While our present-day modern society has become much more permissive the world over as far as the interaction of the sexes in concerned, this development has also taken a little bit of the edge out of romance. It is no wonder that many romance writers write their tales set in historical times, crafting stories brimming with forbidden longing, stolen affections and, of course, a generous helping of intrigue.
Edith Layton weaves a predictable but still fairly enchanting romance with To Tempt a Bride. Set in nineteenth-century England, it revolves around the trials and travails of young debutante Camille, who loses her heart to Eric Ford, her older brother's charming friend.
But Eric, a world traveler and war veteran, is stricken by the malarial parasite and suffers recurring flashes of fever, and he holds back his affections due to his concerns about their age difference and his unstable health. In walks Nell, a gorgeous young street waif whom Eric ostensibly rescues from the hands of a devious pimp, and Camille finds herself oscillating between sisterly feelings for Nell and watching Nellís accelerated closeness to Eric in angry horror. While her subject is a love story, along the way Layton also manages to recreate the charm present in an old world where life was comparatively laid-back and invitations were doled out spontaneously.
Most of the characters in the book are straightforward, but by far Layton does her best job in fleshing out the characters of Camille and Nell. Nell exhibits Becky Sharp-like doggedness in the face of social stratification and Camilleís generosity, intelligence and innocence are set out well by contrast. The contrast in their personalities is most apparent during the girlsí discussion about sex; never mind the over-exaggeration and fact that Nellís statements appear at least a century ahead of the time. Eric is positively pasty in comparison to the ladies.
A book to reach out for when you are in the mood for "Ö allís well that ends well."