I thought a post about Victoria Holt would be fun especially since the publisher has been reissuing some of them with really nice covers. And Yes. I am reading some new stuff. Mystery, of course. Romance -bah. Didn’t last long for me.
Here’s my brief history with Victoria Holt. I started reading her when I was a senior in high school (back in the 80’s somewhere). Second, my mother introduced me to her and gave me the first book, The House of a Thousand Lanterns, to read that I loved, loved, loved. Last, I thought it would be great to revisit some of her best books in the hopes of getting new readers to give her books a try (maybe).
When I first started reading romances, Victoria Holt was _it_ for me. If you’ve read a gothic romance before then you already know the formula for most of them: innocent heroine, world experienced hero who is mostly cloaked in shadows due to a somewhat shady past. He whisks her off her feet and into marriage (maybe) and then that’s where the doubts start and the suspense kicks in. And yes, the bedroom door was always firmly closed. Most importantly, there was always love and adventure!
Often the profession of most of the heroines were that of a governess. It was the only position for women who had no money or who were considered a poor relation considered a burden by family. The setting for most of these stories took place all over world: France, England, Africa, China, Germany, etc. Heroes were Comte’s, French Counts, among other titles and more importantly, unforgettable. Most of them.
When I remember my favorites, I have to reflect and ask myself: what was so special about Victoria Holt’s books that made me want to read them all? For starters, I loved the banter between the hero and heroine. Often the hero was always trying to woe his lady love and the heroine was often resistant. In some books, the hero was already in a loveless marriage or his wife died under suspicious circumstances. It was the courtship that stood out, duh.
Brief Background Info For Victoria Holt
Eleanor Hibbert who also wrote as Victoria Holt died in 1993. She’d sold 100 million books at the time of her death. Her first book, Mistress of Mellyn, was written in 1963. It is one of my favorites. She’s had many pen names but the ones most recognized by readers are Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr.
The Jean Plaidy pen name is synonymous with her historical fiction novels. I’ve yet to read those but they’ve been reissued with really nice covers. She’s written about the Tudors, Queen Victoria, Lucrezia Borgia, The Stuarts and the Plantagenet’s to name a few. Like I said, I’ve never read any of her Jean Plaidy books and but I have collected them from over the years.
The Philippa Carr pen name is more of her light historical romance(s) with some suspenseful elements to them. I think. It’s kind of hard to pin down big differences from her Victoria Holt books. I’ve read a few of these and enjoyed them. My absolute favorite by her was Voices In a Haunted Room. The story was very different from her others in that you had a romance that would be best described as adulterous and it had an ending that was less than happy (sort of).
The Victoria Holt pen name tended to be her novels of romantic suspense. I’ve read just about all of them with the exception of maybe about four of five of them. Least favorite of hers: Snare of the Serpents and Seven for a Secret. The rest were all memorable to some degree but if I had to list my absolute favorites, here are the titles I think are worth checking out:
Mistress of Mellyn (1963)
The House of a Thousand Lanterns (1974)
The Judas Kiss (1981)
The Bride of Pendoric (1963)
The Silk Vendetta (1987)
Devil on Horseback (1977)
The Road to Paradise Island (1985)
The Captive (1989)
The Pride of the Peacock (1976)
The King of the Castle (1967)
On the Night of the Seventh Moon (1972)
The Shivering Sands (1969)
The India Fan (1988)
Kirkland Revels (1962)
My Enemy, The Queen (1978)
Lord of the Far Island (1975)
as Philippa Carr
Voices in a Haunted Room (1984)
The Black Swan (Daughters of England series) (1990)
The Pool of St. Branok (1988)
The Changeling (1990)
The Miracle At St. Bruno’s (1972)