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Mistress of Mellyn

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Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned... But what about its master--Connan TreMellyn? Was Martha Leigh's new employer as romantic as his name sounded? As she approached the sprawling mansion towering above the cliffs of Cornwall, an odd chill of apprehension overcame her.

TreMellyn's young daugher, Alvean, proved as spoiled and difficult as the three governesses before Martha had discovered. But it was the girl's father whose cool, arrogant demeanor unleashed unfamiliar sensations and turmoil--even as whispers of past tragedy and present danger begin to insinuate themselves into Martha's life.

Powerless against her growing desire for the enigmatic Connan, she is drawn deeper into family secrets--as passion overpowers reason, sending her head and heart spinning. But though evil lurks in the shadows, so does love--and the freedom to find a golden promise forever...

240 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1960

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About the author

Victoria Holt

285 books1,190 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Eleanor Alice Burford, Mrs. George Percival Hibbert was a British author of about 200 historical novels, most of them under the pen name Jean Plaidy which had sold 14 million copies by the time of her death. She chose to use various names because of the differences in subject matter between her books; the best-known, apart from Plaidy, are Victoria Holt (56 million) and Philippa Carr (3 million). Lesser known were the novels Hibbert published under her maiden name Eleanor Burford, or the pseudonyms of Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow and Ellalice Tate. Many of her readers under one penname never suspected her other identities.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 632 reviews
Profile Image for Julie .
4,030 reviews58.9k followers
July 24, 2018
The Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt is a 1960 publication.

Everyone knows I am a huge fan of these old Gothic suspense novels and love to collect the old paperbacks.Those covers are just fantastic!!

Victoria Holt’s name is nearly synonymous with this genre and she was quite prolific.

As such, I’m still hunting down some of her harder to find books and haven’t come close to reading all of her novels. So, it’s fun to pull one of these off the shelf and lose myself in a different time, despite the datedness of some of these stories.

They are often a representation of a simpler time, in the days when the suspense was more reliant on atmosphere and dialogue, and the romance was about as chaste as it comes.

Holt’s books may be true the era of time in which she sets her stories, the women of the day having little opportunity and often at the mercy of men, but her heroines are rarely ‘too stupid to live’, or present themselves as the proverbial ‘damsel in distress’.

Her writing style is still quite effective and can create a strong sense of unease, even for the most jaded modern reader.

However, this book is, more or less, a poor man’s Jane Eyre. The old mansion, the governess, the gruff master of the house, the mystery surrounding his wife’s death, and the relationship that begins to develop between the master and the governess. All of these are classic Gothic mystery elements, but, this plot was just too familiar and Holt was quite capable of more originality than this.

But, to be fair, the ending was a lot more sinister than Jane Eyre, as there is a legitimate murder mystery and our heroine is in genuine danger which for its day was probably a little shocking. It was not an unpleasant read, but it wasn’t the best of Holt’s repertoire.
3 stars
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
June 30, 2019
Mistress of Mellyn is one of Victoria Holt's old gothic romantic suspense novels, published in 1960. It's the quintessential "governess in peril falling in love with someone above her station" plot. It's a pretty good, old-fashioned novel of its type, one of the better Victoria Holt novels I've read here and there over the years.

Martha (Marty) Leigh is an impoverished gentlewoman forced to become a governess due to her circumstances. She takes a job in Cornwall, a corner of England that, I was surprised to learn, actually has a subtropical climate (palm trees!). Her duty is to teach and care for the obstinate, emotionally neglected daughter of a widowed master of the mansion, Connan TreMellyn. Connan's wife Alice disappeared a year ago and died in a train crash while running away with another man ... so they say. But Martha still feels Alice's presence around the TreMellyn mansion.

To thicken the plot, we have Peter Nansellock, a handsome neighbor paying Martha some extra attention; his kind sister Celestine; Gillyflower, an emotionally disturbed young daughter of a dead servant and a gentleman who abandoned her; Lady Treslyn, a vividly lovely, young former actress and the wife of an elderly lord, who seems to be waiting for him to die so she can marry Connan; a devoted and gossipy housekeeper with a taste for whiskey in her tea; and various other characters.

Victoria Holt's writing style is prosaic; it's never going to inspire me. But she draws a good plot here. The murder mystery bubbles along under the surface until surfacing with a vengeance late in the pages of this book. There's just a little spookiness here (is Alice really haunting the mansion? maybe...) to flavor the plot.

