Oh, man. What's happening to me? I really enjoyed this book.
It's essentially the story of two young people who conceive a deep and abiding love for each other on the strength of a very brief acquaintance, largely consisting of longing for each other from afar after a brief initial meeting and subsequently spending a few boating trips together, chaperoned by suitably respectable relatives. The boy is from a noble and proud family; the girl, apparently, is from far more humble stock. His parents, hearing scandalous rumours about goings-on between the two, forbid the union. The boy's mother goes a step further and, prompted by her Confessor, an ambitious and sinister monk, has the girl kidnapped and sent to a convent. The boy tracks his girlfriend down and they escape,only to be captured again. He's sent to the prisons of the Inquisition, she's sent to a desolate sea-side spot to be killed. How will they ever break free of their tormentors and be reunited? Who is the girl's real father? What secrets lie in the evil monk's mysterious past?
A series of events no less absurd than complex eventually bring things to a happy resolution. Along the way, we learn a few more Gothic truths of life:
A well-bred girl, while travelling, will only stay in the local convent and not in a common inn, even though convents are dens of infamy that exist for the purpose of entrapping such girls into lives of gloom and celibacy.
Just because someone is today a monk or nun does not preclude them from having had a rich and varied career beforehand, including the begetting of assorted progeny and the commission of various sins.
The Inquisition takes a really long time to get to the point.
Mrs. Radcliffe was a writer of ridiculously convoluted and completely gripping novels.