Book Review

Forbidden Desires by Rebecca Sinclair, a Guest Review by RedHeadedGirl


Title: Forbidden Desires
Author: Rebecca Sinclair
Publication Info: Zebra 1992
ISBN: 978-0821737965
Genre: Historical: American

image RedHeadedGirl is back, reading wayback romances of crazysauce so you don’t have to!

This was a request- this was Maggie’s first romance, and I got it, and read it, and I think I’m in the midst of finals induced delirium, because this read kind of like a post-modern play.

    So the story goes that Emilee is on the run for people thinking she murdered her husband.  Cade is both the dead guy’s brother and a bounty hunter AND the supplier of the $2500 price on Emilee’s head (but…wants the kill himself, so…. Why would he post a price on her head?  The logic escapes me.)

    Anyway, Cade is hunting down Emilee (“you killed my brother, prepare to die” and all that), and has become totally obsessed with the ink drawing of her on the Wanted poster.  He finds her in a town in Nebraska where she’s managed to land a job as the schoolteacher, and is about to snipe her, but just can’t pull the trigger.  So he tracks her to her house on the edge of civilized Nebraska and busts in and finds out that she’s seven and a half months pregnant.

    We’re going to stop here for just a minute.  She’s nearly 8 months gone, she’s been keeping it hidden from everyone by being clever with her dress making, and just as a spoiler warning, they end up having rather a lot of acrobatic sex.  I don’t have kids, have never been pregnant, so I can’t personally attest to anything, but at least the being able to hide a 7-month belly in 1880s clothes seems…. Dubious.

    Carrying on.

    So Cade breaks into Emilee’s house and at first she thinks he’s there just to rob and terrorize, but then he brings out the whole wanted poster thing, and he’s all mad that she’s pregnant, and she drops the bomb that she was married to Michael, and Cade is really pissed and disbelieving.  He forces her to eat, because of the baby, and forces her to go to sleep, because of the baby.  He sleeps in the same bed, so she can’t escape without him knowing, and sleeps with his hand on her stomach.

    It’s a frustrating read because Cade is SUCH an alpha- he doesn’t believe a word out of her mouth, yells at her for lying, and threatens her to get her to tell the truth.  It’s an effective way to get a false confession out of someone- stress them out so much, even without torture, that they’ll tell you anything you want to know.  Whether it’s true or not.

    The next day he kisses her and she somehow ties him to a chair (I think she swiped his gun or something?) and rides off (yes, she does quite a bit of riding 7 months pregnant, too.  Which, assuming these were Western saddles with the horns and all, must have been uncomfortable).  He waits a bit, cuts the ropes with the knife he had in his sleeve (he let her escape, see, so she would lead him to… somewhere?  I don’t know.  It has the advantage –for him- of making her realize she can never escape him, not ever).

    So he finds her, and they yell, and they make out, and the yell some more, he says that he wants her to want him (which she does) and to scream out his name and not Michael’s.  Then they go to sleep and there is where the now-infamous-in-the-Bitchery handjob scene takes place.  She’s dead asleep, and mutters Michael’s name, Cade is furious because she stops before he’s done, and eventually they get it on once everyone is awake.

    Alec, an acquaintance of Emilee and Michael’s shows up- both Cade and this guy want a copy of a deed to some land that Emilee swears she doesn’t have (she does, of course, but she didn’t know she had it).  Alec saw the naked shenanigans in the woods, and threatens Emilee some more (she gets very tired of the threats).

    And then Cade gets bitten by a rattlesnake.  Now, as my BFF says, I am not strong in snake.  They fucking terrify me.  But the thing about being terrified by a thing is it’s best to have an idea of how they tend to act, so you can steer clear of them (and then make sure you live in states that, as a rule, don’t have lots of poisonous snakes.  I was once talking in my LJ about my fear of snakes and this ABSOLUTE GIT decided that telling me about all the snakes that live in Massachusetts was a good thing- he was doing me a favor, he said.  He has since been banned from commenting, but mostly for being a rape apologist.)  (sorry, moving on). 