3.5 stars. Recommended for readers who like old-fashioned gothic romances.
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
797 reviews586 followers
March 25, 2017
I read a lot of Holt in my teens, then they started to feel both gloom laden and like they had come off a production line, so I stopped. I reread another favourite Bride Of Pendorric by Victoria Holt and while I didn't love it so much this time round, I rounded the book up to 4★ for old times sake. The Mistress of Mellyn, the first Holt I read (although I had read plenty of her Jean Plaidy titles) and the first one she wrote, has stood the test of time and I am happy to award 5★.

This books succeeds in so many areas, the Cornwall setting, the era (I prefer my Gothics to be Victorian!) the faint air of menace and unease, an attractive hero. There is also just a faint hint of sexual tension. The biggest plus for me is the complex character of Martha Lewis. Forced by family circumstances and her own gentility to become a governess, Martha is overly prickly, puts herself down constantly and is a nosy gossip! Great! A real human. I think she is unnecessarily brusque with her charge, 8 year old Alvean - the child is difficult sure, but her mother only died in the previous year and Alvean's life is lonely and without much stimulation. Martha in her decided way, changes all that and the warming of their relationship and Martha's championing of another girl, traumatised little Gilly is lovely to read.

But, because I had read Bride of Pendorric (like I said these novels are formulaic) I could pick out the villain (although not the motive) and there is a major flaw in the resolution.. I'm reading this one with the Retro Reads Group. Maybe they will see something I've missed. And

If you only ever read one Victoria Holt, make it this one!
Profile Image for debbicat *made of stardust*.
733 reviews108 followers
March 27, 2017
Wow! I did not remember that! What a great read! I am still thinking about this book after finishing yesterday. This was really good! I know I read it as a teen. My mom had all those Victoria Holt's from the Doubleday Book Club. I remember this title quite well. And I read all of her books when she finished. I just don't remember any of this story. Great characters and setting. Oh so gothic!

I really enjoyed it quite a lot. So atmospheric. I didn't like Marty at all until about halfway thru. She was annoying at times. Her whole "don't look down on me bc I am just a governess" attitude was tiring. But, I might would have felt/acted the same way back in the day. Midway thru...the dance...awwww, I could picture it. I wish this had been made into a movie. It would make a really great one. Wonderful ending. Big smile on my face. I love the way the conflict was resolved on this one. I sat outside on a Sunday afternoon in the sun and read most of this one. Pure escapism.

Very good romance/suspense novel. I highly recommend it for those that enjoy those good old gothics and the setting of Cornwall. And great old houses with a stubborn child, a governess, a very desirable employer and father of the stubborn child, coastline, murder, mayhem. It's all right here. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Patricia Burroughs.
Author 21 books241 followers
November 17, 2011
This is one of those cases where the star rating is based on my memory of how much pleasure the book gave me when I read it as a young girl. Not sure how it holds up to contemporary scrutiny.


Having just reread this book to see how it holds up I have this to say about it. The writing style is pedestrian. This is evidently Victoria Holt's first book and I will be curious to see if the style improves.

However, I still like the story a lot. The characters, setting, menace, use of location, plot twists are all pretty solid. I loved the little girls, Alvean and Gilly. I'm glad I reread it and will look to reread some of her others. I won't change my rating for sentimental reasons but would probably give it three stars today.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,879 reviews474 followers
December 22, 2019
For the last two years, one of my main reading goals has been to revisit series and authors that I enjoyed in years past. I've re-read Trixie Belden books, revisited a couple Father Koesler mysteries and Wagons West books plus several other series I loved, enjoyed Agatha Christie, Stephen King and other favorite authors. So just before this year ends, I decided it was time to pay a call on Victoria Holt (aka author Eleanor Hibbert who wrote under multiple pen names including Jean Plaidy and Phillippa Carr. Under Victoria Holt, Hibbert wrote many gothic romance novels.)

I loved these books when I was in high school and college. Dank old castles or mansions. An evildoer in the shadows. A passionate, usually forbidden or otherwise unexpected love affair, and dark danger. Great fun and suspense for a teenage girl to read. I decided to re-read the Victoria Holt novels in order. So Mistress of Mellyn is first. The book was first published in 1960, and has been reprinted many, many times. I don't usually read romance novels these days....so I was curious if I would still enjoy the story. I did! It had been so many years since I last read this book, I didn't remember the characters or the final outcome. So the mystery was enjoyable....and it was mostly suspense with just a splash of romance.

The Basics: This is a Jane Eyre type novel. A penniless woman takes on the job of governess to make her way in the world. What else is there for unmarried women of a certain age to do? She arrives at her post, and finds a bit of gossip/intrigue about the death of the master's wife a year previously. Martha decides to investigate a bit and discovers the truth...putting herself in danger.

