I was feeling in the mood for a gothic romance, and I remembered that I used to love Victoria Holt. I haven’t read anything of hers since I was a teenager, so I thought I would give one of her books a try. I picked up The Shivering Sandsfrom the library. This book was just like the typical Holt that I remember from my childhood. The book was set in the late 1800s, and the heroine had a service role in the household with the dark, brooding hero. The heroine, Caroline Verlaine, was a woman in her late 20s who was a widow. Her husband was a famous pianist, Pietro Verlaine. Caroline had given up any notion of becoming a concert pianist in her own right when she married Pietro. Caroline also lived in the shadow of her parents and sister who were renown archaeologists. Caroline’s parents were killed together in a train accident, and then Roma, the sister, mysteriously disappeared shortly after Pietro’s death of heart attack. Boy, talk about tragedies! Caroline went to Lovat Stacey, where Roma had been investigating Roman remains, as a replacement for her former music teacher. The position got Caroline into the house, and introduced her to the family. Caroline’s wards were Edith (the recently wedded wife to Napier Stacy, the dark brooding hero), Allegra (illegitimate daughter of Napier), Alice (the housekeeper’s daughter), and Shelia (the pastor’s daughter). Caroline found that she was getting heavily involved in the family’s affairs, and in fact, that she was falling in love with Napier. Napier had a cloud of murder over his head, having accidentally shot his wonderful, older brother, Beau when they were teens. Beau died, Beau’s mom killed herself, and Napier found himself banished to Australian. Eventually, Napier was brought back home to marry Edith. When Edith disappeared, just like Roma, fingers started to point at Napier. Can Caroline solve the mysterious disappearance and clear Napier? Or will she find out that Napier is the guilty party?
Of course, Holt introduced a second love interest: Godfrey. Godfrey was the total opposite of Napier, and of course, Godfrey appeared to be in love with Caroline. Holt loved having her heroines not only facing danger, but she loved to give them the choice between two polar opposites. One was always the safe, sensible choice (Godfrey), while the other was sure to make the heroine’s life a roller coaster of danger and emotional upheaval (Napier).
The Shivering Sands lived up to my expectations. I got the dark brooding hero. The hero fell deeply in love with the heroine with very little contact or conversation. There was a ton of smouldering looks and touches. The book was really enjoyable, and a great choice for the recent cold and blustery days here in Pittsburgh. If you like the more typical gothic romantic suspense, give the The Shivering Sands a try. You won’t be sorry!