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The Man and the Moment by Elinor Glyn

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What an absolutely divine read! Searingly intense, passionate melodrama with a wonderfully happy ending.

Since there’s no proper synopsis of The Man and the Moment on Goodreads, I’ll provide a brief one here:

Michael, a devastatingly good-looking and rugged aristocrat, is trying to avoid marrying his mistress, a married woman who’s about to become a widow (ie free). He jokes with a friend that he should marry anyone so he has a defence/excuse to avoid the problem.

Then a beautiful, violet-eyed young French-American tourist comes tumbling through a secret passage in his Scottish castle. Sabine is seventeen and very rich, but can’t get her hands on her money until she’s twenty-one or married. She also has some loathsome suitor chasing her whom she’s desperate to escape.

You can fill in the blanks. The two of them decide to marry in name only, after which they’ll both be free and go their separate ways, without even consummating it. Michael’s friend Henry thinks it’s such a stupid plan that he refuses to attend or even meet the bride-to-be.

Then THE THING happens. We’re not explicitly told what it is, but Michael suddenly gets a fit of passion for her and what you can eventually work out is that they went to bed, he was rather forceful in his ardour but she definitely enjoyed it too – this is made quite clear by the end – but in the morning she woke up, panicked and fled. Both then failed to contact the other again due to pride etc.

Scroll forward five years. Michael has been on manly expeditions to the far East. Sabine has been lolling around Europe, doing up a castle for herself. Both are as miserable as sin. Henry meets Sabine, never knowing who she is (nor she him) and falls madly in love with her and proposes marriage.

Then Henry’s great friend arrives to stay. Lo! and behold! it’s Michael.

Here’s a taster:

Intense magnetic attraction drew them nearer and nearer.

“Sabine!” he cried at last, hoarsely, as though the words were torn from his tortured heart. “There is something about you which tells me that you do not love Henry–that he has never made you feel–as I once made you feel, and could make you feel again.” He stretched out his arms in pain. “The temptation is frightful–terrible–just to kiss you once more–Darling–Oh! I cannot bear it. I must go!” and he took a step away from her.

But _the Moment_ for Sabine had come; she could resist its force no more, every nerve in her whole body was quivering–every unknown, though half-guessed emotion was stirring her soul. Her whole being seemed to be convulsed in one concentrated desire. The reality had materialised the echoes she had often dimly felt from that night of long ago.

The wild passion which she had feared, and only that very evening had repudiated as being an impossible experience for her, had now overtaken her, and she could struggle no more.

“Michael!” she whispered breathlessly, and held out her arms.

If you like this kind of stuff (and I know I do) then you will LOVE The Man and the Moment. Given the date of publication you can now pick it up for free on Gutenberg.