What is the general premise of Love in Excess (also known as The Fatal Inquiry) by Eliza Haywood?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Love in Excess is a much older novel, printed in the 1700s. It is the second most popular novel written by Eliza Haywood. It is also known as The Fatal Enquiry. It was printed in three volumes.

The general premise of the story seems to be about forbidden love and the consequences of pursuing such love. It is written in three parts, and one almost needs a scorecard to keep track of all of its characters.

It begins (in the first part) with two unmarried women from wealthy families who enter into a competition to see who can gain the attention of another major character, D'Elmont. The one rule is that neither woman is allowed to express any affection until a proposal of marriage is offered to her.

Throughout the three parts, D'Elmont is a consistent character. The women presented in the first section are not predominant characters in the second or third parts.

Amena ends up in a convent, and although Alovisa ends up married to D'Elmont, she is not his "true" love. Through a rather convoluted plot development, D'Elmont falls in love with Melliora, a young woman who is under his protection. D'Elmont's friend Baron falls in love with Alovisa, and by the end of the second part, Baron and Alovisa are dead, D'Elmont goes into self-imposed exile, and Melliora ends up in a convent.

Part Three presents no less drama: D'Elmont travels to Italy and meets Melliora's brother Frankville, helping him to escape Italy with his love, Camilla. Two other women in Italy fall in love with D'Elmont, but end up dead. Melliora is kidnapped from the convent. When she is recovered, all the survivors marry. This includes Frankville and Camilla; the kidnapper and Charlotta; and, D'Elmont and Melliora.

The book was very popular in its day, but by today's standards it seems more like a soap opera than a serious novel.