Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Review: Victoria Holt’s THE CAPTIVE – Absorbing Late Victorian Tale set on an island and in Constantinople

This is the story of Rosetta Cranleigh, named after the Rosetta Stone by her parents who were Egyptologists and “lived in a remote atmosphere of scholarship, apart from the mundane ménage of a household.” Thus, Rosetta lived among the family’s servants (a wonderful group of characters!) was content to because she felt safe and loved. Holt is at her best when describing the heroine’s life in the early stages.

As Rosetta grows up, her parents begin to notice her when her active mind takes an interest in the antiquities of Egypt. So they invite her to their dinner parties where she meets Lucas Lorimer, a delightful younger son of a wealthy family who is traveling with her parents to Cape Town to give a talk about an old stone he found. Rosetta’s parents decide to take her with them when the three leave on the voyage. On the trip, Rosetta meets another man, Simon Perrivale, who is fleeing a false charge of murdering his half brother. Of course, there is a shipwreck and Rosetta, Lucas and Simon are thrust upon the shores of a small island, where thanks to Simon’s efforts they survive.

Captured by pirates, Rosetta ends up in the harem of a Pasha in Constantinople where her blonde hair and blue eyes set her apart. But she is determined to avoid the Pasha’s bed and find her friends Simon and Lucas and return to London. She worries that her parents, ever oblivious of what is going on around them, may have drowned in the shipwreck.

Told from the first person, we see the unfolding drama from Rosetta’s perspective, and her growing affection for Simon and her passionate resolve to find the real killer of Simon’s half brother. (I should add this story is without love scenes and has virtually no sexual tension.)

Holt has a way of capturing your interest by the smallest of details in ordinary life. It’s the way she tells it, like each little thread is significant in some way or other. And so there is suspense in small things. Her dialog is brisk and the pace moves along. In this case, Rosetta becomes the detective solving a crime that occurred in the past but which has implications for the future as Lucas becomes her ally. And Holt does a great job of withholding the ending till the last moment. 

Buy on Amazon.

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