Saturday, April 8, 2017

Two Classics from Victoria Holt (aka Philippa Carr): KNAVE OF HEARTS & VOICES IN A HAUNTED ROOM

Philippa Carr is the historical romance author you may know as Victoria Holt (also a pen name). This is one of the stories in her 20-book “Daughters of England” series but can be read as a stand alone. It is followed closely by Voices in a Haunted Room.

Set in the late 18th century, beginning in England in 1767, it tells of beautiful Charlotte d'Aubigne (“Lottie”) who, when she was twelve, learned her real father was a French comte and her home was to be in France. She does not want to leave her beloved English home nor does she want to leave “Dickon”, the boy she has always adored and wanted to marry. But she is young and her English mother and French father decide Dickon is not the best choice. So they take her away to Louis XV's France and to her father’s great estate.

As the years pass, Lottie forgets her youth and becomes emerged in all things French and the tumultuous times that follow the American War. New love comes to her in the person of Charles de Tourville, a man who, though inconstant, loves Lottie. But he wants to fight for America’s liberty, so encouraged by Dickon (who has been a constant guest), Charles leaves Lottie in France with their two children and goes off to fight. Lottie is consoled by her family and her friend, Lisette, a bastard like herself.

This is a story steeped in the tumultuous history of the times and provides a tale of jealousy and betrayal on many levels. Lottie has a very practical nature that allows her to change from her idealistic youth to a mature acceptance of the weaknesses in others. And coming full circle, she returns to England for a visit to Dickon, who still remembers her.

If you like Victoria Holt’s mysteries, this romance might appeal. It did to me. Told from the first person, you are always only in Lottie’s mind but you know the thoughts of others as they reveal them. I liked the detail and the complicated relationships but the romance was a bit disappointing, possibly because both Charles and Dickon were knaves. A more compelling figure was Lottie’s father, the French comte. Still, it’s a very good read and there are some exciting scenes.

VOICES IN A HAUNTED ROOM – A Passionate Story of Betrayal and Love

Sometimes Victoria Holt surprises me. The Demon Lover was one of those books (a bodice ripper!). And this is another because it deals with the heroine’s adultery. It follows Knave of Hearts, which I loved, and is a part of the Daughters of England series.

Raised in the grand chateau of Tourville in France, young Claudine, with her widowed mother, flees the France as revolution arrives. In England, at her mother's ancestral home, Claudine finds friendship with her stepbrothers, twins David and Jonathan, with whom she is raised. When she turns 17, her parents encourage her to marry one of the brothers. Both want her so she has her choice. But Claudine would have them both.

David is kind, steady and scholarly. They share many interests, but only Jonathan stirs her passion. When Jonathan suddenly goes off to France with Claudine’s brother to rescue a relative, Claudine marries David, thinking she is safe. But that doesn’t stop Jonathan from pursuing her. Nor does it stop her passion from responding.
It's storytelling at its best. I was in suspense for most of the book wondering how it would end (the cover tells you much since Jonathan has fair hair). It’s a sad one but very well done.

Daughters of England Series

The Miracle at St. Bruno's (1972)
The Lion Triumphant (1974)
The Witch from the Sea (1975)
Saraband for Two Sisters (1976)
Lament for a Lost Lover (1977)
The Love Child (1978)
The Song of the Siren (1980)
The Drop of the Dice (1981) later renamed "Will You Love Me in September"
The Adulteress (1982)
Knave of Hearts (1983) originally titled Zipporah's Daughter
Voices in A Haunted Room (1984)
The Return of the Gypsy (1985)
Midsummer's Eve (1986)
The Pool of St. Branok (1987)
The Changeling (1989)
The Black Swan (1990)
A Time for Silence (1991)
The Gossamer Cord (1992)
We'll Meet Again (1993)
Daughters of England (1995)

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