Friday, November 3, 2017
Victoria Holt’s THE SECRET WOMAN – Victorian Romance with Many Secrets and a Sail to the South Seas
First published in 1970, this is a wonderful story that begins in England but eventually sweeps you to the South Pacific. Set in the late 19th century in the Victorian era, it’s the story of Anna Brett who was born in India but whose parents sent her to live with her maiden Aunt Charlotte, an antique dealer who populates her old house with furniture in the process of being sold.
Anna’s one solace is her friend Chantal Loman, the beautiful nurse who tends Anna’s ailing aunt. When Aunt Charlotte suddenly dies, Anna takes a job suggested by Chantel, as a governess in the home of a wealthy English family in the shipping business. The family has two sons, one legitimate, Rex Crediton, and one a bastard, Redvers Stretton. Anna is very attracted to Red, but then she learns he is married.
Rex is the heir apparent, consumed with the business, but Red is not unhappy about that since he loves his ships and the sea. It was on one of those South Pacific islands, however, where Red met his wife, and island beauty whose family forced him to wed her when she came up pregnant.
In this fascinating story, it seemed everyone harbored secrets, even Anna, who hid from her friend her love for Red Stretton. And even though I knew Chantel was capable of doing wrong to accomplish her purposes, I was surprised at all the twists at the end.
Holt did a good job of bringing us into the drama and the places to which the characters traveled. I could feel the heat of the island and Anna’s exhilaration with the wind on her face while they were at sea. As she and Red finally admitted their love, I could feel her emotion at finding herself in love with another woman’s husband.
No one does Victorian suspense and mystery like Holt and this is a great one!