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FYA’s Grown-Up Guide To Romance Novels: FORBIDDEN HEARTS Trilogy By Alisha Rai

We're celebrating the most romantic month with a four-week series on some of our favorite romance novels. This week we’re talking about the steamy and sultry Forbidden Hearts trilogy from Alisha Rai.

FYA’s Grown-Up Guide To Romance Novels: FORBIDDEN HEARTS Trilogy By Alisha Rai

Friends, lovers, dukes and duchesses, welcome back to FYA's Grown-Up Guide to Romance Novels, a four-week series during the horniest month, in which we're exploring bodies...of work of some of our favorite romance authors. From modern day to historical, we'll get down and dirty with one series each week, and we hope you'll join us for the ride.

Forbidden Hearts trilogy by Alisha Rai

Sub-genre: Contemporary Romance
What to Expect: Lots of pining for what you can’t have, major family drama, angst, secrets and lies, tasty business

The Deal:

How do two families who once shared a business, friendship, and absolute trust become so utterly broken? TERRIBLE choices, that’s how. Lives were ruined and lost, but no matter how much the next generation tries, they just can’t stay away from each other.

From Fancy Dress to Fabio:

These covers are simple but sexy. Sultry without being lascivious. The beautiful flowers-and-vine tattoo on Livvy’s arm is actually what drew me to this cover and, subsequently, the series, in the first place because: pretty! It's a nice touch that they all have their tattoos prominently featured as the designs play into books multiple times. I love that the first cover featuring Nicholas shows him all “buttoned up” (to go along with his uptight nature), but the others (featuring slightly more bad boys) are displaying some perfectly well-crafted chests. Normally I’m not into real people on book covers, but these models actually look like the diverse characters they portray!

 

Hate to Want You (Forbidden Hearts #1)

Meet Cute:

Livvy and Nicholas have known and loved each other their entire lives, and their current situation isn’t so much a meet cute and as a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-see-you-next-year. To understand the context: Livvy and Nicholas’s grandfathers, who were like brothers, started a grocery store chain together. But when our couple were young adults, Nicholas’s mom and Liv’s dad died in a car accident--together. In her grief, Livvy’s mom sold her shares of the company to Nicholas’s conniving father, and that left their family practically penniless overnight. Nicholas broke things off with Livvy right after, and the two haven’t seen each other in ten years, or, at least, that’s what their families think. Secretly, the two meet up every year on Livvy’s birthday so she can blow out her candles, if yaknowwhatImean.  

The Leading Lady: Damaged Dame

Livvy took her riches-to-rags moment in stride, but what really hurt her was the loss of her family (especially her twin brother, Jackson, and her older brother, Paul) and the love of her life. She’s spent the last ten years wandering around the country guest-starring at different tattoo parlors and working on rebuilding her own self-worth. She limits her moments of weakness for Nicholas to just her birthday, but she’s worried she will crack under the pressure of seeing him daily now that she’s home for good.

The Leading Man: Workaholic Wanker

Since Nicholas’s father wrested sole ownership of their grocery business, Nicholas has been his right-hand man, working all hours of the day and denying himself simple pleasures like relaxation. He knows who the villain in his story is, and he sees him every time he looks in the mirror. Nicholas is obsessed with perfection, but his two weaknesses are overly sugary sweets and the mess that is Livvy Kane.

Risque Ranking: 10

These two believe they are hate-screwing each other during their secret dalliances, working one another out of their systems (mmkay). Rai does not care for sex euphemisms (there are no swords being plunged into her pleasure garden), so be warned those with delicate sensibilities, this hot and heavy couple leaves nothing to the imagination. Even when I was pretty sure I was reading alone I still glanced around in case anyone was looking over my shoulder. These scenes are S-T-E-A-M-Y. If you can handle it, it’s worth it. And even if you can’t, I’d still suggest getting the book and just skimming these parts, because the rest of it is also well written and stands on its own without the naughty bits.

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

Um, in light of the above, this is really hard to do without getting explicit. So we’ll go with:

He couldn’t begin to count the number of times they’d made love right here, their bodies straining together under the sky, back in the days when they’d been so hungry they could barely keep their hands away from each other. Each time they’d come together in some generic hotel room, part of his brain had been fantasizing that they were both right here.

Where they belonged.

Was It Good For You?

Yes! Livvy was such a great character. I loved how melodramatic everything was but at the same time it wasn’t SO completely over the top that the characters were caricatures. There was real hurt and real emotions, and I was eager to learn more of the mystery of what happened ten years prior. Honestly the sexy bits were almost a BIT much for me, but the rest of the story sucked me in so hard. Can someone make THIS a Lifetime movie ASAP? (But, like, a GOOD Lifetime movie.)

 

Wrong to Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2)

Meet Cute:

This is a complicated meet cute, because Sadia and Jackson have been friends since childhood, but things took a bit of a turn when she married his older brother, Paul, and then when Jackson went to jail for arson for burning down the flagship grocery store his family owned. After being released, Jackson left town and never returned; not when Sadia and Paul’s son, Kareem, was born, and not even when Paul died in a tragic hiking accident. But now Jackson is back, looking to repair his broken relationships with his family, and he’s got MLD and muscles all over him. Sadia must ponder the age-old, soap-opera-y question: Is it wrong to date two brothers?

