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review 2017-10-08 18:21
The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt
The Secret Woman (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

First published in 1970, The Secret Woman was written by the prolific Eleanor Hibbert under her Victoria Holt pen name. While this book was published in “Holt’s” early period, it was actually published in the middle period for Hibbert. There were a total of 32 books published under the “Holt” name, and of those 32, approximately 23 of them were published after The Secret Woman.


Victoria Holt tends to be very hit and miss. This one is a miss.


I think that, perhaps, Holt was going for an homage to Jane Eyre with this one, with Redvers as the Rochester character, the conveniently orphaned Anna as Jane, and Redver’s wife, Monique, as the ill-fated Bertha. Like Bertha, the mildly mentally ill, consumptive Monique comes from an apparently fictional island named Coralle. Bertha, of course, is from Jamaica, and is the daughter of a wealthy family.


The issues with this book start with the pacing. The plot summary is misleading in that most of the elements referenced in the summary do not appear until the 50% mark of the book. The first 50% of the book felt relatively superfluous, focusing on Anna’s childhood and young adulthood, being first sent to England without her parents, later being orphaned, and then being raised by her unpleasant, unloving, bitter Aunt Charlotte. This, again, may be an ill-advised attempt to copy Jane Eyre. Few writers have the skill to write a Jane Eyre character, and Holt fails completely.


The “meet cute” between our hero and heroine also fails. Redvers and Anna meet when she is 12 and he is 19. I can understand her romanticizing him, since he is a dashing young man. I cannot understand, and am entirely grossed out, by his apparent romanticizing of her. She was twelve. There is nothing at twelve to attract a young man of nineteen.


It isn’t until around the 55% mark that Red & Anna end up in one another’s company consistently. From there, the book devolves into a shipboard travelogue. Way too much of the narration is delivered through the diary of the third-wheel Chantel, which ground the story to a halt. The suspense/gothic elements don’t appear until around 75%, and by that time, I am done. That section could’ve actually been pretty interesting, if it had been expanded to be more of the book, and if Holt hadn’t decided that the best way to deliver the reveal was through a letter.


Note to authors: telling us why and how something happened through a letter written by the perpetrator is generally not an emotionally resonant method of storytelling. Again, the tension, the suspense, the drama grinds to a freaking halt while I read a three page letter written by the villain/ess (no spoilers here) as he/she is in his/her death throes.


The romance is also not very romantic. Redvers is basically a manwhore who gets himself into trouble and knocks up Monique, and then he is afraid to leave her because reasons so he marries her and treats her like shit. This is exactly the sort of person that I a looking for in a romantic hero. Right? I'm still trying to figure out what was wrong with alternative hero, Dick Callum, because he seemed like a fairly decent guy, even if his hotness quotient was not quite so high as that of Red.


As an Eyre retelling: fail. As a gothic/romantic suspense: fail. As a period drama: fail.


If you aren’t a Holt completist, don’t bother with this one. First you’ll be bored, then you’ll be irritated. And you'll probably hate everyone.


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review 2017-10-08 14:43
Misleading Summary and Slow Moving as Molasses
The Secret Woman (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

So maybe I should stop reading Holt? Cause the last few books have been underwhelming to the extreme. I had high hopes for this one, but when it turned into Chantal's journal entries (alternate title) I lost interest in this book. Holt or her publishers should have pushed forth this book is focused on two main characters (Anna and Chantal) and that most of the book is told by Chantal's point of view. I guessed some of what was ultimately revealed. And as Moonlight said elsewhere, this book really isn't Gothic. It's a messed up romantic suspense with barely developed characters besides Chantal. 


Holt follows her formula of a main character left orphaned cause of reasons. The main character of Anna is thrust upon her aunt who makes Voldemort look cuddly. Anna's aunt is something of a big deal in the antiquities and starts to teach Anna cause apparently she has no prospects besides taking care of her aunt and her home called the Queen's House. 


When Anna is 12 she meets a young man named Red who she finds is the half brother to the heir of the Crediton fortune. Anna for no reason falls in love with Red and can't wait to see him again. She doesn't til years later when he randomly shows up for reasons. Eventually it comes out Red is married and was probably playing with Anna's affections, she becomes resigned to taking care of her increasingly ill aunt til a nurse comes along named Chantal. Chantal is everything Anna is not, lively, pretty, and intelligent. The two become friends and Chantal gets them to both write journals in which they exchange for the other one to read. Chantal demands they be honest with each other in all things and seems interesting t on knowing Anna's every thought. 


When Anna's aunt dies leaving suspicions on Anna, Chantal has to find more work which leads Chantal to become employed by the Creditons. 


The whole book is mostly Chantal's thoughts on the Creditons and her increasingly affections for the heir, named Rex. Anna at more than the halfway point cause of even more ridiculous reasons is employed as a governess to Red's child and goes on a voyage back to Red's wife's island home. 


The writing really wasn't great. It didn't seem written in the correct time period. How Chantal and Anna speak feels wrong. The reactions Chantal has to things reads wrong too. 


The flow is awful. I got sick of reading this at the 50 percent point. I was tempted to skip to the end cause I honestly didn't care for anyone and despised Red and Anna and their bs love story. He's still married and you're making excuses. Bah to you both. 


The ending which reveals all was kind of a joke. I mean I read the letter and shook my head. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but whatever. This book had way too much going on. I think when we get to the end with Anna, I thought her HEA was tainted as anything. Holt seems to think Gothic books were just terrible men and women who loved them. There is nothing that screams Gothic to me in this book.


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text 2017-10-08 13:41
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Secret Woman (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

I'm curious what Moonlight thinks of this one. The reveal came out of nowhere I thought and how the "villain" was caught kind of lame. I started to suspect this person, but didn't realize everything that we are told. 


I do think that Holt doesn't do a great job writing heroes that you can like. I didn't like Red and thought he was despicable. I can't root for a married hero who treats his wife horribly. I get that Gothic books are supposed to have tall and dark brooding heroes. I just can't understand why Anna was even attracted to the guy.


Speaking of Anna, she was not a great character. Things just kept happening around her. She really played no part in this story which was weird. 


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text 2017-10-08 03:46
Reading progress update: I've read 65%.
The Secret Woman (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

The pacing of this book is terrible. I sort of want to skip to the end and get to the point.

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text 2017-10-08 02:29
Reading progress update: I've read 35%.
The Secret Woman (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

There needs to be a "How do you feel about this" face that is "irritated."


Plot summary:


Anna Brett is a governess to a wealthy English family, a role she's convinced she'll be doomed to live the rest of her life. But when she meets Redvers Stretton, the dashing captain of a ship named The Secret Woman, and she's whisked from the bleak British coast to the sunny South Seas, she quickly realizes that things will never be the same. But with a murder dogging her steps and the mystery of a missing treasure haunting her dreams, Anna is forced to confront the clever captain-a man who may have just as many secrets as his ship.



I am at 35%, and so far, Anna Brett is not a governess, she met Redvers Stretton in the first chapter, and no one is being whisked away from anywhere. The plot summary is misleading, and something needs to happen soon. SOON. This book is on the road to nowhere.

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