This is the usual light, gothic romance fare. The plot is entertaining and suspenseful, but not complex. There are a few passionate clenches, but nothing graphic and the romance doesn't overwhelm the suspense portion of the plot. I guessed at the final outcome and was partly correct/partly wrong, so the ending wasn't completely transparent. But it wasn't a strange surprise out of the blue either. Well written. Interesting plot. I enjoyed it!

On to the second book published under the Victoria Holt name -- Kirkland Revels! I also have a lot of Jean Plaidy books on my TBR shelves. I have been collecting the Jean Plaidy historical fiction books here and there over the past 10 years or so trying to get full series so I could read them. I think in 2020, I need to get those books all read, and free up several shelves of book space! I think books by Eleanor Hibbert/Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy and all the other pen names for this author are going to be a priority for me in 2020. Such a prolific writer....and I enjoy her story telling! Plus.....I can free up 3 shelves of space by reading all of her books that I own! Goals! :)

I'm glad I decided to revisit these books!
Profile Image for Jane.
820 reviews616 followers
September 3, 2012
I wasn’t at all sure that Victoria Holt was my sort of author, but I had to give a gothic romance set in Cornwall the benefit of the doubt. And when I read the opening words I was so glad that I did.

“There are two courses open to a gentlewoman when she finds herself in penurious circumstances,” my Aunt Adelaide had said. “One is to marry, and the other is to find a post in keeping with her gentility.”

As the train carried me through the wooded hills and past green meadows, I was taken this second course; partly, I suppose, because I had never had an opportunity of trying the former.

Martha Leigh – known to her family and friends as Marty – was travelling on the same journey that I have made many times in real life and a few times in print too. She was travelling through Somerset, through Devon, and across Mr Brunel’s bridge into the Duchy of Cornwall.

I liked her. She was sensible, she was bright, she was curious and she was understanding; in just the right proportions. And she was to be a governess, to the young daughter of a wealthy widower. I thought that the position might suit her rather well, and indeed it did.

She quickly wins over the household staff, but it takes her a little longer to win the confidence of her young charge Alvaen. And no wonder, when she has lost her beloved mother, when her father, Connan Tremellyn, was cold and remote, and when a number of governesses had come and gone

Marty could understand Alvaen. She could build a relationship with her. She could lay plans to help her win the approval of her father that she so desperately craved.

But she couldn’t understand Alvaen’s parents.

How could Alice, who it was clear had been happy and loved, leave her daughter and her husband and run away with an old lover? Maybe she hadn’t …

How could Connan neglect his daughter so? How could he take up with the younger wife of an elderly neighbour? Maybe he had a plan …

There are echoes of Daphne DuMaurier and Charlotte Bronte here: a grand mansion on a Cornish cliff, haunted by its former mistress; a plain young woman set against a dark and brooding hero; hints family of family secrets …

Fortunately Victoria Holt had the ability to take those familiar ingredients and create something a little different. A well executed work of gothic suspense, where as soon as one question is answered another one appears, as soon as one crisis is averted another has to be faced, until one final drama resolves everything.

She brought that that house on the cliff, and the surrounding countryside to life with wonderful descriptive flourishes. I could see Marty and Alvaen in the schoolroom, I could see then watching a grand ball from above, I could see them on horseback out in the grounds …

And I could understand them. The governess who was happy in her role, but who struggled with her position in between the family and the household staff. The unhappy child who blossomed when she was shown real care. And all of the others; every character rang true.

There were some lovely touches, in the dialogue, in the descriptions, in well chosen details, and everything was held together by good old-fashioned storytelling.

I can see similarities between Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart; they were near contemporaries but Victoria Holt’s settings are earlier and she seems rather more gothic; from the start though, I thought that her heroine could have fitted into a Mary Stewart novel quite beautifully.

Sadly there were some weak spots. When the romance came to the fore it didn’t seem as natural as it had when it was mixed was the suspense. The ending seemed a little rushed, and I would have prefered a fuller conclusion in the final chapter to the epilogue that was offered instead.

None of that stopped me from loving Mistress of Mellyn, but it did remind me that the books that inspired it were far finer.

So I’d like to read them again before long, and I’ll give any of Victoria Holt’s other novels that cross my path a fair chance too.
August 30, 2018
I grew up buying gothic mysteries by the bagful. They are suspenseful and sometimes eerie. What I tire of is helplessness: a maiden dependent on residency in an unwelcome place. What a refreshing change, to discover Victoria Holt's 1960, “Mistress Of Mellyn”, broke that mould! I am surprised there were readers who didn't notice that. I give five stars for delight and originality, in the genre I know well, which seldom deviates! Most appear to have missed that Martha Leigh has a good life with her sister and aunt and CHOSE to seek employment.

