An Irresistible Temptation

The true story of Jane New and a colonial scandal

Seduction, dramatic escapes, embezzlement and political intrigue aplenty in this story of the convict, Jane New, and the scandal that rocked Australia's early colony to its core.

In 1829 at the Supreme Court in Sydney, the bewitching Jane New was sentenced to death. Her crime: shoplifting a bolt of printed French silk. But was she guilty? Many had their doubts.
    Although a legal technicality soon quashed Jane's sentence, the autocratic Governor Ralph Darling refused to set her free. Like bees to the honey pot, the gentlemen of Sydney swarmed to Jane's defence including barrister and political agitator William Charles Wentworth and Supreme Court Registrar John Stephen Jr, who were both vigorous and manipulative in their appeals to set her free.
    An Irresistible Temptation is set against the backdrop of a particularly divisive period in colonial New South Wales. Not only did the scandal titillate Sydney and its legal and political ramifications push the colony to the brink of a constitutional crisis, but it contributed to the savagery of Governor Darling's public vilification and bestowed upon Jane New a place in the annals of Australian colonial history.
    Compelling and fast-paced, An Irresistible Temptation is a meticulously researched history that takes us from the court docks of industrialising England, to Tasmania's raw penal settlement, the rough-house world of Sydney's Rocks and eventually back to the rarefied atmosphere of Britain's House of Commons.

Allen & Unwin, 2006


Trade paperback

Allen & Unwin, 2008


Mass paperback


Jane New's story, from An Irresistible Temptation

was used to bookend the

Australian TV historical drama, Rogue Nation.  

Australian purchases

(mass paperback)

RRP: $27.00

Website discount:


International & Kindle

Book Reviews

  • Baxter has written a work that captures the reader and holds attention through a complex series of legal tussles. This is largely because of her skill as a narrative historian, her capacity to tell a good story. In fact, this book is an excellent example of how a good story can illuminate the past ...

    (Associate Professor Gregory Melleuish, Australian Literary Review magazine in The Australian newspaper)

  • The author of this intriguing saga of colonial society ... has combined meticulous research in the records with an accessible style. An Irresistible Temptation will appeal to legal students and all who enjoy reading vivid social history. 

    The Canberra Times, Australia

  • Jane New’s tale is one of theft, seduction, incarceration, escape, corruption and political intrigue. Baxter is able to show how a “wanton woman’s” desire for a piece of cloth eventually led to a constitutional crisis and a governor’s ignominious recall. Along the way she demonstrates how small and interpersonal the global world of the British empire really was ... The story is told in a punchy, accessible style with a fine eye for the complex motivations, both political and personal, of the characters ... The book is most compelling in its more expansive moments when Baxter shows how these events illuminate their time and paints a vivid picture of New’s world.
    Dr Kirsten McKenzie, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

  • Carol Baxter's work, An Irresistible Temptation: the true story of Jane New and a colonial scandal is just that--an irresistible mix of intrigue, scandal, crime, punishment tinged with romance and a dash of social history. What's more, this is not a work of fiction ... This informative and entertaining book sheds light on one of the great scandals of the colonial age. ... [Baxter] has taken Jane New from a footnote in the colony's legal history to a position of prominence in our colourful colonial past.
    Christine Yeats, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society

  • In An Irresistible Temptation, Carol Baxter brings to life a previously unsung survivor of Governor Darling’s autocratic administration ... [Jane New’s] defenders left behind exquisitely articulate speeches, letters and courtroom exchanges for Baxter to quote and confect into a racy narrative.
    Australian Country Style

  • [An Irresistible Temptation’s] appeal lies in its ability to engage and entertain the reader while providing an accurate historical account of early Sydney life ... the writing is lively, dramatic and suspenseful [and] in person, the author is equally vibrant, dynamic and engaging.
    North Shore Times, Sydney, Australia

  • Carol Baxter ... has written a fast paced narrative history filled with political intrigue, seduction and drama ... She believes that a gripping story, which engenders strong emotions, needn’t only be the domain of fiction. It’s a belief she ably demonstrates in this compelling and well-researched history.
    The Local Citizen, Sydney, Australia

  • [An Irresistible Temptation] is commended to all fellow historians and genealogists as an exemplary and compelling narrative and a competent, professionally exacting historical study.
    Evan Best, Descent (Journal of the Society of Australian Genealogists)

  • An Irresistible Temptation by Carol Baxter is packed with all the elements of a great story – lust, scandal, crime and deceit. What makes this book all the more alluring is that it is a true tale of Australia’s colonial past. Be prepared to be blown away. Baxter has done an excellent job in portraying Australia’s colonial past with accuracy and sincerity. Her research appears impeccable and she brings to life the characters of colonial Sydney. Very enjoyable ... It is a lesson in history, the stupidity of men, human behaviour and legal developments all at once.’
    Kellie from Warner, Brisbane, Allen & Unwin’s Reading Group