My point is, this snake did not act like any real snake- real rattlesnakes tend to steer clear of humans, and, as a rule, won’t attack something that is too big to be a meal.  Like, say, stalking a woman and then JUMPING UP to bite the man ON THE THIGH.  I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t happen.  Anyway, the snake gets killed and Cade’s been bit, so naturally, Emilee must do the whole “sucking the poison out of the wound” thing, and then the bites get infected and he’s very ill, so she has to cauterize the wounds.

    Just…  go with it.  You really don’t have a choice.

    They find a cabin that a man and a woman are living in, and convince them (really, him) at gunpoint to let them stay because it never stops raining and Cade is still sick.  Cade tells Emilee that his intention is to wait until has the baby, have her hung, and then take the baby.  Emilee loses her shit and runs off.

    Now, there is a secondary bounty hunter (we’re going to call him Boba Fett) that shows up because we need a plot complication.  He finds Emilee and is like “I’mma take you to Montana to get the reward even though Cade has put up the reward and he told me that.” (Hey, you know what- logic is not a strong point for any of these people.)  So they are in a stagecoach and she’s making uncomfortable noises and shifting a lot because of an annoying pain in her lower back.


    Yeah, so Boba Fett gets a hotel room, and Emilee is feeling off, and Cade finds them, and Emilee’s like, “…I don’t feel so good”  and Cade is all concerned (he’s sort of admitted he loves her at this point) and Boba Fett is like “Yeah, she’s in labor, has been for a couple hours now” and Cade is shocked and Emilee is like “WHUT.”  And Cade kills Boba Fett and Emilee has the baby and everything is fine.

    (Oh right- the whole thing with the deed is resolved by Cade finding this deed he’s been searching for MONTHS and just handing it over to Alec to make him go away.  It’s very unsatisfying.)

    There’s a particular plot point that I detest- Catherine Coulter does it like, all the damn time, and it shows up here, too- women needing men to mansplain reproduction to them.  In (thinks) four Coulter books I can think of off the top of my head, the heroine has fainting spells, her breasts ache a bit and the man explains to her (usually with a smug smirk on his face) that she’s pregnant.  In this case, Emilee notices her backache but needs a man to mansplain that she’s in labor.  Because until they said so, she had no fucking idea.

    Now, again, I have not been pregnant.  But a friend of mine was told by her L&D nurse that the point at which she needed to head into the hospital was the moment that a contraction made her say, “Holy shit.” And sure enough, she’d been feeling kind of odd all morning, and then a contraction made her say “Holy shit!” and then she went in and had herself a baby.  Emilee never seems to have this “holy shit” moment, and even Cade is like you are endangering your baby by riding off and being alone so close to your time, and Emilee is like, what on earth are you talking about.


    Here is why I said it’s kind of like a post-modern play- for the vast majority of book, there’s only the two of them either in her house, or camping.  Every once in a while, someone else will show up, but for the most part, it’s the two of them working through their various angsts.  Michael is there as a light presence, and it would have been really interesting if somehow Sinclair could have made Michael as a third character (or even a third and a fourth- Emilee’s version of him and Cade’s version) as a really heavy, unseen, presence.  So it feels almost like one of those black box plays that’s just two actors, and they can’t leave, and there are only four other supporting characters that get any stage time (there’s a small handful of background characters that are there to make the world look populated).  It’s exactly like Waiting for Godot, except the baby is Godot and he actually shows up.  Kind of.

    Okay, so maybe it’s not like Waiting for Godot at ALL.

    But the character that is omni-present (except during the sexxoring) is the baby.  Which makes sense.  Emilee is mostly concerned with saving her own skin because of the baby.  Cade becomes hyperaware of the baby- its movements, its weight, its presence.  To the point that he tells Emilee that he’s going to bring her in for the murder, let her give birth, take the baby and have her hanged.  (She, of course, loses her shit at this and things, of course, Get Worse.)

    I liked that the story structure was not typical- I feel like Sinclair took some risks with the plot, keeping the number of characters minimal and mostly the story was Emilee and Cade working through their shit.  There were a couple points where I wanted to knock their heads together and say “OH MY GOD.  Please just talk to each other and communicate already!  I feel like we can avoid angst that way.” (Yes, I really do talk back to books if I really feel like they need a talking to.) Cade thinks Emilee is a liar and refuses to believe anything she has to say, and Emilee is just terrified of him, and the sexual attraction is distracting to them both.