The Leading Lady: Multitasking Mama

Sadia is a pretty awesome lady. She’s a single mom, owns a small cafe, also works at as a bartender, and is the glue that keeps what remains of the Kane family together. She’s also freaking exhausted from doing all that work, and no one will blame her if she sometimes uses her time at the bar to scope out potential one-night stands to let off some steam. I loved that she didn’t let Jackson off the hook that easily for disappearing, and that there were real obstacles to their relationship.

The Leading Man: Sexy Chef

Is there anything sexier than a guy who can cook, likes to hang out with his nephew, and adores you? Jackson is a man of few words, but inside he’s got a lot of feelings. He’s a big giant softie who also has to overcome the hurts of his past (these families really did a number on themselves) and has secrets piled on top of secrets.

Risque Ranking: 9

Dating your dead brother’s widow certainly feels taboo even though there’s nothing lawfully wrong about it. Jackson and Sadia have plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t be together, so when they give in to their desires it’s all very forbidden and hot. Interestingly, Sadia is the more forward of the two, having far more experience scratching those itches and separating sex from feelings than Jackson. 

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

It took a second to hoist her up his body, mirroring the other couple in the alley. She automatically locked her legs around his waist and he groaned at the way his body nestled into the cradle of hers. “You want to get off.” His voice was low and guttural. She deserved hearts and flowers, not crassness, but all she had was him, and he was crass.

Was It Good For You?

Yep, I was super into this one. Jackson’s pining for Sadia really got me. Sadia was a cool chick, and I loved that Rai was real with her struggles and how frustrating it was to be “on” all the time. Kids as a trope can be tricky, but I liked the addition of Kareem, and of course, I loved learning more about the Kanes/Chandlers.

 

Hurts to Love You (Forbidden Hearts #3)

Meet Cute:

Gabe and Eve have the least backstory compared to the other two couples, though they’ve still got a history. Tattoo artist Gabe is the co-worker of Livvy and childhood best friend of her older brother, Paul, so he was always around when the Kane and Chandler families would hang out. Gabe’s the older boy Eve’s always longed for, but when she propositioned him a few years ago during her college years he turned her down. Très mortifying. But now Eve’s an adult, and she’s going for what she wants...by which I mean she secretly works as a driver for "Ryde" and figures out how to be near enough to be the driver to pick up Gabe whenever he’s had too much to drink at Sadia’s bar. He has no idea that his nice, chatty driver “Anne” is actually Eve in disguise. She also happened to finagle the two of them into closer quarters IRL when they agree to help plan Livvy and Nicholas’s wedding. (I promise this is not as stalkery of a book as it sounds.)

The Leading Lady: Healing Heroine

Throughout her entire life, everyone has been trying to shelter Eve from her father’s lack of love, from the tragedy of her mother’s death, and from doing anything real for herself. She’s overcome a lot of emotional trauma and is finally taking the bull by the horns and demanding what she deserves. She’s a lot shyer and more innocent than Livvy or Sadia, but she’s still a fully-realized, flawed character.

The Leading Man: Conflicted Canoodler

Gabe has always felt like the outsider in the saga that is the Kanes and Chandlers. He grew up closely to all the drama as the Kane’s housekeeper’s son, but his role was strictly as an observer when everything imploded. He struggles with the idea of belonging with someone as beautiful, rich, and poised as Eve Chandler and figures there’s no way she would love him as much as he wants her (her drunken proposal from a while back aside). Gabe is a decent guy, and despite his feelings of inadequacy and their disparate sexual experience levels, someone needs to tell him that Eve thinks he’s more than good enough to be marriage material.

Risque Ranking: 7

Gabe and Eve’s romantic entanglements sort of take a backseat to the resolution of three books worth of secrets and lies. He refuses to get too close to Eve emotionally, which means their time together is punctuated with unspoken feelings and casual comments that cut to the quick. Gabe is a fan of dirty talk, which may do it for some, but for me personally it always feels a little cheesy to read, so that lowered the sexy factor a bit (YMMV, of course).

Ms. Perky's Prize for Purplest Prose:

Innocence ruined wasn’t his kink, but the excitement in her eyes was. She was enjoying feasting on his body.

Was It Good For You?

Ah, the sweet reveal of all the secrets! That was my favorite part about this book, because I’d become INVESTED. I thought I would really love Gabe and Eve, and it’s not like they were BAD, but compared to the first two couples they were definitely stuck in third. I liked this series enough to spent like forty minutes one day in my friend’s office explaining the entire plot (I swear she kept asking me questions about it and I wasn't trapping her there like a book-evangelizing weirdo).

FTC Full Disclosure: We did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the lame cranberry ones) for writing these reviews. The Forbidden Hearts series is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.