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Robert Milton has just experienced two losses in his life, in terrible succession: first, the Duke of Beckworth, his employer has died, and, second, he receives news that his mother has also died. The Duke's death has put Robert's entire career in limbo, and his mother's death has put his entire life in limbo. With no employer to serve, Robert travels to his mother's estate to settle her affairs and meets Isabel Durham, his mother's companion -- who, despite not having been paid or not having an employer any longer, has stayed on in the house.
It was not the best first impression: Robert had thought the worst of Isabel, believing her to be of the same occupation as his mother, and further believing that Isabel had not-so-good intentions on his mother's house.
And so begins the peeling back of the layers of Robert's carefully folded up life: the bastard son of his courtesan mother and of a titled peer -- he has resented his mother's choices his entire life. While his mother maintained a regular correspondence with him, Robert had never taken his mother's words seriously -- and I got the sense that he was very condescending towards her. His mother's death came as a surprise to Robert, but it was his own fault: his mother had written to him of her illness, but Robert chose to interpret it as his mother's dramatics. Then, when he meets Isabel, whom he vaguely remembers his mother writing about, he thinks she is the same as his mother.
It is clear that Robert Milton doesn't have a very good opinion of the world, and it is Isabel's goodness that helps him see things differently.
Isabel isn't all that she seems to be: it's obvious that Isabel is more than just a companion, and Robert needs to earn her trust before she reveals her story -- but things speed up when Isabel's past comes knocking at her door, and she needs to take drastic action if she wants to gain control of her life.
This, perhaps, is the weakest part of the story -- Isabel needs to ruin herself, and make herself unmarriageable -- and she wants Robert to help her. I already liked how Robert grudgingly admires Isabel and her integrity, and would have wanted them to settle into that comfortable companionship, which would have probably taken a longer book -- but Isabel's situation required them to move things along at a faster pace. There's attraction, but our hero and heroine are both wary of the members of the opposite gender (because of their pasts), so but the chemistry between Robert and Isabel is a bit vague.
The second book in the A Year Without a Duke series was the last book I read, and I thought it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the characters and world created by Kate Pearce, Suzanna Medeiros, Jennifer Haymore, Sabrina Darby and Genevieve Turner -- Forbidden in February also holds the distinction for being the saddest book in the series for me. Here's why: Robert Milton and his mother never had a good relationship, and his mother has always tried to reach out to him, but he never gave her a chance. Now, at her death, so many things are revealed to Robert -- but he'll never get a chance to make it up to his mother. He'll never have the chance to talk to her about all these things that are bothering him (unlike Marcus and Caroline). The question for Robert, from the very beginning of the story is, what now? What next? And he'll have to answer that knowing that there are still so many things that are unresolved in his past -- but, the small consolation is that he'll have Isabel by his side.
Forbidden in February is the second book in the A Year Without a Duke series. To find out more about Suzanna Medeiros and her books, click below: