A Matter of Temptation
A Matter of Temptation is the heartrending story of one man’s reemergence into life after enduring years of unbelievable cruelty at the hands of his brother. While the heroine does play a part in the redemption of his tortured soul, she primarily acts as mere romantic window dressing in the life of the hero. Although this is no Flowers from the Storm, it is similar in tone and content.
Robert Hawthorne, the Duke of Killingsworth, is the oldest of twins and has always been the exemplary first born son, never shirking his responsibilities. In their youth, though his twin John was a troublesome sort and a tad jealous, he appeared to reluctantly accept his role as the younger son. Eight years previously Robert discovered how truly troublesome John could be when, at the age of 18, he arranged Robert’s kidnapping and imprisonment. Taking possession of the title, lands, and fortune, John has paraded as Robert since, living the life intended for the Duke of Killingsworth. Since no one must ever know his identity, those years spent in prison have been excruciatingly lonely for Robert as he is never allowed to speak to another prisoner or see another face.
Victoria Lambert eagerly anticipates her upcoming marriage to one of the most eligible bachelors among the peerage, the Duke of Killingsworth. An untitled landowner’s daughter, she marvels at her fate, yet wonders if she really knows the Duke all that well. Assuring herself that questioning the wisdom of marrying someone you don’t love is only typical pre-wedding jitters, Victoria is determined to make the most of her marriage.
Everything changes when the real Duke of Killingsworth returns after escaping the hell of prison and secretly placing his usurper in the very cell he once occupied. Confident that no prison official will pay heed to any ramblings from his twin, Robert must now concentrate on the heavy burden of appearing both normal and accustomed to an unknown daily routine after living eight years in solitude and misery. Waking on the first morning after his escape to his restored life, Robert is reminded by his disturbed valet that his marriage is scheduled that very morning. Unable to cry off without garnering unwanted attention, Robert finds himself standing at the altar watching his approaching bride with great apprehension.
Marriage on his first day of freedom is certainly a huge glitch in Robert’s carefully laid plans to resume his dukedom. He recognizes that his precarious hold on his title is safe only if he can protect himself from any claims John might attempt should he escape from prison as well. Those carefully laid plans were never too clear to me as the reader and I constantly felt an urgent need for him to act and protect himself from John’s future treachery now – not later and later.
Initially Robert believes Victoria cares only about the title and prestige of the marriage, but he soon realizes she is an innocent young woman whose heart will be shattered once she realizes she has married a man other than her intended. In an attempt to preserve her honor, he decides to distance himself from her and allow her to remain chaste.
Robert lives every hour expecting the world to fall in on him at anytime as he attempts to regain control of his life. A man who has suffered both cruelty and devastating betrayal, he is overwhelmed by life and doubts his every action and it is heartbreaking at times. Often when I thought of him I pictured the sad eyes of a puppy dog. Although moving, one must endure many pages of his self-doubt.
Victoria is suprised to find herself more attracted to her husband than she was during their courtship and soon begins to wonder why their marriage remains unconsummated. As she spends time with Robert, setting the stage repeatedly for physical intimacy, she realizes that something is very different about him and he seems somehow wounded. Robert’s restraint and commitment to keeping Victoria chaste is quite admirable, considering his past circumstances, and yet his growing fondness for her triggered some modern thinking on my part. Victoria is Robert’s first exposure to any woman in eight years and I could not avoid the thought that his attachment to her was unhealthy and purely a response to her loving companionship after years of suffering alone.
Robert’s desires to keep John alive and eventually return him to society are certainly the thoughts of a decent man, but a foolish one as well. At one point I had to quit reading out of sheer frustration. A rather unusual story line spins into predictable suspense based on highly unlikely circumstances. Robert’s nobility is not so much an attribute as it is an unwise burden he chooses to bear.
As you can see, this review has centered on Robert’s character, just as the book did. While Victoria did have a major role, I don’t remember her (which is unfortunate considering this is a romance novel). Instead it is Robert’s daily struggle to appear unaffected by years of abuse that remains in my mind.