sure that Vladimir must have tried to get her addicted.
Another thing is that I felt that Nicolae's presence could have been explored more. In the beginning he comes across as a geeky, nerdy kid who had no sense of how life and people in America were and he recognized Roseline from Romania fearing her, but later on he is a hunter incognito and some of his actions don't sit right. At first it feels like he is afraid of Rose and he is determined not to bother her or come into contact with her, but a chapter later he stares at her intently even menacingly and warns her that he will be there if she decides to hurt anyone. So if he wanted to stay under the radar why come out to Roseline and if he was going to do that anyways, why act scared in the beginning? Maybe he wanted to draw his own conclusions about Rose and if she was evil, but it just felt awkward to me. I liked Nicolae's reactions to Sadie, though, and I think I will enjoy them if they are a couple in the next book. ;)
Then the last one is a stupid thing to notice really, but I couldn't help wondering. Roseline as an Immortal (Vampire) feels happier when it is cold, because her body temperature is higher than that of a human, yet when she touches Gabriel she feels his great body warmth and heat, which doesn't make sense if he is human or even if he is half-vampire. (Unless it was psychological, though it was mentioned a couple times) Then again there is some prophecy and some things left for the next book so I might have to wait for this to make sense!!! And, god, do I want to read the next! :)
To sum up, I think "Forbidden" was an entertaining read filled with excitement, mystery, (why yes) passion and enjoyable characters you felt for, causing it to be one of the books I'd read again, but it would rate even higher if some of the story's (evidently) distinct vampiric lore was explored and introduced more properly and extensively. Its lovable characters and plot make up for some inconsistencies and questions.
Anyone who enjoys books with vampires and romance will definitely enjoy this one.
P.S.: Thanks to the writer for letting me review the book.