Jan. 25th, 2015

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The Night of Temptation, by Victoria Cross (1914) note: 1914 edit gives copyright as 1912.
 photo cross_zps21a03d65.jpg


18 years old Regina lives at the Rectory in a conventional country village with her parents, and her two older sisters. She spends most of her time in her 'enchanted garden', teaching herself, reading books in foreign languages, and painting. When the handsome, dashing Everest, a college friend of her Father's, comes to convalesce at their home after contracting yellow fever, their lives change forever. In the month he stays, they fall in love, and end up consummating their love in the 'enchanted garden'. Horrified that he has ruined her, he asks her to marry her. However, she refuses on the grounds that he is only asking her because he feels it is his duty. She tells him she will marry him later on, if he still feels the same way after returning to his life in London...

It reminds me a lot of Elynor Glyn’s novels – the same melodramatic plots, the hero and heroine who are abnormally good and beautiful, the purple prose, and the paragraphs and paragraphs of theories on men and women and love. I believe that Victoria Cross had many similarities to Glyn, being a British author of scandalous romances who had been writing since the mid-1900s. Whether or not she was a copycat of sorts, I don’t know.
I can see how this would have been a very scandalous book though, even in 1914.

- Regina is as intelligent and beautiful as she is because she was ‘born of love’, born from her mother’s affair with the man she loved. (Her children with her husband, by contrast, were ‘born of hate’.
- Regina and Everest sleep together within in the first month of meeting.
- She refuses to marry him when he asks, because he is only doing it out of a sense of honor.
- She spends the rest of the book living with him ‘in sin’ – indeed, when his sister tells her that she should leave Everest so he can marry his cousin Sybil, who will be a proper wife for him, Regina refuses to believe that a marriage without love is better than being in love without marriage.
- However, she decides not to marry him until she knows she can conceive his child.
- Everest falls in lust with Sybil, but tells Regina that it doesn’t mean anything or take away from his love for her at all.

All in all the book is also a social commentary of the superficial nature of English family life, and the hypocrisy of mixing worldly positions and religion, of love and marriage and how the two can be mutually exclusive, and the nature of men and women (and how both have a little of each in them.) He loves her for her intelligence, not only her beauty.

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