Thursday, December 28, 2017

Philippa Carr’s THE WITCH FROM THE SEA – Unusual Story of Treachery and Love

The third in the Daughters of England series, this one is set in the 16th century, beginning in 1588 with the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It’s the story of Linnet Pennlyon, daughter of a famous sea captain who is loyal to Queen Elizabeth. Linnet thinks she’ll marry a gentle dreamer, Fennimore Landor, who forms a trading partnership with her father. But once Colum Casvellyn, lord of Castle Paling, sees her, he makes plans to have her, drugging her to seduce her. Forced to marry him, Linnet accepts her life at Castle Paling and the man she married despite the terrible truth she learns about his business.

One day a pregnant woman washes ashore from a shipwreck. They name her Maria as she has no memory. She is an odd woman, thought strikingly beautiful. The servants call her a witch since she arrived on Halloween.  Maria is an intriguing figure, acting like the mistress of the castle. Unsurprisingly, Colum is attracted to her dark beauty and Linnet is frightened for her safety.

Written in the first person, half way through the book, we switch from Linnet’s head to her daughter Tamsyn’s, which, I confess, was a bit jarring. Still both “heroines” were worthy characters.

Carr (aka Victoria Holt) is a master at creating and sustaining suspense and she does so well in this story, first with Linnet and then Tamsyn, each living in fear of the witch from the sea. The tale definitely has a Gothic feel (haunted castle, mysterious witch, strange goings on, etc.). Colum, as a “hero”, is an enigmatic figure and really more of a villain.

It’s long at nearly 400 pages and it feels long. Still, it’s a story that will draw you in. For the Gothic romance lovers it’s a worthy story and it does have a happy ending though rather abrupt.

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