*SPOILER ALERT WARNING*
Every now and then, I read a category romance that blows me away. Charlotte Lamb’s Temptation has done that for me. This book is written in two distinct sections. The first is set in the calm, sheltered beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and the second is set primarily in busy, civilized London.
Linden had only been seventeen when Joss crashed into her life. Naively, she offered him her friendship and trust. In return, he had aroused emotions in her she was too young to handle, wrenching her from childhood to womanhood in a few startling days.
When he left her, Linden realized that she been ruthlessly used. Her love for Joss had been almost worshipful. His love had been a savage devouring–taking and never giving. His love had destroyed her-just as she would now destroy him!
As the book blurb indicates Linden falls in love with a much older man, Joss. The book begins in a dreamlike idyll in the Yorkshire Dales. The protagonist Linden has led a sheltered life with her emotionally distant father, and in a Catholic convent in Italy for her schooling. She is a few weeks from turning 18 when the male protagonist, Joss, tumbles into her life. He is 39 but very little is revealed about him in the first half of the book. There is a strong relationship building between these two and all the while the reader is reminded that Linden is still young. You see the struggle that Joss has keeping away from Linden. In the same scene that he calls her a child, he is also kissing her. Afters sleeping with her he leaves her for he is married. Circumstances bring Joss and Linden to having sex and it is after this that he leaves and the reader (and Linden) find out that Joss is married. Devastated Linden becomes near suicidal, her actions harming her father physically. After a long recuperation she heads to London to study and she meets a lovely young man. She has a slow courtship with him and heads to his home to discover that he is the son of Joss. At this time she avows her revenge to hurt him (Joss) and break him the same way he hurt her years earlier (oh! Yes! It is a revenge book).
It is at this point that the book becomes heartbreaking. Linden’s ferocity towards Joss is so full of vitriol that as the reader you just want to gather him into your arms. And this is what amazed me about this intense book. Here is a situation that in reality would appall me. The 22 year age gap, the 17 year old, the married hero all should have had me shaking my fist to the skies yet I loved Lamb’s depiction of this remorseful, broken man.
Charlotte Lamb does not hesitate to broach some ethically tenuous story lines. She was writing stories in the 1970’s that you would be hard-pressed to find in current, conservative romances (the sex may be more explicit but the moral lines are much more defined). There wasn’t only the age gap, the under age sex, alcoholism, the duplicity and adultery as well as the inappropriateness of Linden dating Joss’s son. For the second half of the book, I both admired and wanted to shake Linden for her vengeful stand against Joss even though in my rightful mind I acknowledged that she had every right to her anger as he had been the adult and should never have approached her. Despite this, I found myself empathising deeply with his broken self. Linden finally comes to the realisation that Joss is human and not a demigod. She forgives him and there is a great love declaration that is suitable for this wonderful, melodramatic story.
Charlotte Lamb discomfits me, the reader who has fallen so in love with her story that I forgot and lost myself in her book and I was cheering for a love match that sat well outside my own moral code of acceptance. For right at the end, just as you have relished a happily ever after, she subtley reminds the reader that Linden was only 17 when 39 year old Joss slept with her.