Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

historical romance review
Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe
Rating: two-stars
Published: June 1, 1979
Illustrator: Jordi Penalva
Book Series: Lorna & Paul Trilogy #1
Published by: Playboy Press
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Romance with Rape Element
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader

Historical Romance Review: Tempt Not This Flesh by Barbara Riefe

The Book

Barbara Riefe’s Tempt Not This Flesh was yet another inexplicable bestseller for the gender-bending author whose real name was Alan Riefe. It’s a 1970s bodice ripper Playboy Press published that has very little romance, includes some rape, and lacks any real excitement.

One wonders how desperate readers in the 1970s were for anything interesting to happen in their “romances.”

The Heroine

Lorna, the heroine of Tempt Not This Flesh, definitely deserved a better book than the one she was forced to partake in. Really, with quotes like 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.

so wicked the heart
So Wicked the Heart, Barbara Riefe, Playboy, 1980, Sanjulian cover art
(Book #2 in the Lorna & Paul trilogy)

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.

A nefarious Count holds Lorna held captive in the small kingdom of Savoy. He has plans for her, as a crazy king and wicked queen rule during turbulent times. Except for her hair color, Lorna looks. almost identical to Queen Caroline-Louisa. The Count forces Lorna to pose as her double. He has her head s shaved as smooth as a freshly-shat-out egg, thus cementing the frightening trauma that begins.

Many evildoers threaten Lorna with torture, terrorize her, and attempted assassination. She raped several times (really raped, no forced seductions here).

But her will is steel. She will not break. Lorna may be forced into this game of madness, but she plans to survive 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. Sadly, though, 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, who rages on about “The rent being too damned high!”? In this book, “The paragraphs were too damned long!” It was 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 yellowed paper. Or the words in a 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, it turns out that trying to find a great read in these old Playboy Press books is akin to dumpster diving. You hope to find an untouched 5-star gourmet meal sealed up in one of those fancy take-out aluminum-foil swans. But…

It’s possible, for sure. However, 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.

P.S. If anyone knows the name of that font/typeface that many of these old books were written in, let me know. [Somehwere from the mid-1950s to the early-1980s era. I feel like an idiot not knowing something so basic. Thanks.

Rating Report Card
Fun Factor
Overall: 2.4


Tempt Not This Flesh is a story of abduction and sexual enslavement, a story of passion unleashed and unbounded. And above all it is the story of a woman’s love, shattered like glass, then resurrected, rekindled by a dashing captain of dragoons. A love so powerful it is forged into a weapon that topples a dynasty. 


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