Graham's Reviews > Mistress of Mellyn

Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
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really liked it
bookshelves: historical, romance

NOTE: I've just discovered, purely by chance, that Goodreads have deleted a couple of my old reviews from the site. Luckily, I had a backup of this one:

This Gothic romance packs plenty of punch thanks to the myriad plot ingredients to be found lurking within the pages. The wonderfully Gothic setting is Cornwall, more specifically an ancient castle on the clifftops; it is a location haunted by tragedy, where people die, go missing and walk into the sea, never to return. There are secret peep holes and priest holes and a wood nearby that it’s easy to get lost in. The sea cries mournfully against the rocks and the castle itself may well be haunted by the spirit of its previous mistress, who died in a terrible train wreck.

All is well and good, but what of the story? Victoria Holt was one of the many pseudonyms used by the insanely prolific author Jean Plaidy (the name in itself is a pseudonym!) during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Under the name of Victoria Holt, the author turned out dozens of similar Gothic romances, all packed with brooding heroes and mysterious plots. This book is one of them. The template is clearly Jane Eyre, which is no bad thing if you’re a fan of Charlotte Bronte’s classic. Indeed, Connan TreMellyn, the taciturn, mysterious hero who is saddled with a daughter whom he doesn’t love, is in many ways a Cornish variant of Mr. Rochester.

The author goes for the “anything goes” approach, weaving lots of different strands into the narrative. Some are more effective than others. The romance, always kept understated and virtually in the background, is handled admirably. The mystery of the story is very slow paced – it’s not until the final pages that we learn the real truth of Mellyn’s history – and I would have liked to see a little more incident. However, the writing is strong, simple and fluid, making this a book that is very easy to read and follow. Holt has a gift for natural-sounding dialogue and the period setting is expertly captured.

And so the story goes on, the pages filled with all kinds of ingredients: there’s the whisky-sipping gossip of a housekeeper; a mysterious mute girl, almost spectral, who hides in the woods; a secret assassin; a poison pen and more charged, fizzling sexuality than you can shake a stick at. Martha Leigh is an eminently likable heroine; she’s clever, smart and shy, and the scenes in which she dances in the darkness with Connan are wonderfully sexy.

As a whole, this is a work of popular fiction that has been authored to delight a specific readership: those who like their romances full of mystery and tragedy, with hints of the supernatural thrown into the brew. While some of the plot ingredients might today be seen as clichéd, the writing is fresh and engaging enough to make it a winning read.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
May 10, 2007 – Finished Reading
January 20, 2014 – Shelved
January 20, 2014 – Shelved as: historical
January 20, 2014 – Shelved as: romance

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Lizzie LOVE this review xx

MomToKippy What a wonderful review!

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