REVIEW: Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt
A master storyteller, Victoria Holt transports us from London to the coast of Cornwall in a classic Gothic romantic suspense, bringing back fond memories of her books read throughout the years.
Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt
Category: Gothic Historical Romantic Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (released November 24, 2009 – original release in 1975 by another publisher)
Rated 4 out 5 Stars
Book pulled from my print TBR Mountain Range, purchased by me.
How I love re-experiencing the type of books I loved as a teenager. For those of us who read Victoria Holt’s books during the years they were first published, they sometimes become how we compare all others like them. Even if we haven’t read them in years, that ethereal feeling is like yesterday.
In LORD OF THE FAR ISLAND we meet our heroine Ellen Kellaway at a very young age after she’s orphaned and left in the care of her Cousin Agatha. Ellen tells her story, often flashing back over her past history and how she came to be under Cousin Agatha’s care. Ellen is spunky and full of mischief, pushing Cousin Agatha’s patience to almost the breaking point over and over. At the age of three, Ellen’s mother ran away from her husband and moved back in with her own mother, bringing Ellen with her. Ellen lived with her grandmother after her mother died two years later, then she was taken in by Cousin Agatha when her grandmother died.
Ellen experiences a recurring dream for years that focuses on a room in a place that she cannot remember. The dream terrifies Ellen because it leaves her with a sinister sense of foreboding. Considered the “Poor Relation,” Ellen is constantly reminded of her good fortune by Cousin Agatha. Esmeralda, Cousin Agatha’s daughter, shares her tutor with Ellen as well as becomes Ellen’s friend, but they’re as different as night and day. Esmeralda is clumsy and shy, where Ellen is always in trouble for something she’s done “outside her place” within the household.
Over the years they become friends with the Carringtons and it is Cousin Agatha’s wish that Esmeralda becomes the wife to the Carringtons’ youngest son, Phillip. Throughout their childhood, Phillip and Ellen argue and are combative about everything, while Esmeralda doesn’t seem to fit with either of them. When Phillip Carrington proposes to Ellen, the Poor Relation, instead of Esmeralda who has a dowry, that’s when the real trouble begins. Can a man from such a wealthy family truly be interested in a wife who has no money? Will Ellen be comfortable in her new social standing? Will Esmeralda be hurt and what will become of Cousin Agatha’s dreams for her daughter?
Tragedy rules Ellen’s life and she soon realizes that everything she’s hoped for and imagined is about to change again and again.
Just as Ellen has a sense of foreboding when she experiences her recurring dream, the reader feels anxiety build as Ellen’s story progresses. I was sure something was going to happen as each page was turned and I couldn’t help but feel frantic for Ellen’s well-being when the pace of the tension escalated, with danger lurking around every corner. Not quite a thriller, the building eeriness of the mystery was exactly how I remembered Gothic stories to be.
It was entertaining to relive my love of Gothic romance while reading LORD OF THE FAR ISLAND. The Gothic style shaped my reading preferences early on and continues to haunt my yearning for more like them as an adult. The epitome of classic romantic suspense of the 1970s, LORD OF THE FAR ISLAND is a rare treat. Great layering of clues and exciting revelations push you further into the story just when you think you can’t stand waiting any longer for the answers. Quirky over-the-top characters who personify this style of book during this era will put you in search of yet another of these classics to enjoy again. So much fun!
Thanks to Victoria Holt for a lifetime of reading memories to cherish!
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