Today’s book is Forbidden, by F Stone.
Length: 363 pages
Publisher: Romance Under Fire
Released: December 12, 2016
Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.
The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.
Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.
When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.
CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hitman on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.
What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.
My beef lies more with the characters than the story. Not bad, but not for me.
Look, don’t get me wrong – Forbidden was well-written and well-paced, and more than lives up to the ‘suspense romance’ tagline. But unfortunately, all that was secondary to the fact that I couldn’t get a handle on Eliza.
This poor woman (who’s already dealing with PTSD from a horrific event in her past) witnesses a brutal massacre, gets held hostage in a foreign country, has the threat of execution looming overhead, narrowly avoids getting gang raped… and then just kinda falls into Stockholm syndrome-y love with the cop at the heart of this whole mess. The book didn’t delve very deeply into her emotional turmoil beyond a few mentions of therapy and some conveniently plot-driving PTSD flashbacks. As a result, Eliza just seemed to pinball between the extremes of ‘complete wreck’ and ‘can-do optimist’ without much explanation – from paralyzing fear to happily cleaning Hashim’s apartment; from a mental breakdown to running off as if she could singlehandedly escape a hostile government. Many of her decisions felt sudden and unrealistic, and it really took me out of the story.
Ms. Stone is a great writer, no doubt. When it comes to Forbidden, though, I wish the characters’ internal conflicts had gotten as much screen time as the external conflict.