**Samhain Publishing Week**
Title: The Forbidden Chamber (purchase here)
Author(s): Ella Drake
Genre: Paranormal, Historical, Romance, Gothic
Publisher/Year: Samhain Publishing/2009
-Webpage: Ella Drake Official
-Blog: Ella Drake Blog
-The Story Behind the Story: Bluebeard as a romance?
Samhain Warning: This gothic contains heady kisses that lead to ruin, passionate sex on a desk chair, a mysterious husband who may be a murderer, a cursed family of raven shifters, and an unspeakable evil hidden in the closet.
“Your life is forfeit if you open that door.”
All her life, Lady Isabel Colven has followed the path laid out for her, content to look neither left nor right for excitement. Her future holds a dutiful, passionless marriage to some nice young man, and she’s content…until the exotic and compelling Lord Rukh Hayle threatens her maidenly reserve. Rumor paints him as a wife-murderer; desire tempts her to look past his aura of danger.
Rukh refuses to let his family’s curse kill a third bride, but Isabel awakens the Raven within him, compels him to take her to wife—and to bed—despite the secrets that live under his skin. That lie is locked in the darkest corners of the manor, waiting to be unleashed. Their lusty union arouses the curse, entangling Isabel in an erotic tug of war that can only end in her destruction. There is no escape for either of them. Not from his family’s shadowy history. Not from demons imagined and real. And not from the choice Rukh faces to save his bride from a fate worse than death…
Review: As I explained in my intro post (here) e-books are a relatively new reading habit of mine. After being offered a chance to review anything I wanted from Samhain I knew immediately I wanted to read this. Aside from the gorgeous cover, the synopsis really drew my attention. As did the Samhain warning. Then I went and read more about it over at the author's blog and saw that it involved Bluebeard...and I just sort of spazzed a little bit. The novel lived up to my expectations (and the warning XD).
Isabel is hands down one of my favorite romance heroines. When a girl's mindset has her thinking "She would dress herself, suitably impress her mother with her new station and then rid the world of one incubus, named Bluebeard." (pg. 50, pdf) after learning her husband's family's deep dark secret (and being sex'ed up all night long) you have to love the girl. She doesn't spend time moping or bemoaning her fate. There are problems in her marriage, but she was determined to find some way to fix them. To put it succinctly--she puts her fear to good use by using it to galvanize her to fix things.
Rukh (pronounced 'rook') is very, very alpha male. He mentions, more than once, that he has trouble keeping his 'beast' under control as a rule and now with Isabel he seems to have almost no control whatsoever. As the reader we know why, but it takes him a little longer to catch on. I do kind of wonder at his way of showing Isabel affection, since he does more harm then good by being with her, but Isabel isn't entirely blameless. She pushes against the safety restrictions he places upon her and when he erects new ones she pushes even harder.
Rukh's family, with the exception of his nephew Christopher, are possibly the most selfish, egocentric people I've ever read about in anything and why he wants to help them at all was beyond me. I can only blame blood sings stronger then rational thinking. They also use underhanded means and like to keep secrets. Unfortunately Isabel's family isn't much better, so they are matched in that.
Passion and affection are evident in everything either of them do. Even when circumstances are so tense that I was worried for their sanity, they didn't give up. Isabel's strong will and practical nature was really what saved them in the end I think. Bluebeard, in here he is a wife-killing incubus, not a wife-killing pirate, was pretty much as depraved as they come. May he rot in whatever hell he deserves.
My only question was in regards to Christopher and Sheila. Without spoiling anything, I did not understand his need to protect her. Was it just plain old male chivalry? He was obviously a good fellow, he proved that half a dozen times, but he was bound and determined (to the point of suicide) to save Sheila and I didn't understand why.
In the end, Drake gave me a mighty fine re-imagining of the Bluebeard legend and more than that an enthralling romance as well.