She is no inferior. She is comfortable and likes the housekeeper, Grandmother of an orphaned girl. As Martha's employers befriend her, they have to urge her to join them for suppers and soirees. She contacts her family any time she likes. This differs greatly from most gothic mysteries I have ever read! It takes so long to fall for her employer, with other reasonable options along the way, that its eventual realization is believable. This novel has no silly instant romance and no depressed, trapped servant. Lack of heaviness is a unique trait that made for five-star appreciation. Connan is not really arrogant and his daughter, Martha's first student, is not resistant for long.

All of a sudden, the mystery ramped up. I couldn't wait to solve the truth about Connan's former wife. There are no ghosts but answering secrets is very satisfying! I wonder if some readers cast judgement, thinking it was Victoria's début. Victoria was her last pseudonym. “Mistress Of Mellyn” IS NOT COOKIE-CUT, NOR FORMULAIC. By the time the atmosphere grew tense, the enthralling puzzle came to the forefront. I loved it! I held off on her books for years, worried they were ‘romantic suspense’. Au contraire: she penned my kind of mystery!
Profile Image for Justin Chen.
400 reviews347 followers
October 1, 2021
4 stars

A spot-on gothic romance that's heavy on atmosphere and mild on plot. I was in the mood for something akin to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, and Mistress of Mellyn came pretty highly recommended—overall it definitely quenched my bookish thirst, if didn't excel beyond my expectation.

I was pleasantly surprised at how readable the novel still stands today—the narrative unfolds at a decent pace, and not bogged down by superfluous wordiness. All the quintessential gothic elements are beautifully represented: Manor with a seemingly supernatural presence, checked. A paranoid heroine, checked. A romantic relationship that is slightly unorthodox, checked. Perhaps because gothic romance tropes are so familiar in today's zeitgeist, I find the plot of Mistress of Mellyn a little derivative and lacking in surprise. Then again, this is probably to be expected from a novel that was published over 60+ years ago.

Aside from the straightforward plot, I still enjoyed Mistress of Mellyn immensely; it has provided all the dark, misty, isolated 'vibes' I was seeking, in a nice, compact, digestible bundle. For sure worth seeking out if you're in the mood.

What other novels by Victoria Holt should I seek out next?
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,234 reviews169 followers
March 28, 2017
3.5 (for Retro Reads)

“There are two courses open to a gentlewoman when she finds herself in penurious circumstances,” my Aunt Adelaide had said. “One is to marry, and the other to find a post in keeping with her gentility.”

I’d never heard of Victoria Holt but this gothic romantic story was full of suspense. The plot follows the well-known plight of the governess, having to find a position to survive, finding such role only to realise that all is not as it seems. Martha Leigh, vicar daughter with no prospect of marriage, accepts a post to take care of 8-year-old Alvean, who has lost her mother in tragic circumstances. Upon arrival, our heroine is faced with a resentful and defiant child, gossipy staff, well-meaning neighbours, an orphaned girl left to haunt the place, and an absent master. That is until he arrives on the scene...
Let’s not forget the setting. We have the huge old house, bursting with nooks and crannies, a potential ghost, and also the beautiful and atmospheric Cornish landscape.

It was inevitable that this book would remind me of Jane Eyre. It is however quite different. I enjoyed the thriller aspects, from the growing feeling of uneasiness and doubt, to the big reveal at the end, as well as the growing relationship between Martha and the two children, Alvean and Gilly. However I found the romance to be the weakest link, not being able to ‘accept' either of the male suitors. Holt does shape them from typical 19th century patriarchal moulds but neither was hero material for me. I wonder if this is due to the author’s writing style or the characters themselves? I had no such qualms when I read Bronte’s masterpiece... Nevertheless, Mistress of Mellyn was a fun read.
Profile Image for MomToKippy.
205 reviews83 followers
September 28, 2015
This is my second Holt and I am still thrilled with her. I think she will prove to be one of those authors I can pick up anytime and be assured of a good read. I see many similarities with her construction and characters compared to The Shivering Sands but that does not detract for me. I still love the way she slowly weaves the mystery, reveals the characters bit by bit and gradually builds the gentle romance. Just as in TSS, I found all the characters to be intriguing and developed. I love the banter of conversation amongst them - humorous, revealing, flirtatious, mysterious, heartfelt. I find her writing style in general very easy to read and flowing but not insulting to one's intelligence. Again, I was unsure of the culprit until close to the end. I might consider Holt a Du Maurier lite - which suits me.
Profile Image for Hana.
522 reviews293 followers
August 13, 2017
An entertaining Gothic with much to like for genre fans.

