A re-read of a story I first read back in the 80's in my teen Victoria Holt phase. Unfortunately it's one of her books that dwells too much on the her...moreA re-read of a story I first read back in the 80's in my teen Victoria Holt phase. Unfortunately it's one of her books that dwells too much on the heroine's childhood and family. The hero doesn't even make an appearance until page 100. The first 1/2 of the book was dedicated to the sad story of the heroine's mother and the history of the famed Green Opal and of opal mining. The heroine (her real name is Opal) has more scenes with the codgy old opal miner than she ever gets with the hero. I got totally bored with opals and the endless conversations about past events. And opals.
With this set up, the hero would have to be something really special to redeem this book. Unfortunately he just ... wasn't. He's proud all right, feels rejected by the heroine who insists on a marriage-in-name-only, but his flirting with the OW for spite is just childish. He actually gifts her a valuable opal under the heroine's nose. The Green Opal turns out to be missing, but the whole opal-opal-who's-got-the-opal mystery was a bore. VH throws in a murder of course, but it occurs too late in the book to really spice things up. And the murderer turns out to be a crazy bat, driven crazy by the Green Opal. Natch.
I did not feel any passion in the romance. There wasn't even any passionate kissing. And the ILY's at the end were hard to believe. So overall it's a dud for me. And I'm avoiding opals from now on. (less)
This book is all about guessing who the hero is. Is it:
Candidate A pro: he's a nice guy and he actually marries the heroine con: he actually marries the...moreThis book is all about guessing who the hero is. Is it:
Candidate A pro: he's a nice guy and he actually marries the heroine con: he actually marries the heroine early on, he's dead meat (or a fruit fly, see earlier VH reviews for the life expectancy thereof)
Candidate B pro: he's a nice guy and he rescues the heroine from her villainous cousin when she's young con: he marries villainous cousin's sister, he's a politician
Candidate C pro: he's mysterious and French con: I got nothing
I enjoyed this story quite a bit. All the silk details were a bit much, though not as bad as opals. Don't skim though, there's a surprising occurrence early on that gets brushed off at the time but proves to be the crux of the mystery later. There are strange deaths, strange accidents, and mysterious men. Nicely intriguing!
The plot is well woven but meanders a bit too much in the middle, especially with the politics. The story covers a long time period - I think the heroine's child is 11 or so by the end. The heroine is likable and strong. I really disliked the villainous cousin - what trouble he caused for everyone!
I felt sad when A dies, poor guy. I felt bad for B too, I hope he finds love again. The heroine did seem to really love him, and her rejection of him when he's free again seems cold. Of course by then she'd fallen in love with C. C was sexy but had less depth than B in my opinion. Of course he doesn't even show up until what, page 200 or something? Still C investigates and finally solves the mystery. So I guess he earns the heroine. (less)
**spoiler alert** One of the longest VH's I've read. It's too long, meandering in fact, with too many locales and no big mystery to tie it all togethe...more**spoiler alert** One of the longest VH's I've read. It's too long, meandering in fact, with too many locales and no big mystery to tie it all together. At least it doesn't dwell on the heroine's childhood. She's a young adult and soon married. (Clearly she didn't get my memo from an earlier VH review that when the heroine marries before page 50, hubby has the average life expectancy of a fruit fly).
Sure enough, the marriage goes sour. At first all is magical in romantic Venice during their honeymoon. But one night hubby comes home and rips her bodice. The heroine is horrified by rough sex and falls out of love with hubby. Kind of. Seriously, VH's no-graphic-details writing style and first-person POV was a real disadvantage here. Without knowing what happened, we're left to scratch our heads as to what hubby actually did. With no info, the heroine comes across as an overwrought Victorian prude who's horrified at the notion of taking off her flannel nightie for sex.
Hubby turns out be an opium addict and fulfills his destiny of an early death. I was surprisingly sad, at the waste I guess. Not as sad though as at the death of their child. Warning here if you're sensitive to reading about that! The stricken heroine develops a bizarre fixation with the doctor who she feels led her husband into drugs and neglected her child. She dwells and dwells on his guilt without the slightest proof, and calls him the Demon Doctor, endowing him in her mind with devil horns and cloven feet yet.
Naturally he turns out to be the hero. Sans cloven feet (I assume). But before we get to that, there's a long section of the heroine training to be a nurse, interacting with way too many supporting characters that I couldn't care about, and finally traveling to the Crimea. All the while brooding on the Demon Doctor and her revenge. There are some nice historical touches about the Crimean war and the poor state of medical care, but this section just goes on way too long.
