Taboo by Kathleen Lawless
(Pocket, $12.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7434-7671-9
Fallon Gilchrist is a painter who has lost her muse. Since the death of husband, she has remained secluded on her country estate outside of Boston. Her friend, Anna, is so worried about her that she bids on a delectable bachelor at an auction and presents him to Fallon as a birthday present. Montague “Bridge” Bridgeman is hers for an entire week. When Fallon lays eyes on the devilishly handsome rogue she finds her muse, along with the passionate sexual feelings that she has tried to keep a lid on. In between posing sessions, the two quickly develop a sexual relationship that could peel paint off walls.

Outside of anthologies, I believe this is the first time in my five years of reviewing where a one-paragraph plot description will suffice. Clocking in at a slim 181 pages, I can’t help wondering why the publisher chose to go with the more expensive trade paperback format for an author that is writing under a pseudonym – a fact disclosed right on the back cover copy. While I try my best to critique a book on its own merits, admittedly the $12 cover price for an unknown author is a little hard to ignore on a book this slim in nature.

Certain aspects of this story work quite well, most notably the scorching sex scenes. Bridge and Fallon don’t waste any time getting down to business, with each encounter more erotic than the last. Fallon quickly lets go of her inhibitions and Bridge, a notorious rake, finds himself feeling something beyond sexual pleasure for the first time. The author wisely treads along the lavender shoreline, as opposed to diving into Purple Prose Lake and these scenes are particularly titillating.

Unfortunately the other aspects of the plot are rather thin. Taboo is a historical, but the author never really nails down a specific time period. Since it is addressed that Bridge is a veteran, I suspect that the story takes place in Boston a few years after the Civil War – although it could just as easily be World War I. While Fallon’s character is fleshed out fairly well, Bridge gets a bit of a short shift. He’s haunted by his war experiences and pushes those memories away by being the debauched bachelor. However, that’s about as deep as the author explores his psyche. No specifics as to why the war haunts him, not much development of his family background, or even what he’s been doing with himself besides having oodles of mindless sex for his 24 years.

While marketed as fiction, Taboo really has all the ear markings of romantica - erotic love scenes, a romantic couple, and a happily ever after. Unfortunately, only the heroine and the love scenes really come off as something more than cardboard. Delving into the hero’s psyche and further utilizing what could be a very interesting setting would certainly have ranked Taboo higher in this reviewer’s opinion. Ultimately it reminded me of days spent at the county fair as a kid - gorging myself on fried dough and cotton candy and leaving me with no nutritional content whatsoever.

--Wendy Crutcher

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