    The tone of the book is a little odd.  Sometimes it seems like one of those books that plays itself utterly straight.  There are a lot of italics (though not as bad as Dan Brown is.  God I hate his overuse of italics.  FOR STARTERS), and a lot of paragraphs followed by a single line for meaningful emphasis.  (….not that I know anything about that….).  And then sometimes it almost feels like it’s winking at the reader- “Yeah, this isn’t great literature- but isn’t it fun to pretend?”

    It’s like I can’t figure out if this book is a hipster, or non-ironic.  I was out with a friend drinking beer (as you do) and he is in the Marine Corps Reserves.  It was somewhat chilly, and he was wearing a Corps-issued sweater- fatigue green with the padding on the shoulders.  And he was talking about how he couldn’t possibly pass for a hipster even as he was talking about music in that world-weary hipster way (Q: How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb?  A: It’s a really obscure number- you’ve probably never heard of it).  And I said no, he COULD pass for a hipster- he might be wearing that sweater ironically.  He got all huffy and was like “I was ISSUED this sweater!  I am ENTITLED” and I was like “Yeah, I know that, but other people don’t.” He conceded the point.  (And then we got into whether his pants were tight enough to pass as hipster pants, and the answer is no, but he could pull tightpants off if he wanted.)  (That sounded way less dirty before I wrote it out.  Ahem.)

    My point is it can be hard to tell if someone is being ironic or sincere.  Take this:

“He drove his fingers through his sleep-tousled hair and released a long, shuddering sigh.  Had he ever wanted a woman as much as he wanted this one – right here, right now?  No.  That alarmed and irritated Cade.  He knew he shouldn’t want her- not badly, not at all!  There were a thousand good, solid reasons to resist her; having killed Mike was only one.

    “That was what Cade’s mind said.

    “His body said something else entirely.”


    It’s all like that.  I really can’t tell if it’s sincere or ironic- every time I think one way, I get my mind changed. And I don’t really know if self-aware irony was a thing in 1992.  So…. I have no idea.

    It is also possible I’ve been thinking about this too much.

    As far as the cover goes, well first, that woman is NOT seven months pregnant.  Not in ANY of the views of her we have.  And the back cover copy is unsnarkable because it is white text on a yellow background.  I have no idea what it said.

    So really, as far as WTF-tasticness goes, it was NOTHING on Surrender to the Night, but once you go Texan Viscount, you really have to go above and beyond to top that.  I don’t regret the $2 this cost, and I really think this would have been less entertaining if I hadn’t read this in the middle of finals.  But I did, and it was a welcome diversion when I was trying to get to sleep.  No handjobs, though.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ali B. says:

    “Emilee loses her shit and runs off.”

    This made me LOL. Love your description of this book! It does seem a bit confusing, with the odd character sneaking in, adding all of his angst to the giant pile already being created by the leads. It made my head ache just taking in the basic sketch of the thing.

    BTW – I’m totally stealing “loses her shit”, but rewording it to “don’t lose your shit”. I have friends that are in dire need of this swift kick in the arse. ;-)

  2. 2
    beeswax1 says:

    Notice the high-waisted pants this guy is wearing plus the bandana…

  3. 3
    KatherineB says:

    Maybe…the single line contrast after a paragraph was meant to be…funny? Humorous?

    It’s not really succeeding for me, but I find print treacherous sometimes when it comes to shades of meaning.

  4. 4
    Aimee says:

    “Now, there is a secondary bounty hunter (we’re going to call him Boba Fett) “

    “It’s exactly like Waiting for Godot, except the baby is Godot and he actually shows up.  Kind of.

      Okay, so maybe it’s not like Waiting for Godot at ALL. “

    I LOLed.

  5. 5
    Laurel says:

    Boba Fett! Boba Fett! RedHeadedGirl, the force is strong in you!

    I find it more plausible that she was hiding a 7.5 month pregnancy (some women who have sold their souls to the Old Scratch can BE that pregnant and not look it) than she was in labor and didn’t know it until the two men told her so.

    Also, the rattlesnake episode. Wow. I guess sucking the poison out of his thigh is more sexxier than sucking it out of his ankle. But, yeah, we have lots of rattlers ‘round these here parts and I ain’t never yet seen one jump.

    The other thing that bugs me (but it seems to happen a lot in Romancelandia so obviously this is not universal) is the women sleeping with men that scare them because the stated goal is to kill the lady. I get that it is supposed to be their phenomenal id chemistry overriding the superego but it’s always been a bit of a mood killer for me. “I’m going to kill you.” “Okay, but let’s have lots of sex first, please.”

  6. 6
    MicheleKS says:

    Great review! Not a classic book in the romance cannon but this is what kind of turned me off on historicals back in the day (it was 1992 that I started haunting the romance section at my local used bookstore and library).

    From what I remember the heroine wanting to sleep with the hero even though his professed intent was to kill her was like the ultimate dance with danger (that sounds like the title to a Lifetime movie). It’s like he’s so dangerous yet he’s so sexy so why not? Not many authors could honestly pull that off (the only one that comes to mind for me is Anne Stuart).

  7. 7
    Carrie Lofty says:

    A lovely coincidence. I just blogged about snakebite scenes over at the FF&P blog ( They were *everywhere* in Western romances during the late 80s/early 90s. I can name six off the top of my head where this took place. So cool to find another one :)

  8. 8
    Babs says:

    Holy crap! I think I actually read this one all those years ago…but now that I’ve read this review, I will never have to read it again. Thank. God.

  9. 9
    DianeV says:

    Fabulous review as always – I just love all the snark.

    Regarding the hiding of her pregnancy – both my sister and one of my friends never looked pregnant their entire pregnancies (both had 2 kids each.)

    My sister just switched from size 5 clothes to size 7 clothes and actually weighed less the day after the kids were born than when she started her pregnancies—and she started at a whopping 125 pounds.

    My friend was a former body builder and her stomach stayed as taut at 9 months as if she wasn’t pregnant (again we’re talking a size 3 or 5 here)—she never even bought maternity clothes.

  10. 10
    Kati says:

    OK, my new favorite word is “Mansplain.” Never heard, but will be incorporating it into my every day vernacular. It’s a good as the male patented slow talk—when they talk all slow because somehow in our frustration with them, we’ve lost the capacity to understand the English language.

    Another fantastic review, RHG!

  11. 11
    JoAnnarama says:

    I used to love westerns—started reading Zane Grey in 7th grade. Years and years later I researched and wrote books about real women in the old west. Believe me, they were not stupid. For authors to write about women of any era as though their heads were filled with enough lint to make an apron is just an insult. And for any author to believe that the urge to mate with the biggest cock in the henyard is stronger than the adrenaline of fear of imminent death is absurd. Or is it just the “well, she asked for it” defense?

    Redheaded girl, you are a trouper, but please, stop torturing yourself!

    him97: Not in any of MY fantasies

  12. 12
    nyxalinth says:

    You’re on LJ? I think I have to friend you there. This was just too funny :D

    I’m on the bookfails community.  I have said there—and I’ll say it here—how does bad crap even get published to begin with?

  13. 13
    Maria says:

    Emilee notices her backache but needs a man to mansplain that she’s in labor.

    So here’s the thing—and my friend told me not to share this because it makes me look like a complete twit, but SHE’s never had children and, well, that’s all I’ve got—but when I was pregnant with my first, I read all the What to expect when you’re expecting-type books and yet after 6+ hours of cramps that I thought were brought on by a bad bit of fish, it was my husband who gently suggested that hey, maybe the baby was coming. I was only 3 days from my due date yet the thought never even entered my mind.  Duh.

  14. 14
    Christine says:

    I’d give her a pass on not knowing she’s in labor (even though as a trope in fiction the mansplainin’ of reproduction irritates the crap out of me); the hormone cocktail of pregnancy makes you really, really stupid. Especially if you’re preoccupied, as one might be under those circumstances.

    bring96: bring 96 towels and 96 buckets of hot water—she’s havin’ a baby!

  15. 15

    This was not actually torture.  So there’s that.  I love the ridonkulous more than anything. 

    I think the attraction between Cade and Emilee was supposed to be those “lust/love at first sight” things.  It wasn’t one sided, and they were both pretty pissed about it. (anger makes the sex hotter.  Didn’t you know?) 