Martha Leigh, is a gentlewoman, orphaned with no income. What to do? In Victorian times, with few options, she must become a governess to a lonely and difficult child in a country manor in Cornwall.

I loved the Cornish setting--I kept picturing those cliff scenes in the BBC version of Poldark.

Marty was a pleasant and believable heroine and Connan was okay, but somehow the romance never clicked with me.

Far better than the romance was the story of the two children befriended by Marty--an unusual feature in a Gothic romance. I fell for both girls and loved how Marty, eventually, and not without her own inner struggles, came to care for and protect them.

Lots of great details on Cornish houses. I'm a sucker for that sort of thing and amused myself by finding houses that fit the descriptions.

Cotehele House is a Cornwall manse dating from the 16th century. This is the Great Room with the high ceilings and exposed beams like those at Mellyn that so impressed Marty.

For fun, some pictures of Elizabethan era houses in Cornwall. This is Ebbingford Manor, from a postcard of 1896.

This is Trerice another grand manor in Cornwall of one of the landed families.

A big issue for me was the often clunky dialog--it did not feel right for the period. The plot was interesting, though, and the story moves along with enough clever twists to keep me turning the pages.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,865 reviews370 followers
August 22, 2017
***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

After two misses, it was nice to score a hit. Apparently, I am an old-fashioned woman. I prefer a story with some mystery, some history, and some romance. Leave out the sex scenes and let’s have an actual plot, please.

Stereotypical as can be, Mistress of Mellyn gave me the usual Victoria Holt offering. An impoverished gentlewoman with no options except being a governess, a student with potential and problems, an attractive employer with an air of mystery, another man to distract our heroine a bit, plus another woman to get the jealous juices flowing.

Yes, I’ve read it all before, but yes I still enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Regan Walker.
Author 56 books759 followers
February 25, 2016
Gothic Mystery set in Cornwall with a Wonderful Love Story

Set in Victorian England in Devon, Cornwall, this is the story of Martha Leigh (“Miss Leigh”) who, at 24, comes to Mount Mellyn to become the governess to widower Connan TreMellyn’s young daughter, Alvean.

After all, what’s an educated woman with no parents and no prospects to do?

Miss Leigh soon discovers that Alvean is spoiled, hard to manage and suffering from too little of her father's attention, which might explain the departure of the last three governesses. In addition to Alvean, there’s a mysterious young child, Gillyflowers, who sings to herself and whose mother committed suicide. Martha determines to win both children and show Connan he is wrong about them all.

So she teaches Alvean, who supposedly can’t ride a horse, to ride well. And she begins to teach Gilly, who all think a bit daft, to read.

But there’s a mystery surrounding Connan’s wife’s death and the goings on around the large house on the edge of the sea that soon capture Martha’s attention. And, despite her better judgment, she is beginning to fall in love with the master of the house.

Holt does a masterful job of drawing us into the mystery—into the secrets of the family’s past—and there are many in this mystery. Oh, yes, there is a surprise at the end.

I love Victoria Holt's Gothic mysteries, usually centered around an old house with secrets and some evil lurking in the shadows. This one is set in Cornwall and Holt captures the people wonderfully. I couldn’t put it down and found myself looking forward to diving into “Miss Leigh’s” puzzle solving for my bedtime reading.

I recommend it!

Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews279 followers
June 15, 2009
"There are two courses open to a gentlewoman when she finds herself in penurious circumstances.......One is to marry, and the other to find a post in keeping with her gentility."

With no other prospects in sight, Martha Leigh takes a position as governess for eight-year-old Alvean TreMellyn at her family's estate Mount Mellyn in Cornwall. Alvean's mother Alice has been dead for a year, after she ran away with her lover they both died in a tragic train wreck - burned beyond recognition. Her father Connon is cold and withdrawn, especially with his daughter. Martha settles in and builds a relationship with both Alvean and the waif-like Gillyflower and she also finds herself attracted to the master of the house (well of course!), but then things soon begin to go bump in the night in typical Holt fashion.

Does Alice's presence still live on at Mount Mellyn? Did she really die in the train wreck? Why is Connon so remote from his daughter? What about Connon's relationship with the beauteous but haughty Lady Treslyn? Who framed the last beautiful governess for theft so that she lost her position and was forced to leave? Does someone want Martha out of the way as well? What about these mysterious blinds in the house where one can watch what is going on in another room without being seen? Does the house have more unknown secrets?

