Mistress of Mellyn
Author: Victoria Holt
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Second Edition edition (December 23, 2008)
Synopsis: Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned...But what bout 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 Martha Leigh. 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 unfimiliar 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...
I'd vaguely heard of Victoria Holt. But this is her first book which I've ever read and as such, I had no preconceived notions about it. It started well and I had high hopes of it. But the fact is that this novel, which was originally published nearly 40 years ago, did not hold me spellbound. In fact, I was positively made impatient by some aspects of it. But let me begin with the plus points.
I can only find one bright point in this story and that is the mystery, which is good. It keeps the reader guessing and when the end is revealed, it comes as a surprise. It won't be a total surprise to an ardent mystery reader, but a nice surprise nonetheless.
The cons, I found, were many and totally distracted me from the story time and again. To sum up, I found this novel to be a cheap imitation of Charlotte Brontë's much acclaimed, Jane Eyre. The worst flaw I found was the romance that develops between Martha and Connan. They never spend that much time together for such strong feelings to develop. While in Jane Eyre, readers are made to understand how and why young, inexperienced Jane falls for the dashing, enigmatic and much-older Mr.Rochester, no such attempt is made here in this novel. Readers are just shown Martha's growing ire and attraction to her attractive employer. But they're given no coherent reasons for the attraction part while plenty of reasons are provided for the ire.
Also the character of Martha herself isn't endearing. She's harsh toward her young charge, cold in her self-importance and sly in her dealings to extract gossip from the servants. I couldn't understand why Connan, a man of the world with affairs galore with beautiful women under his belt, would be attracted to this prim, self-righteous and neither-so-young-nor-so-beautiful Miss Leigh. As such their romance is also unconvincing.
As for the plot itself, a lot of delicious, gothic-mystery like events occur but the author fails to make much of them. Same can be said of the setting which is eerie and menacing and ignored but for an occasional mention. Characters are under-developed, particularly that of Gillyflower, a girl who seems to know much but whom most ignore as being a bit 'touched in the head'. Many other interesting characters are there just for the effect, or to act as red herrings - no great use is made of them.
I can and did think that perhaps the novel's outdatedness is the reason I found it to be so unappealing. But seeing as how I still like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, the Poirot novels, Sherlock Holmes, etc - all of which were perhaps written even earlier than this novel, I realized I cannot use that as an excuse.
This novel is too cliched for words and in my personal opinion, not at all a great read. I know I'm definitely in the minority as far as my opinion of this novel is concerned for I've seen glowing reviews of this book across the web. But like Bruce Nolan I have to say "that's the way the cookie crumbles".
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