Favel Farrington, the daughter of an artist, is literally swept off her feet by Roc Pendorric, who takes her to his family’s ancient estate in Cornwall. The family are all eager to welcome her—but there’s something sinister going on at Pendorric. For many years ago, a Bride of Pendorric died tragically at a young age, as did Roc’s mother, Barbarina. Local legend has it that Barbarina’s ghost is waiting for another Bride to come and take her place—in death.
Bride of Pendorric is obviously a twist on the Rebecca story—except instead of the dead former wife, it’s a dead former mother-in-law that’s the ghost! Victoria Holt’s novels are characterized by a wonderful sense of foreboding, starting with the very first page, and I’m glad to say that it’s not lacking here. Holt’s descriptions of Cornwall, characterized by its eerie fogs and local superstition, makes me want to visit Cornwall myself (after all, there’s got to be a reason why do many authors of novels in this the Gothic suspense genre choose to set their novels there). What I really loved about this book is the tension factor: you never really know if Roc is innocent or not (of murder, I mean; he’s not perfect as a whole, however).
There’s a fair amount of foreshadowing going on here, but it all plays out very well over the course of the novel. I could see the ending coming from about 100 pages from the end, but I nonetheless did enjoy watching the story play out before my eyes. At one point in the book, one of the characters remarks that twins run in the Pendorric family; but since twins only really run on the father’s side, this doesn’t really apply to Deborah and Barbarina, and Hyson and Lowella). Still, this was an excellent novel—I prefer the novels of Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier, but Victoria Holt comes pretty close.