Rating: 4 stars
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Dragnet. No, not the movie, but the series the movie was based on. Do you remember it? I think Edward Kendrick does. Dragnet was a cop show. Each week Joe Friday would come into our homes via television and solve a crime. He would narrate the story with a rather detached precision as we watched the action unfold. Forbidden Fruit is a lot like that—a narrated crime story that unfolds and with its resolution, you discover that Kendrick has tricked you—you haven’t just been reading a mystery novel, no—you’ve been reading a romance novel…and it’s sweetness may just take your breath away.
Unfortunately, to get to that love story there is a mystery, and a rather dry introduction to our main character Sly. Samuel L. Young, private detective. He is hired to do a run of the mill check on a potential cheating wife. What he doesn’t know is that the wife is much more than she seems and that the client has no idea until it’s too late. Running in tandem with this story is one of a young man, a new employee at a diner Sly frequents often.
Jaime…sounded, fragile, sweet Jaime. He arrives in town on run for his life, being pursued by an abusive, controlling ex who has nearly broken Jaime in all the ways that matter. These two meet and something clicks, but Jaime has baggage—lots of it—and an ex-boyfriend who wants him back.
The growth in each of these characters was well plotted and executed with great care. Sly went from aloof, insensitive, and a bit snarky to a man who put his lover’s needs before his own. Who, in fact, put greater value on the aspect of loving the person and not just the act of sexual love. Jaime began this novella as a terrified and angry loner who was unable to stand another man’s touch due to the abuse he had suffered. Yet, through Sly’s loving tenderness and support, he heals bit by bit, growing stronger each day. I loved the fact that there was no easy fix for these guys. Kendrick gave us a carefully crafted look at what can happen when love prevails over baser needs and how trust is vital to a successful relationship
Forbidden Fruit is a tight little mystery, with its share of action and suspense. However, I did not think this was the novella’s strong point. In fact, that part of the story was rather dryly delivered—almost non-emotional and had the author allowed his character Sly to remain living there, I would have dismissed this story out of hand, given it a 2 or 3 rating and called it a day. But Kendrick wisely uses the factual narrative of the mystery plot line to morph into his true strength—the love story. The resulting middle and end to this novella was where the true heart of this story laid, and it drew me right down into it’s emtionally-charged pages and left me smiling.
So in the end, Dragnet became Castle…and a delightful novella, Forbidden Fruit was born. A sweet story and a happy ever after—who could ask for more?