2 stars

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

Tempt Not This Flesh, Barbara Riefe, Playboy Press, 1979, Jordi Penalva cover art

She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could?


2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes likes this:

“Every day, almost every hour a new problem cropped up, piled upon the other like [kindling] piling around Joan of Arc at the stake. Still, whatever had happened, whatever was to come, this Yankee was no martyr; come what may, [Lorna] was not about to be a human sacrifice on the altar of this old man’s insatiable ambition. A pawn in his game, perhaps, but only until she could turn the play around and checkmate him.”

Or this one, which shows she is much too smart for this mild turkey of a bodice ripper:

“She could never love him again, what woman with pride and self-esteem and memory could? It was like being brutally raped, only to have your assaulter satisfy his lust, then turn around and propose marriage. His logic, his love-supplanted-by-hate-which-in-turn-could-be-supplanted-once-again-by-love idea was false. Absurd as far as she was concerned.

The Plot

Poor Lorna only wanted to enjoy her honeymoon and make love to her husband. That’s how the book starts, with Lorna Singleton-Stone, formerly of Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, and her husband Philip making love at an inn in Boston. But before the night is out, her husband is brutally murdered right before her eyes and Lorna is kidnapped and set on a ship headed to a nightmare.

Lorna is held captive in the small kingdom of Savoy by a nefarious count who has plans for her as a crazy king and wicked queen rule during turbulent times. Except for her hair color, Lorna is almost identical to Queen Caroline-Louisa and is forced to pose as her double. So her head is shaved as smooth as a freshly-shat-out egg, thus cementing the frightening trauma that begins.

Lorna is threatened with torture, terrorized, survives attempted assassination, and raped several times (really raped, no forced seductions here).

But her will is made of steel, and she will not break. Lorna may be forced into this game of madness, but she plans on survival at all costs. Along the way, she meets and falls for Paul, the Queen’s lover, who has a secret plan of survival himself. Twists and turns occur, but sadly, what started out as a promising adventure turned into a slow, painful slosh through muddy waters.

Final Analysis of Tempt Not This Flesh

You know the meme with the guy with the awesome sideburns raging on about the “Rent being too damned high!”? Well, in this book, “The paragraphs were too damned long!” Full of info-dumps that bored me, and caused me to skim.

A lot.

A whole lot, especially past the halfway point when all I wanted was to get it over with!

By the end, my eyes couldn’t handle those page-long paragraphs on the yellowed paper, written in faded size-8 old-timey serif font (What is the name of that font, anyway? It’s not Baskerville, right? I should know this!)

Yeesh, trying to find a great read in these old Playboy Press books is akin to dumpster diving in the hopes of finding untouched 5-star gourmet meal sealed up in one of them fancy take-out aluminum-foil swans. It’s possible, for sure, but it’s a messy slog to get there, and there’s a 100% chance you’ll end up with lots of stinky crap in your hands first, if ever you do find one.

(Seriously if anyone knows the name of that font/typeface/whatever that most of these old trashy books [the mid-1950s to early-1980s era] were written in, let me know. I feel like an idiot not knowing something so basic. Thanks.)

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