    Now, not long after I wrote this, I saw True Grit which also involves a snakebite, and damn.  I HATE SNAKES YOU GUYS.

  16. 16
    Isabel C. says:

    “Emilee” seems a little…1990s middle-school for the Old West.

    I’m one of those weird people who actually likes (harmless) snakes—and yeah, MA is good for not encountering venomous snakes or, indeed, many snakes at all unless you go some distance from the city—plus I also lived in the California boondocks for some years, and…yeah, rattlesnakes do not act like that. I also have no idea how one would actually jump that high, seeing as how they don’t have legs.

  17. 17
    Karen H says:

    My sister would probably kill me for telling ya’ll this but she’ll probably never know (not being a romance reader nor much of a blog reader) but when she had her SECOND child, she didn’t know she was in labor.  She was at one of her late-term weekly visits and told the doctor she had been having gas pains since the previous day.  He checked, told her she was dilated, called her husband, and she delivered in an hour!  She’d been through labor before so how could she not know??!?

    And, I also like snakes!  I think they are fascinating creatures.  It’s a good thing since I live in Florida and they tend to like it down here.

    Thanks again, redheadedgirl!  Your review, as usual, cracked me up!

  18. 18
    Scrin says:

    On the snakebite:

    I am given to understand that you can drink rattlesnake venom, because it’s a protein and it’ll be digested like any other in the stomach. It only does its poisony stuff when it’s injected into the tissues where it’ll break them down and junk.

    No, I have not tried this myself, and I won’t ever until I see this independently verified.

    But if it is true, I will devote my life to drifting from town to town with a boxful of rattlesnakes and taking bets that I won’t drink a mouthful of snake venom. And die rich.

  19. 19
    Willa says:

    Looks like I’m in the minority here. I loved this book back in the day and have it on my keeper shelf. Except for the pregnancy thing—which kinda squicked me out—I thought it was one of the most sensually written books I’d ever read. Not the story as a whole, but the way Ms. Sinclair focuses in on individual components. I’ve never run across another writer who can do a page-long description of a man’s hand and not have it turn boring as hell, but Ms. Sinclair somehow manages to pull it off.

  20. 20

    Ugh, it turned me off at “this snake did not act like any real snake.” I can’t stand it when animal behavior is manipulated by the author to make a convenient plot turn.

    I hate it even more when traditionally feared animals like snakes, bats, and rats do unnatural things that harm people and come across as evil, because it only feeds the negative mythology about those animals.

  21. 21
    beggar1015 says:

    Cade tells Emilee that his intention is to wait until has the baby, have her hung, and then take the baby.  Emilee loses her shit and runs off.

    Well, can’t say that I blame her. If some guy told me he was just waiting for me to give birth so he can have me executed, I’d be taking off, too.  But I’m curious as to whatever did happen to the brother/husband. Who really killed him?

    They (snakebites) were *everywhere* in Western romances during the late 80s/early 90s.

    I’ve noticed that in romances that involved being on a ship for a long time seemed to always have either the hero or heroine getting hurt/sick, thus giving the other protagonist time to nurse the patient back to health and bond with their One Twu Luv. Therefore, when the story takes place on dry land, authors resorted to snakebites to achieve the same end.

  22. 22
    orangehands says:

    I was having an annoying day at work and then I get here and LOLed my way out of a bad mood. Thanks RHG!

    I though sucking snake bite venom was wrong, because a. if you have a cut in your mouth you can become infected, b. because your mouth has infections and can infect the wound, and c. because venom moves through the body too fast for you to be able to suck it out in time.

    Kati: I know, isn’t that the best word ever? Reading the threads on it involves a lot of nodding.

  23. 23
    riwally says:

    I really hate books that lead me up a path that comes to a dead end (no pun).  Introing characters just to fill in space causes me to want to run screaming into traffic. I’m pretty sure, despite the preggers sex, I will not be reading this book any time in the future.

  24. 24
    LisaCharlotte says:

    I admit I’m another one that had no clue I was in labor. I didn’t look very pregnant either.

  25. 25
    Susan says:

    DianeV:  I hate your sister and your friend.  If it was up to me, they would be banished to an alternate universe where plus sizes rule.

