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No Escape from Love by Barbara Cartland

No Escape from Love

by Barbara Cartland

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It is 1805, and beautiful, impoverished Vernita has been hiding, along with her mother, in a dingy Paris attic for the past two years because Napoleon had ordered the internment of all British subjects on French soil. Vernita earns what little money they have through her talents as a seamstress. Princess Paulina, Napoleon's spoiled sister, hires Vernita to create a few négligées for her. Not surprisingly, the lovely, violet-eyed girl attracts the attention of Paulina's lover, Count Axel, as well as that of Napoleon himself.

This is a formula romance in which a virginal young woman finds instant but enduring love with with a wealthy, worldly man. Vernita is almost implausibly innocent: "She knew that women like the Princess had lovers, and while she was vague about what they did together she knew it was something very intimate and very private" (p. 94). Vernita does not get the details of the intimate, private act until she is safely married in an impromptu secret ceremony. She and her new husband spend the last two chapters telling each other repeatedly how much they love each other, even though according to the story's timeline, the two have only known each other for about a week. Even though, as an "Author's Note" at the beginning of the book tells us, "the background of this story--the internment of British tourists in France in 1803, and the details of Napoleon and those of the private life of his sister Princess Maria Paulina Borghese--is historically accurate", the story reads like a sheltered teenager's fantasy of what an adult relationship is like (I remember reading that the young Lady Diana Spencer was a big Barbara Cartland fan). Nonetheless, this short novel has a certain saccharine charm. ( )
  akblanchard | Jun 30, 2015 |
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Vernita had never been so frightened or confused in her life.

Trapped in Paris as Napoleon,was trying to imprison all English tourists, she was masquerading as a French seamstress.

But she could never disguise her fresh young beauty and exquisite manners. The handsome, worldly Count Axel had already noticed her and had his own plans for her future.

"I believe," the Count told her, "I could find you a position. With the Emperor's sister, Her Imperial Highness Princess Paulina Borghese. You could live in her house as her official seamstress"

"I will try to help you," the Count continued, "but you know ultimately you will have to look after yourself."

"Be careful," warned the Count. "Be careful of what you do and what you say... And try not to look so lovely."

Vernita stared at him. It was such an extraordinary thing for Count Axel de Storvik to say, to a little seamstress!
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When the Armistice between France and England came to an end in 1803, Napoleon interned ten thousand British tourists who were in France at that time. Most of these tourists had committed no crime and had simply been travelling when captured. Many, to save being arrested, went into hiding, among them the widow and daughter of Sir Edward Waltham, who had died that winter. A year later, plunged into poverty and the seedier side of Paris life, beautiful Vernita Waltham is keeping her sick mother precariously alive on the money she obtains from making exquisitely embroidered lingerie for a famous shop that supplies Napoleon's sister, Her Imperial Highness Princess Pauline Borghese. Vernita discovers the shop is cheating and desperate to raise money for food and medicine, decides to approach the Princess directly with a negligee she has just finished, disguised as a petite bourgeoisie. Extravagant and self-obsessed, Princess Pauline is enchanted with Vernita's skills as a needlewoman and convinced that the silk and lace creations will only enhance her reputation as the most beautiful woman in Paris. She immediately determines that Vernita must move to the Palace and join the legion of servants that already pander to her vanity. From that moment on, Vernita is thrust into complications with the Princess's lover, handsome Count Axel de Storvik, and the all-powerful Emperor Napoleon himself. Unsure of whom to trust in a Palace filled with secret assignations and political intrigue, Vernita soon finds herself in a position that could ruin her reputation forever. But how long can an English lady of quality remain hidden amongst the loyal family and servants of the enemy French Emperor? Terrified of discovery and fearful of the future, Vernita dreams of escape and a return to her home in England only to find an ally, waiting like a guiding star, in the most unlikely of places.… (more)

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