I first began reading Eleanor Hibbert’s novels when her historical fiction published under the name Jean Plaidy were being re-published. Now, her novels Gothic suspense novels published under the name Victoria Holt are being re-released. I must say that I like Victoria Holt much better than I do Jean Plaidy!
In The Mistress of Mellyn, twenty-four-year-old Martha Leigh goes to Cornwall to be the governess to Alvean TreMellyn, daughter of Connan TreMellyn. My best guess is that the novel takes place in the Victorian era, and Martha here is past her shelf life for marriage, but too poor to live in idleness, which is why she acquires her position with the TreMellyns. Almost as soon as Martha arrives at Mount Mellyn, she notices that people are still in awe over its former mistress, Alice, and still talking about the mysterious train wreck she died in the year previously.
The house almost becomes a character in and of itself. Mount Mellyn is full of secret hiding places, passages, and peepholes, and it’s brimming with history, as well as the superstitions and gossip of the servants. The themes and plot points of this book derive directly from Jane Eyre and Rebecca, of course, and this book is similar in a lot of ways to Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting. But this is the kind of formulaic storyline that’s, oddly enough, comforting in its own way. This book has got wonderful, compelling characters, and a mystery that’ difficult to figure out. Originally published forty years ago; will be re-released at the end of next month. For more information on Victoria Holt, click here.