|It wasn't until later that I realized this is part of the Silk & Scandal series, so as I was reading this I had no previous knowledge of any parts of the book. Some of the innuendo and a large part of the book that is connected to the series made little sense to me, so I warn you off this tale if you have not been reading the series. Even then, I am not sure you will find Claiming the Forbidden Bride worth your time.
Rhys Morgan was a major in the Peninsula Wars who suffered injuries and has scars both in his psyche and on his body. He has been recuperating at the home of his brother and wife, but fears that he will always be a burden. He has no title and no fortune, although he is not poor since he has his pension. He is determined to help out in the War Office and heads to London to meet with his godfather, an Earl who is apparently connected to the mystery in the series. On his way, he saves a young girl from drowning and for his efforts, he gets a knot on his head. Rhys passes out from the knock and wakes up in a gypsy camp, after also undergoing a recurrence of a fever he first contracted in Spain.
His nurse and the first person he sees is Nadya Argentari, the local Gypsy healer. It was her daughter Angel who was rescued. Despite the culture differences of the English and the Romany people, Nadya feels compelled to help this man, who is the reason her daughter is alive. Angel is deaf and mute, which also adds to her vulnerability.
Of course, Rhys is instantly attracted and so is Nadya. They immediately recognize their attraction and all the reasons why nothing can come of it, though they sense it is more than just lust. But Nadya's history includes the fact that her mother fell in a love with an Englishman, and had a son who was raised by the man and his wife until he died. The wife then turned the boy over to a foundling home, where he escaped and found his way to the camp. This boy grew to be Nadya's half-brother Stephano, who is out for vengeance against the men who he is certain killed his father. (This story of the murder and the vengeance is the essence of the series). In this tale, the only role the old murder plays is the affect it has had on Stephano, Nadya and their attitudes.
While Rhys is at the Gypsy camp, local townspeople raid the camp and proclaim that they are searching for Nadya. Rhys is concerned for her safety and struggles with the contradiction between his feelings for her and what he knows their life will be like if they were to try to make a life together. The story follows their search for the truth of that night and of course, their relationship.
I found the story to start off strong and then fizzle. By the middle, I was waiting for something to happen to lead them to their HEA. Instead, page after page seemed to ask the same question of "how can they love and yet not be able to live in either culture?" There was a great deal of introspection and back and forth, and a large section where they separated and yet still they wondered about their future.
I found Nadya to be a contradiction since she had reasons for hating the English, and yet she was very tolerant. Rhys just seemed lost and I never had a sense that he had a sense of direction for his own life, let alone how he would take care of a wife and child.
By the time the story ended, with an apparent subsequent tale about Stephano, I was just glad to see the book come to a close. I found the ending unrealistic and unsupported by anything that had come before. Claiming the Forbidden Bride may appeal more for those who have followed the series but for others, my recommendation is to steer clear.