    I’ve always been skeptical about women who claim they didn’t know they were pregnant.  But, judging from the comments here, maybe it is possible?

    I’m not an expert on snakes, but I don’t think they jump.  But…a couple of months ago, I was watching a snake in a cage at Petsmart, and part of it was on the bottom of the cage and part of it was definitely crawling up the glass. I had no idea they could do that. I think it was a corn snake or rat snake – not poisonous and not a constrictor.

  26. 26
    Barbara W. says:

    Throw me on the other side of the “didn’t know she was in labor” argument.  I went into pre-term labor at 28 weeks and boy, did I know it.  I felt like my entire lower body was being squeezed and even though I’d only dilated 1cm, I thought my cervix had been punched with a bare fist.  OWW!  I was begging for Terbutalin, side effects and all.

    Um, the chick on the cover has nice hair?

    captcha trade25, because I wouldn’t trade 25 gold bars for the c-section I had.  :D

  27. 27
    Karen says:

    Another vote for “in labor and didn’t really know it for a while”.  And I kind of needed a man to mansplain it to me, but he *was* the doctor on call at the dispensary and by then I was at least *questioning* if it was labor.

    The whole story was that I was active duty military and had worked until midnight, got home around 1am and gone more or less right to bed.  Woke at 3:30am, my usual “middle of the night potty break when I’m pregnant” but couldn’t pee (and was really mad about that, because I was really tired) and then couldn’t fall back asleep because I was having menstrual cramps, but couldn’t take any aspirin BECAUSE I’M PREGNANT (sorry about the yelling, but I was pissed about it).  It was at least 5:30am before the “menstrual cramps” thought collided with the “no aspirin BECAUSE I’M PREGNANT” thought to form a ‘WTF? Those don’t go together.”

    But because it was still 3 full weeks before my due date, I didn’t really think it was labor *and* I kept waiting for the traditional “Holy Shit!!!” contraction one sees on TV and movies and I wasn’t having that part at all—just stupid menstrual cramps.  I decided to drive back onto post and have the dispensary check me out.  And as I drove back, I noticed I was having the menstrual cramps every 5 minutes. 

    So I *did* wonder if it was labor, but I did still have to have it mansplained to me by a doctor who was pretty torqued off that I didn’t know.  What?  I’d never done that before.  I blame the baby books for lack of disclosure ;)

  28. 28
    Shelly says:

    @Karen – OMG I was so the same. I had just minor little crampy thing happening and it felt like period pain. Obviously I had pregnancy brain because I didn’t get the WTF??? At least not until some time later.

    Oh – for those who may have seen the floods in Queensland on tv – yes it’s bad. I’m in Brisbane and have vague memories of the 1974 floods when I was a kid. Not as bad as that but the city has really built up around the river since then. It’ll be a few days before we can get a proper idea of the scope of cleanup and repair work.

    The whole state has years of work ahead to try and recover and rebuild. All we can hope is that there is no more heavy rain coming.

  29. 29
    Cakes says:

    <3 Comparing a trashy novel to Waiting for Godot?! LOL! Beckett is either rolling in his grave or saluting you!

  30. 30
    FD says:

    Sounds like a few too many implausible plot elements to me. Let’s count: Murdered husband. Standard trope. On the run. One eyebrow. Bounty hunter brother. Hokay. Schoolmarm job w. out references. Two eyebrows. Over seven months concealed pregnancy? It’s possible.  Riding (in a western saddle ow) while seven months pregnant. Also possible (and disorienting, painful and deeply unnerving btw.) Stalkalicious snakes? Moving into nuh-huh land now.  Co-incidental blackmail character popup?  H’mmmm.  Lack of awareness of labour? Well, it happens.  Stupid decisions while in transition? OK I buy that easily, every midwife has stories about those – an acquaintance of mine decided that she ‘d changed her mind about having the baby and was going home – got as far as the roundabout 2 miles from the hospital before the final stage kicked in and she realised she was being a bit irrational. Yet another plot complication pop-up character.

    I count at least eleven credulity stretching moments there – I figure most plots can only sustain two or three before collapsing into a great indigestible ball of wtfery.  Maybe the author was going for farce, but added a tad too much melodrama?

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