This entertaining Regency Romance is number six, and according to the author's introduction the last, of the "Scandalous Women of the Ton" series of light regency romances, which consists of:
1) "Whisper of Scandal
2) "One Wicked Sin
3) "Mistress by Midnight
4) "Notorious (Scandalous Women of the Ton)
6) This book, "Forbidden."
The heroine of this book is Margery Mallon who appeared in several of the previous books in this series as maid to their heroines Lottie Palliser, Lady Tess Darent and Joanna Grant to whom she is in service at the start of this volume.
Margery believes that she was born to a poor and disreputable family in London. She has earned a position as lady's maid (one of the upper servants) through hard work and honesty: she has been told that she might rise to the highest possible position for a female servant, that of housekeeper, but the height of her ambition would be to open her own sweet shop.
But then, while on an honest errand in a very direputable establishment - she is providing some of the excellent sweets she cooks to the girls at Mrs Tong's brothel in exchange for disgarded gowns - Margery meets a tall and handsome aristocrat who addresses her by name.
How does this man, who introduces himself as Henry Ward, know who she is? What does he want - and why does she find him so fascinating?
Henry Ward - or to give him his full name, Lord Henry Wardeaux - is the godson of one of the richest earls in Britain. He has been asked to investigate a report that the earl's grand-daughter, who had been kidnapped at the age of four some twenty years before, is alive and well and working as a maid in London.
The earldom concerned is one of a few in the British peerage which can be inherited thought the female line. If Margery is the missing girl, she will become a countess in her own right - and Henry will be displaced as his godfather's heir.
Some men might have been tempted to find excuses to believe that Margery is not the rightful heir: but that isn't the temptation to dishonorable behaviour in which Henry finds himself. In the process of trying to get to the truth he finds himself strongly attracted to Margery - but how will she react when she finds out who he really is? This is one time when the course of true love is unlikely to run smooth ...
All the romances in this series work as stand-alone novels but as hinted above there is a substantial cast of common characters, and sometimes you can discover important information about what happens to the characters in one book by reading a subsequent volume in the series, which in a completely stand-alone novel would have had to go into an epilogue. For instance, this book continues the story of Francesca (Chessie) Devlin, who was an important supporting character in the fourth volume, "Notorious."
So although the novels stand on their own and you do not really have to read them in sequence, I think you will get slightly more out of them if you do.
Although the author says that she has now finished this series I suspect that at least one of the characters who appears in some of the "Scandalous Women of the Ton" books will appear again in another of her novels at some point in the future. Nicola Cornick appears to dislike leaving loose ends, and she has left a fairly major one hanging in Lady Emma Bradshaw (nee Brooke), who we first met as a beautiful and spoilt heiress who grew up the hard way through her mistakes in book four when she eloped with a silver-tongued villain. At the end of book five, partly as a result of having belatedly discovered a conscience, said villain appeared about to be executed, leaving Lady Emma an impoverished and disgraced widow. Somehow I suspect that the temptation to return to Emma's story may prove irresistible ...
I enjoyed this series and can recommend all the books in it, particularly "Mistress by Midnight" and this one.