This is classic Craven. Dissemblance of identity. Quickie marriage. Isolated location. Questionable consent and finally the heroine returning to the distraught hero to offer up her body. Oh and to date the story is the cheap shot at the Women’s Liberation Movement:
‘The Women’s Lib movement isn’t the whole answer, you know. I’ve seen what it’s done to people-to my own sister, in fact. She was happily married, or she sure seemed to be until someone started raising her consciousness. Now she’s divorced, the kids cry all the time, and there’s endless hassle with lawyers about alimony, and who gets the car and the ice-box.’ (p6).
The story opens with two girls discussing the predicament of the third. Teresita Dominguez raised in a convent school (do these glasshouses of docile virgins really exist?) is expected to marry her guardian. Wishing to save her innocent friend from this arranged marriage, Nicola Tarrant poses as Teresita on the assumption that cousin Roman will accompany her on the journey to the hacienda. Yes, she seriously believes that a wig, sunglasses and speaking a language she learnt as an adult is all that is needed to pull of this deceit. Naturally, plans go astray and Nicola find herself at the mercy of the pretentiously named Don Luis Alvarado de Montalba.
Threating her with jail, it is amazing how quickly she acedes to his marriage proposal. She would live at La Marisposa, or one of his houses, and bring up his children, and try not to wonder where he was when the bed beside her remained empty. It was the sort of existence she had pityingly envisaged for Teresita-that was why she was her-but not for herself. Never for herself. (p77). Nicola should have called his bluff. Its not like the UK Government lets their citizens languish abroad as readily as the Australian Government does.
Of course, there is the wannabe bride, the ex-lover, the understanding servants which all would be echoed later in The Virgin’s Wedding Night with concessions allowed for changing morality. Harriet tacitly (though reluctantly) consents Nicola does not. Roan never bruises Harriet where Luis does hurt Nicola and quite savagely at that.
What pique my interest was this was not the first book of this era (late 1970s early 1980s) to lash out at the Women’s Liberation Movement. Granted we have only read a couple but we wonder how pervasive this was of the books of this time.
If this is typical of Craven’s work in the 1980s it may explain why books of this vintage are relatively harder to get hold of in relation to the other decades.