Review - Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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.

In Short

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".

Buy the Book - here.
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5 People said

  1. Gosh, I'd forgotten all about Victoria Holt. I read almost everything of hers when I was in my teens which was more years ago than I care to admit. I loved her at the time. Maybe I should go back and see whether my reading tastes have altered now I'm all grown up and sophisticated (ha)

    Laura Essendine
    Author – The Accidental Guru
    The Accidental Guru Blog
    The Books Limited Blog

  2. A good friend of mine just sent this one to me. Because Victoria Holt also wrote as Jean Plaidy (and I like those books), I'll give this one a try.

    Love your honesty, by the way. It's refreshing!!

  3. When I was in HS, I read every book of hers! Back then, they were perfect, and that was the 1980's so I can fully understand that its outdated. Some authors will update their books but she passed away so in some ways, for those who never had the joy to read any of hers, this is one way to finally read them. I don't recall tho, reading any of hers as Jean Plaidy. And I love reading historical romances (back then it was hard to find romance to read. Everything was mixed up on shelves as 'fiction' so it was trial and error if I got a romance book to read. If I found an author I liked, then I looked for all their books to read, like Ms. Holts.

    Do you know of any recent or other Gothic romances you can recommend? Too any that are historical setting ones? I do have a book of Eve Silver's to read and that one is down as Gothic Historical romance.

    tbranxiety (at) yahoo (dot) com

  4. Laura - If you liked it originally, then it'd be interesting to see if time makes a difference.

    Michele - Thanks!

    Both of you - Do come back and let me know your thoughts.

  5. Caffey - that's understandable. I did that myself, which is how I read many great books which otherwise I might not have.

    Re. gothic romances - I haven't read any in recent times. Do they still have those? Historicals used to be my faves, I'll have to check and see.

    What about you, readers? Got any recommendations?


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