Tempted to Love was another speedy read by Barbara Cartland. In this brief story, eighteen-year-old Ivona is suddenly orphaned and placed as a ward under the care of her religious fanatic uncle. After living under the brutality of her abusive father, who regularly whipped both Ivona and her mother, the uncle wishes to place her in a convent which is known for its own degree of severity among its postulants (it flogs them). At the beginning of the novel while describing Ivona’s teenage years Cartland replayed the most unpleasant episodes of physical abuse by whipping. Both Ivona and her mother suffered and I did not enjoy reading about it. Ivona was terrorized by the idea of a future under the disciplinary eye of the nuns so she devised a plan to escape while en route to the convent.
The story involves a case of cross-dressing, as Ivona can only escape prying eyes by cutting off her curls and dressing as a young man. She is under the impression that she has fooled everyone, but I gather from others’ reactions that no one is deceived by her masquerade, not even the Duc de Sancerre, whose cabin she stumbles across while running away through the snow.
As this is a typically short Cartland romance it does not take long for feelings to develop between the two (and thus for Ivona’s masculine disguise to be revealed). After a surprising encounter by the uncle who is on the hunt for her, Ivona finds herself caught in the middle of the two men who each want her but for wildly different reasons. They challenge each other to a duel and then the suspense kicks in: who will die? Who will shoot first? Would it be the uncle, the duke, or…someone else…who draws the fastest?
Just as in The Kiss of Life, Cartland portrays her heroines with annoyingly halting speech patterns, full of unnecessary pauses (indicated by ellipses) which render comprehension of what they are saying difficult unless the entire passage is read without breaks. I wonder why such a champion of romance makes her women protagonists seem so unsure of themselves.