I have a special treat for you today. Diane Rinella, who kindly provided me with a copy of her novel, Love's Forbidden Flower, in exchange for an honest review, took some time to be interviewed by me. The novel tells the story of soul mates, who just happen unluckily to be siblings as well. I would like to say however, that I came to view the subject matter in a new light while I was reading this novel, and found myself touched by the choices made by the characters.
Summary from Goodreads
Paperback, 309 pages
Published November 28th 2012
by Midnight to SixISBN 0615732623 (ISBN13: 9780615732626)
Lily nurtures a secret love for a flawless man—the one who is her soul mate. Donovan is gorgeous, charismatic, and delights in all of Lily’s talents and quirks. Their innate knowledge of each other is almost telepathic. Together they interlock like fine threads creating luxurious silk.
But society dictates this picture-perfect adoration is the ghastliest of all possibilities.
As Lily embarks on a quest for the romance the heavens intended, her suitor turns reluctant. Desperate to uncover why Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hiding decayed from a tender-hearted gentleman into a ferociously self-serving, cocky bastard, Lily is prepared for battle when it comes to the salvation of her soul mate. However, Donovan traps Lily in a mental game of chess, leaving her to question his sanity. When Lily’s revelations about Donovan’s destructive alter ego lead to an inconceivable truth, can she help Donovan survive fate’s cruel joke?
Impassioned, witty, and deeply moving, Love’s Forbidden Flower is filled with stunning controversies that will forever haunt your heart.
I decided to read this novel largely out of curiosity. It was one that a lot of my friends were reading, and found moving. I love moving books. But I was a little hesitant about what I was getting myself into. As I started reading the book, I was struck by the sweetness of the romance. Lily is a strong minded character, and she's very honest with herself throughout the book. It was clear very early in the novel that she had developed feelings for Donovan, and was willing to pursue those feelings to see where they led, regardless of what others might think. I admired her strength in this respect; she was simply unwilling to feel guilty about how she felt. In fact, it seemed to me that the thought of feeling guilty never crossed her mind.
Sadly, it crossed Donovan's. Just as they are about to discuss what is between them, Donovan suddenly bails on Lily and turns into someone she barely recognizes. From a sweet, nurturing sort of man who has always been her best friend, he turns into someone angry and withdrawn. He's as likely to sneer at Lily as he is to speak to her civilly. And the change is mystifying, and frustrating for both Lily and the reader. There was a huge portion where I was wondering, when are these two going to talk about the elephant in their relationship? Because while Lily attempts to straighten out matters Donovan and herself, he's always avoiding her and simply asking that she trust him, that one day, he will tell her everything she wants to know. And I wanted to smack him for being so cryptic!
But I loved that Lily chose to move on with her life, and let herself begin planning a future without Donovan, and become involved with Christopher. Christopher is an endearing British bloke that Lily falls in love with, and while it took me a while to warm up to him, he is in fact, a very sweet character that I really came to admire. His acceptance of Lily and all her troubles with Donovan at the end of the novel really won me over. Is he perfect for Lily? I don't know. But he's probably the only person in the whole world that can see what is between Lily and Donovan and not ask questions, and still stick around.
Now, there did come a point where between Lily and Donovan not talking, and Lily and Christopher being in a weird long distance semi-romance/semi-friendship, where I started to wonder where the story was going. And that's when I was struck with the heart of the book: that the story is much bigger than a story about soul mates who happen to be star crossed. Love's Forbidden Flower gently nudges us into thinking about acceptance in a whole new light, a way that was meaningful when applied it the real world. I was glad to see that Ms. Rinella presented us with a story that was sweet, but had a realistic element of starkness to it. An element that nearly destroyed Donovan and makes him a character that you cannot help but ache for because he's victimized in a way that is so wholly unexpected that it broke my heart. What he had to endure, what it did to him, made me recoil because it was so awful. The story forces us to face a reality that we might otherwise chose to ignore: that perhaps what society considers perverted might need to be re-evaluated. The ending struck me as particularly powerful and wholly appropriate.
I'd like to thank Ms. Rinella for her wonderful story telling and for illustrating so poignantly that we have a moral obligation to accept others for exactly who they are.
4 glittering stars
Interview With Diane Rinella
1. The novel deals with some delicate subject matter. Was it a topic that required a lot of research?
To a degree, yes. The statistics used in the book were researched and are accurate. Since many of society’s biases toward sibling relations are similar to views once held on homosexuality, some of the perspectives and events stem from real situations involving homosexuals. As far as the relationship goes, the only research was to see what “causes” siblings to fall in love, because there are theories. I went out of my way to avoid those scenarios and detached myself from thinking of Lily and Donovan as being anything other than soul mates. Many readers have commented that because of that their views have either been challenged or changed. Also, real life sibling couples have contacted and thanked me for my compassion and accuracy. That is the best review I could ever ask for.
It depends on my mood. I have huge book boyfriend crushes on both Donovan and Christopher. Lily and I share a lot of personality traits—self-reliance, advanced in culinary skills at a young age, liberal views, and internal snarkiness. I totally get her. In choosing one though, it would be Donovan. I’d seriously love to run off with that man.
3. I often wished I could hear Donovan's voice more as I was reading. What made you chose a first person narrative style? And why Lily?
That was such a tough decision. I wrote the story three times because of that. What it came down to was that only through the question of what was going on with Donovan could the reader understand how hard it was for Lily to stand by him and thus show the strength of their love. When the reveal happens, the impact is big and your heart suddenly goes out to him, and the enormity of what he went though hits you. That’s when many readers who were uncomfortable with the subject could sympathize.
4. The concept of soul mates was one you touched on throughout the novel. Do you believe in soul mates?
I do. I believe that we live many lives and that people really do see each other again, be they friends or enemies.
5. What can you tell us about the novel's sequel?
I’m being pretty tight lipped about the story, but I will reveals that those little loops I left open do get closed. The first book was about being true to yourself and what happens when you fail at that, along with what happens when we impose biases on others. The second has more of that, but also explores personal liability and how you have to live with your decisions, be they good or bad, even if you change your mind.