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Search tags: mansions-menace-and-moonlight
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review 2018-04-06 17:45
Someone Is Trying To Kill Me. I Think It's The Man I Love.
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Mary Stewart

I know, I know, that post title could apply to basically every single gothic romance ever. In fact, as Linda Hilton knows, as I actually cribbed the title from an essay she discusses in this post (which is well worth reading, so you should read it!).

 

Nine Coaches Waiting centers around Linda Martin, a young French woman who is hired as the English speaking governess for Count Philippe Valmy, the nine year old heir to the Valmy estate and fortune. There are a couple of "accidents" where Philippe is nearly killed, at which point Linda begins to wonder if they were really "accidents" at all, or if someone really is trying to get rid of the young count.

 

As always, Mary Stewart's descriptions are truly lovely and evocative. Linda meets Raoul Valmy, Philippe's much older cousin, who is dashing and handsome and oh so mysterious. He doesn't live at Chateau Valmy, rather he lives at one of the lesser Valmy family properties near by. As the conspiracy unfolds, Linda falls head over heels in love with the enigmatic Raoul, which she realizes after possibly the most epic first date ever set down in fiction.

 

I am not going to describe that evening in detail though, as it happens, it was desperately important. It was then, simply, one of those wonderful evenings … We stopped in Thonon beside a stall where jonquils and wallflowers blazed under the gas-jets, and he bought me freesias which smelt like the Fortunate Isles and those red anemones that were once called the lilies of the field. Then we drove along in a clear night with stars as warm and a waxing moon staring pale behind the poplars. By the time we reached Geneva – a city of fabulous glitter and strung lights whose reflections swayed and bobbed in the dark waters of the Lake – my spirits were rocketing sky-high; shock, loneliness, the breath of danger all forgotten.

 

OMG, can Mary Stewart turn a phrase or what? 

 

Linda realizes the truth about the so-called accidents and takes flight from the Chateau with young Philippe, and what follows is several chapters of suspense where the two of them are being chased, hiding, escaping and trying to make their way to safety, without really knowing who is behind the attempts to murder Philippe. As was true of This Rough Magic, Stewart has a definite talent for ratcheting up the reader's anxiety. As is de riguer with romantic suspense, there is a happy ending.

 

This is my fifth Mary Stewart, each one more delicious than the last. At some point, I assume, I will have to hit a clunker. 

 

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review 2018-03-31 17:52
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
This Rough Magic - Mary Stewart

Does anyone else write like Mary Stewart? Because if there is another Mary Stewart out there, I want to find her. Her books are the perfect combination of romance and suspense, set in the most beautiful places. I really enjoy the fact that they are contemporaries for the time that they were written.

 

I would say that the closest that I have found to Stewart is Phyllis Whitney, who writes very similar romantic suspense/gothic romance, but she just doesn't have the writing chops of Mary Stewart. I'm wondering if anyone is aware of any modern authors who are writing this same type of book. I don't really enjoy the Pamela Clare style of romantic suspense, and J.D. Robb doesn't do much for me.

 

This was my first time reading This Rough Magic - it was one of my massive Mary Stewart kindle book purchase last fall. It is definitely up there with The Moonspinners for me in enjoyability, and I liked it better than both The Ivy Tree and Wildfire at Midnight.

 

This Rough Magic follows the Mary Stewart playbook - attractive young woman on her own goes to exotic place, becomes embroiled in something dangerous - espionage, smuggling, murder - falls in love with an equally attractive young man after they cross paths. Stewart has a gift for creating suspense, and one of the things that I liked about This Rough Magic is that the main character, Lucy Waring, extricates herself from danger with resourcefulness and persistence. She doesn't wait to be rescued - she rescues herself. I liked this a lot, and it placed Lucy on a footing of equality with the male love interest.

 

The Corfu setting is beautiful. Mary Stewart used Shakespeare's The Tempest as a jumping off point for the book, with quotes from the play as chapter headings, and discussions about The Tempest between the heroine, Lucy, a not-terribly-successful actress from London and Julian Gale, a very successful Shakespearean actor who has come to Corfu to recuperate from a nervous breakdown. Stewart's descriptive talents are formidable and she does a wonderful job of painting a mental picture of beautiful places. It had the same effect on me as The Moonspinners in making me want to jump on an airplane and fly off to a sunny climate, especially given that I am suffering mightily from spring fever in the midst of a grey Oregon winter.

 

 

 

As a downside, as is the case with a lot of mid-twentieth century fiction, there is a lot of colonialism and superiority in Lucy's interactions with the native Corfuites - the "nobility of the peasantry" condescension. This is likely inevitable given the time in which it was written, but, still, it is present.

 

Overall, This Rough Magic was a delightful read.

 

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text 2018-03-29 07:17
I can't stand doormats. Especially self-righteous ones.
The India Fan - Victoria Holt

I'm remembering why I didn't like this book the first time I read it.

 

Drusilla is a wimp.  She admits, from the vantage point of the future, that she should have foreseen Lavinia's disasters. But she didn't.  And she never really admits to her own responsibility.

 

But she's also passionless.  At best she's "fascinated" by the House, but she never says why.  She goes along with Lady Harriet's plans without protest or enthusiasm.  Even through the whole business with Fleur, there's no emotion.

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review 2018-03-28 03:23
Not really all that gothic, not really all that romantic
The India Fan (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

So, I didn't actually hate it.

 

Let me begin with a gif, though. 

 

 

That's Drusilla, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And, sadly, that is what I pictured every single time I read the name of the main character. It was . . . distracting.

 

Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I shall talk about the book.

 

When I read a gothic romance, I expect two things. Gothic. Romance. This was a very low key romance - so low key, in fact, that I do not believe that the two romantic leads actually ever touched each other until the hero proclaimed his undying love for the heroine. There was basically no chemistry between them at all.

 

What does "gothic" really mean? To me, it absolutely requires a certain aesthetic that invokes gloom, dread and a sense of supernatural possibility and danger. I suppose that the titular India fan was supposed to offer that "gothic" feeling, but it really didn't work because sensible Drusilla just didn't buy it and so the reader didn't buy it, either. The other dangerous elements - specifically, Drusilla becoming embroiled in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1858, wasn't even remotely gothic.

 

As a piece of historical fiction, it rather reminded me of The Shadow of the Moon, by M. M. Kaye, which I quite enjoyed. Unfortunately, Holt simply does not write at the level of M. M. Kaye. I didn't find it to be awful, but there was nothing special about it.

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text 2018-03-27 15:54
Reading progress update: I've read 60%.
The India Fan (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

The backstory of this book felt like it took fully half of the book to develop. I've just now gotten to the point where the main character, Drusilla, has inherited the titular India Fan. There is very little gothic going on at this point. I don't dislike it, necessarily, but when I read a Holt gothic, I'm looking for some sense of suspense or brooding mystery, which is not the atmosphere so far.

 

Having read a number of Holt books over the last couple of years, I feel like she is just retelling Jane Eyre over and over with varying levels of success, by plucking elements out of Bronte's classic and plugging them into her current writing book. This isn't a criticism so much as it an observation, since this particular device worked really well for her, and when it is done with panache and delicacy it can be very effective. Unfortunately, in this one, her main Eyreian (yes, I just made up that word) device - the mysterious woman in the attic - is pretty clunky and doesn't generate the suspense that it should have in order to work.

 

Anyway, now that we've - hopefully - gotten to the point, I shall read on.

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