That's as much as I'm going to tell - read it for your self! I noticed a definite similarity between parts of this story and Rebecca and Jane Eyre (but that's a good thing), although she's still got a surprise or two in store for you that will keep you turning the pages until the very last reveal (gad, what a nail biter). While she's not quite up to the perfection that is Du Maurier, I think you'll find this a perfect comfort book to curl up with in front of the fire with a glass of red wine and chocolate. 4/5 stars.
Profile Image for Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore.
762 reviews169 followers
November 5, 2020
This is the first of Victoria Holt’s gothic romances, and my first time reading one of her books though I have read and enjoyed historical fiction written under her other pseudonym, Jean Plaidy, before. This was also one of my first seasonal reads this October, since it was described as having a gothic/spooky tone to it. This one has a Jane Eyre/Rebecca kind of plotline. Martha Leigh is young, unmarried and impoverished which means the only course open to her is to go out as a governess. And this she does—the story in fact opens with her on a train heading to Cornwall and to Mount Mellyn, the residence of the TreMellyns. Martha’s employer (or should I say her Rochester) is Connan TreMellyn, while her charge is Connan’s eight-year-old daughter Alvean, who has had, as is customary in such stories a few governesses before, none of whom lasted very long. At TreMellyn, she also meets (among others) the housekeeper, Mrs Polgrey, slightly imposing but friendly enough when she gets to know her (in other words, no Mrs Danvers), and neighbours Celestine Nansellock and her brother Peter, who are friendly, both with Martha and her employer, though there is something that strains the relationship between the TreMellyns and the Nansellocks. Also there is Mrs Polgrey’s strange granddaughter Gilly, who seems to sing, yet not speak to anyone. Alvean, Martha’s charge, is headstrong and sullen, but Martha soon finds that all she wants is her father’s love and approval, but he continues to be cold. She also finds that her employer’s wife Alice died a year ago in somewhat mysterious circumstances, and in some way or other her shadow remains in the house. In fact, even on the railway journey to Cornwall, someone had warned her to watch out for Alice!

This was a reasonably enjoyable read for me, which delivered on most though not all of what it promised. The plot was as described on the lines of Jane Eyre and Rebecca—more the former than the latter in the sense of a governess going out to look after a child and falling in love with her employer, and there being a secret surrounding the employer’s wife’s death. Our heroine Martha is spirited, outspoken and up for the challenge of looking after a child (something she isn’t used to). In fact, more than that, she is not simply interested in getting young Alvean to accept her but also to improve her relationship with her father. Then she also takes up the case of little Gilly, who she feels is misunderstood. While she is the ideal ‘romance’ heroine, on many occasions, her reactions did feel to me a little childish. The romance thread of the story is I guess the usual, with Martha initially disapproving of her employer, but slowly taking to him; though the change of heart felt a little sudden.

The setting I thought—of a manor up on the Cornish cliffs, with a mysterious death (more than one death, actually) and the foundations she laid of our heroine being warned about Alice was quite perfect. But the spooky elements I felt didn’t turn out to have the effect of actually being creepy or scary in the slightest. There are mysterious whispers in the waves, and shadows of Alice, but the other threads of the story may be take up more prominence and so these don’t quite have the effect I’d have liked them to. But, the book did end up having a genuine mystery plot, surrounding the events that have taken place before Martha’s arrival, and there is more than one secret that the house and the people living in and around it are keeping—some she seems to find out quite soon, others remain a mystery right until the end. So there is a surprise awaiting one in the end, though I must say, if it had turned out as Martha begins to imagine it, it may have been more dark and fun (for us, not her).
Profile Image for Kavita.
762 reviews370 followers
March 22, 2017
Martha Leigh has to earn her own living, and the only option open to her is to be a governess. Her aunt finds a place for her and Martha ends up in a household full of secrets. The master of the house is Connan TreMellyin, whose child Alvean she has to teach. There are the siblings from the neighbouring mansion, who are both friends and rivals of the TreMellyins. Clementine wants to marry Connan and mothers Alvean constantly, while Peter is a flirt.

Over time, Martha realises there are far too many secrets in the small household and she begins to pry them out little by little. She is especially enamoured with Alice, Alvean's mother, who is supposed to have died in a train crash. But did she? As the secrets tumble out, someone tries to kill Martha. Life only becomes more complicated when she falls head over heels in love with Connan.

This book is full of suspense and interesting characters, and there are a lot of people with the motive for murder and deception. The love story seemed a bit hurried and underdeveloped but I would take it over an abusive relationship depicted as 'romantic' any day. The high star rating is because I loved the depiction of the murderer, even though I had guessed who it was. I wasn't certain, though.