Finally around the 250 page mark, the hero shows up. And I was ... underwhelmed. Seriously, he would have to have superman ability (or cloven feet) to live up to all the build up. But he just turns out to be a gruff but dedicated doctor, who happens to be interested in Eastern drugs and hypnotic techniques that might help the suffering men in his care. Of course heroine continues to rage against him in her fevered brain, while her body is mysteriously falling for him, natch. Of course the fool heroine is nearly caught by white slavers in the Mysterious Orient, and has to be rescued by the hero's sidekick. Giving her an opportunity to berate the hero for lounging around in Eastern clothes like some pasha with a harem (At this point I got the feeling the heroine needed to get laid. Fast.)
So the Demon Doctor turned out to be rather a disappointment. I expected more charisma, more saturnalia (is that a word?), more something. But what really ticked me off was when (apparently not knowing the heroine's identity), he blames the wife of his young friend (hubby #1) for leaving him after their child's death and letting him fall prey to drugs, instead of staying and saving him. WTF? As if anyone can save a druggie from his drug! And he never apologizes for this gross accusation later. And the heroine never calls him on it later. Blargle!
I was left with the feeling that all along this story was headed for an explosive confrontation between a revenge-seeking heroine and a possibly-evil hero. But sadly that never materialized after all the build up, leaving us the readers with a damp squib. And no climax. Blargle again. (less)
Now this is one of the good VH's. We plunge right into the action, with the threads of the mystery being laid in the opening chapters (pay attention n...moreNow this is one of the good VH's. We plunge right into the action, with the threads of the mystery being laid in the opening chapters (pay attention now!). The heroine is already a young adult and the book doesn't dwell on her childhood. The hero shows up by page 50 and is pleasingly alpha. What's not to like?
VH writes a good mystery here. It stays in the background during a large part of the middle chapters, but ramps up nicely again towards the end. Not that the middle sagged, there was lots going on. What happened to the hero's dead wife? Is the melodramatic ex-actress really his mistress? Where did she disappear to? Is the hero's niece really being poisoned? I was absorbed and kept turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next.
This is also a rare VH with genuine passion and sexual tension. The locale is nicely creepy. The writing is focused and very good. There aren't too many secondary characters overwhelming the plot. I did like the heroine's aunt a lot.
The heroine is very likable and behaves maturely. She takes a bit long to see what's going on, but once her suspicions are aroused she makes some good deductions in the final chapters. The hero is suitably mysterious, actively pursues the heroine for a large part of the book, and actually lives up to his bad reputation. He lures the heroine to a quiet room and attempts to forcibly seduce her. So forcibly that she cuts her hand breaking a window to escape him. He claims if she'd only given in, she would have enjoyed it. Now there's a rake, people! Of course he redeems himself with some heroics at the end.
This book has a lot of the things that I've come to dislike about VH's books. The long opening chapters about the heroine's childhood and family. The...moreThis book has a lot of the things that I've come to dislike about VH's books. The long opening chapters about the heroine's childhood and family. The non-appearance of the hero until page 100 or 150 or worse. The lack of any passion, even passionate kissing. The hard-to-believe or totally absent ILY's. The first-person POV.
Still, still... I enjoyed this one. The volcanic island scenes were good, maybe cuz you just knew what was gonna happen. The heroine's impersonation - will she/won't she get away with it? The suspicious hero. The deadly family secrets. The taciturn servant. The gradual revelation of the impersonated woman's true character. Is the hero a murderer? Even the first-person POV works, as you feel the net tightening along with the heroine. I was totally absorbed and had to keep reading to see what would happen.
The heroine is likable, and sympathetic despite her deceit. Unfortunately the hero didn't make a strong impression. I never felt I got to know him. And the romance suffers.
So I'm torn. As a romance, it's barely 2*. But as a cracking good read, it's 4*.
PS. hero and heroine are second cousins, from what I can make of the convoluted family tree. So don't read if that kind of thing squicks your boat.(less)
**spoiler alert** I read this back in the 80's in my teen Victoria Holt phase. Unfortunately it's not one of her best. I was too new to her then to re...more**spoiler alert** I read this back in the 80's in my teen Victoria Holt phase. Unfortunately it's not one of her best. I was too new to her then to realize that when the heroine marries before page 50, hubby has the average life expectancy of a fruit fly.
So who's your hero? I did not like hubby #1, he veered too much from alpha man to bastid. And he never seemed to really love the heroine, just lust after her. Which makes his final selfless act all the more unbelievable. I did not like hubby #2 either. Mind you, I didn't dislike him. He was just too beta and bland for my taste.
So I couldn't get excited about the "romance(s)" in this one. There was no big, compelling mystery to enthrall me either. The writing was good quality as always from VH, and the scenery was nice. But overall it's a dud. (less)