Tag Archives: Victoria Holt

MISTRESS OF MELLYN by Victoria Holt

Mistress of Mellyn really creeped me out. There I was sitting up in bed at midnight, the dark only relieved by the light from my iPad screen. And I really felt uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to turn on my bedside light.

51onsSulJiL._AA160_That is how good Victoria Holt’s writing is. She had me swept up in this Gothic romance set in Cornwall. Even though there were obvious references to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Wilkie Collin’s The Woman in White, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw,” nevertheless this story of the governess’s love for her employer and her attempts to solve the mystery surrounding his wife’s death kept me up. Until 4 am!

What is it about Victoria Holt that is so compelling?  She immediately creates sympathy for her heroine by writing in first-person in such a way that we are in Martha’s head, and privy to Martha’s thoughts. And what does Martha think of herself?

“…my brown velvet bonnet, tied with brown velvet ribbons under my chin, was of the sort which was so becoming to feminine people like my sister Phillida but, I always felt, sat a little incongruously on head like mine. My hair was thick with a coppery finger, parted in the center, brought down at the sides of my too-long face…My eyes were large, in some lights the color of amber, and were my best feature; but they were too bold…”

Re-reading this passage in the light of the events that happen to Martha it is possible to see that she is a beautiful young woman. However, she doesn’t think she is, and that is what makes her so endearing to the reader. So we are invested in Martha from the start, and as we follow her on that train down to Cornwall, meeting an impertinent young man who pretends to read her hand:

“I see a child there and a man…perhaps it is the child’s father. They are wrapped in shadows. There is someone else there…but perhaps she is already dead.”

It was the deep sepulchral note in his voice rather than the words he said which momentarily unnerved me.

I snatched my hand away. “What nonsense!” I said.

He ignored me and half closed his eyes. Then he went on: “You will need to watch little Alice, and your duties will extend beyond the care of her. You must most certainly beware of Alice.”

I felt a faint tingling which began at the base of my spine and seemed to creep up my neck. This, I supposed, was what is known as making one’s flesh creep.

Here, Victoria Holt deftly drops in hints that all is not well at Mellyn House where Martha is to take up the post of governess. Is this young man just toying with Martha? Or should she heed his warning? And who is Alice? The little girl she is to take care of is called “Alvean.” The reader is intrigued and hooked, and turns the page wanting to find out more. If you have never read Victoria Holt before, you are in for a treat. Five Stars.

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Book Review: ON THE NIGHT OF THE SEVENTH MOON by Victoria Holt

OnTheNightOfTheSeventhMoonON THE NIGHT OF THE SEVENTH MOON by Victoria Holt is a fairy tale set in the years 1859 to 1870 in Germany. A young English girl gets lost in the mists and is picked up by a young man on horseback, who takes her to his hunting lodge for the night. Too innocent to realize that he has ungentlemanly designs on her, she nevertheless locks her door at night, as instructed by an old woman, who appears to be the young man’s nurse. Next morning, the old woman takes her back to her boarding school.

And there thing would have ended, except that he cannot forget her.

This plot bears some similarity to THE TIME OF THE HUNTERS MOON, also by Victoria Holt, but instead of a young man and his sister working to murder wealthy young women to inherit their fortunes, ON THE NIGHT OF THE SEVENTH MOON is a tale of true love. Five stars.

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THE INDIA FAN by Victoria Holt

I loved Victoria Holt’s THE TIME OF THE HUNTER’S MOON, so I one might imagine I would love TheIndiaFanTHE INDIA FAN just as much. After all, it has a very similar plot, of the young heroine torn between three suitors. What does she do? Does she make the eminently sensible choice of marrying her father’s curate? Or does she marry a friend of her father, the one he enjoyed having long conversations with, the scholarly young man who became an earl? Or does she fall for the local squire?

But whereas THE TIME OF THE HUNTER’S MOON used setting details to set the reader’s hair on end every time that mysterious young man appeared, THE INDIA FAN was not as engaging. The fan itself wasn’t compelling as an object, the house wasn’t creepy, and Miss Lucille, the owner of the fan, could be too easily dismissed as mad, rather than scary or forbidding. Three stars.

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Victoria Holt’s THE TIME OF THE HUNTER’S MOON

Victoria Holt was one of those authors I loved as a child, and it wasn’t until I was nearly grown up that I realized that she, and Jean Plaidy, and Philippa Carr, were actually all noms-de-plume of the same person, Eleanor Hibbert (1906-1993).

Recently, I picked up a novel I had not read before, TheTimeOfTheHuntersMoonTHE TIME OF THE HUNTER’S MOON written under the name of Victoria Holt, as it is a gothic romance.  And what a creepy book it is. I haven’t felt unsettled for such a long time, not since I read Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER 15 years ago. The creepy young man who appears in a forest in Switzerland in the first part was making it difficult for me to get to sleep! Subsequently, I stayed up until 3 am this morning, because I just couldn’t put it down.

Of course, one could argue that the plot is predictable, that it is the familiar tale of a beautiful young woman sought after by 3 young men, who has the puzzle of sorting out which one would make the best husband. But Victoria Holt is so good at creating atmosphere and plot twists that it doesn’t matter. Of course, it is a cliche that abbey ruins encourage young women to imagine all sorts of things. Jane Austen had great fun sending that up in NORTHANGER ABBEY. But what is so wonderful about this novel is that there really is something to worry about. It’s just not what you think it is. Five stars.

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