Does Martha solve the mystery and marry Connan or does she fall prey to the diabolical mind that could do anything to get what it wants? Read to find out!
Profile Image for Hannah.
796 reviews
February 15, 2012
Rating Clarification: 2.5 Stars

I've been doing alot of re-reads at the beginning of 2012; some from books of my childhood, others from books of my teen years. For the most part, these re-reads have stood the test of time between readings. Whether this is because of nostalgia or their overall quality it's hard to determine. Regardless, it's generally been a positive re-reading experience. However, the appeal of Victoria Holt's first published gothic novel, Mistress of Mellyn, faltered in my remembered enjoyment from long ago.

While not a badly written book, the elements of suspense and tension so crucial to a good gothic were lacking throughout the story. With little gothic buildup, the big "reveal" was lackluster and was followed by an abrupt ending . Character development was adequately created, but since this was Holt's freshman novel, it did lack the polish that some of her later works would have. The interactions between the hero and heroine were also less successfully applied, and as a reader I wasn't totally sold on its authenticity.

What Holt did do well was her place description of the story locale, Cornwall. Being a reader who enjoys this aspect of a story, I found her descriptions of the environment very well written and appealing.

All in all, not a waste of time, but not Holt's best effort either.

Read as part of the Gothicked group read in February 2012. For those interested, here is the link:
Profile Image for Bree (AnotherLookBook).
186 reviews58 followers
August 31, 2016
I "discovered" Victoria Holt in my local library back in high school. My mom remembered reading and loving her books back when she was my age. This one was one of my favorites. My only complaint of Holt, even back in high school, was that nothing seemed to happen for ages, and then in the last twenty pages everything would happen! It always left me feeling like I'd just finished a great book, but also like I'd been deceived a little into that impression.

Recently, I got into D.E. Stevenson and found myself remembering Holt's style and female protagonists--strong, ultimately, though not totally perfect. For those who enjoy Holt for these aspects, I'd highly recommend some D.E.S. Not gothic, but still keeps you turning pages. Particularly: The Blue Sapphire

For more reviews of awesome but forgotten books: www.AnotherLookBook.com
Profile Image for Sarah Mac.
1,078 reviews
March 30, 2019
3.5, rounded up.

MELLYN is a gentle gothic, more sedate & spare than Holt's mature fully-flowered style like DEMON LOVER, INDIA FAN, SPRING OF THE TIGER, etc. Even KIRKLAND REVELS has a more 'classic' Vicky flavor (though KIRKLAND isn't her best by any means). You can tell she hadn't refined her voice or her most beloved plotting template -- the lengthy childhood recap in particular -- but this is still an enjoyable read. Marty is a grumpy heroine, & I respect that. :P
Profile Image for Erika Robuck.
Author 11 books1,067 followers
July 13, 2022
Addictive Gothic fiction, complete with romantic tension on foggy moors and in haunted manor houses, with a gasp-inducing plot twist. Excellent beach or fireside read.
Profile Image for CLM.
2,664 reviews181 followers
July 6, 2009
A classic gothic: when Martha takes a position as a governess in remote Cornwell, catering to a spoiled child, she does not expect to be surrounded by mystery and find herself in danger...
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,715 reviews1,243 followers
July 26, 2010
A hybrid between Jane Eyre and Rebecca though not even remotely as good as either. Holt should have worked on her descriptive skills. I do always appreciate when a book teaches me a new architectural term, like lepers' squint. "The leper's squint was a type of hagioscope, a window set at an oblique angle in a church wall to permit people to see the altar from areas where it was not otherwise visible." (tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com)
Profile Image for Mela.
1,469 reviews185 followers
February 9, 2023
I wanted to check the author for a long time. I don't regret I did finally, but I doubt I will read more by Victoria Holt (although, who knows).

To me, a mystery was too obvious to enjoy figuring out (save for one or two small twists).

The romance was weird. Martha started as a strong, sensible character, but with time she behaved more and more out of the blue. Connan started as a libertine and ended as a reformed man, but I didn't see when he had changed. I had no idea also when and why they fell in love with each other.

I totally don't understand comparing Holt's stories to those by Daphne du Maurier or Mary Stewart (which I really loved) but I am saying it after only one novel by Holt, so perhaps I should try another one. Still, I don't know if I want to.
Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews279 followers
June 19, 2009
"There are two courses open to a gentlewoman when she finds herself in penurious circumstances.......One is to marry, and the other to find a post in keeping with her gentility."

With no other prospects in sight, Martha Leigh takes a position as governess for eight-year-old Alvean TreMellyn at her family's estate Mount Mellyn in Cornwall. Alvean's mother Alice has been dead for a year, after she ran away with her lover they both died in a tragic train wreck - burned beyond recognition. Her father Connon is cold and withdrawn, especially with his daughter. Martha settles in and builds a relationship with both Alvean and the waif-like Gillyflower and she also finds herself attracted to the master of the house (well of course!), but then things soon begin to go bump in the night in typical Holt fashion.

Does Alice's presence still live on at Mount Mellyn? Did she really die in the train wreck? Why is Connon so remote from his daughter? What about Connon's relationship with the beauteous but haughty Lady Treslyn? Who framed the last beautiful governess for theft so that she lost her position and was forced to leave? Does someone want Martha out of the way as well? What about these mysterious blinds in the house where one can watch what is going on in another room without being seen? Does the house have more unknown secrets?

That's as much as I'm going to tell - read it for your self! Like a couple of the other reviewers, I noticed a definite similarity between parts of this story and Rebecca and Jane Eyre (but that's a good thing), although she's still got a surprise or two in store for you that will keep you turning the pages until the very last reveal (gad, what a nail biter). While she's not quite up to the perfection that is Du Maurier, I think you'll find this a perfect comfort book to curl up with in front of the fire with a glass of red wine and chocolate. 4/5 stars.
Profile Image for Rachel Bea.
358 reviews112 followers
September 1, 2016
I read this book as part of a Gothic challenge; I selected it because my task was to find a book with a Gothic looking cover on it. This cover obviously has everything you would want in a gothic novel: A woman looking ghost-like at twilight, near a rocky ocean side, with an old, foreboding mansion in the background. The content of the book is classic Gothic romance as well: the governess is taking care of a petulant child whose mother, Alice, is dead, and the father/man of the house, Connan, could be involved in something nefarious, and questions about Alice's death are raised. Of course there is also a love story, which is that the governess, Martha, is falling in love with Connan! What I liked about this book is that the story moved along very quickly (although at times I thought it could have been a little slower) and I couldn't predict the ending. Maybe other readers did, but I thought I had the mystery of Alice figured out and to my surprise I did not! There were moments when I was sure things were going to go very bad, and I was nervous for many of the characters. Martha is a strong female character and I loved how she stood up to people (particularly men). I would recommend this to someone who is looking for a quick read and who wants to get their feet wet in the genre. I thought the story could have used a little more creepiness, but that's just my personal taste. Ultimately it was a good read and actually my first Victoria Holt book.
Profile Image for Marie.
182 reviews91 followers
March 27, 2012
I almost want to give it that third star, but the melodrama didn't really start until three quarters of the way through. Before the fun stuff was a bunch of occasional musing on Martha's part about Alice, and no real searching. And I have no idea why Connan was such a catch. He was a jerk, Martha disliked him, Martha got a crush, Connan liked her interest, Martha loves children, Martha loves Connan, Connan loves Martha. So unlike the infamous gold-standard Mr. Darcy, Connan's full character arc goes from arrogant sot to besotted without, you know, ever actually overcoming his obnoxiousness.

And I read a lot of Holt in middle school—I seem to recall a full shelf of them for some reason—and now I'm wondering if I always found the protagonists so vaguely unlikable. Martha does so little, up unto fainting until rescue. She tries for spunky without ever being quite clever enough to manage.

But Alvean and Gilly were good child characters, which is something I'm sensitive too, and I did like their growing relationship with Martha, though, given this novel is from Martha's perspective, I really could barely tell it was happening on her part. And of course, the melodrama was fun, when it arrived.
Profile Image for Meagan.
1,317 reviews46 followers
December 19, 2008
Mistress of Mellyn is a great example of an old-fashioned gothic romance. It begins with the necessary heroine, an impoverished gentlewoman with no prospects for marriage (of course), who is pursuing a living as a governess in an isolated and somewhat spooky manor. The master of the house is a widower, handsome and forbidding, whose wife died in fantastic circumstances and whose body was never positively identified. All this is wrapped up in rumors and mysterious happenings while our heroine, against all her better judgment, begins to have feelings for the man she suspects may have had a hand in his wife's death. It's sentimental, full of cliches, over the top, and immensely entertaining reading. If you like your romances of the soap-opera variety, with the threat of doom and gloom, Victoria Holt in general and Mistress of Mellyn in particular will serve you well!
Profile Image for  ☆Ruth☆.
663 reviews1 follower
October 11, 2015
This is really a rehash of Jane Eyre with a bit of Rebecca and Miss Marple thrown in. However, I love Jane Eyre, Rebecca and Miss Marple, so I had no problem with that. Victoria Holt is no Charlotte Bronte, but her books are always entertaining and eminently readable - this was no exception.
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