Sunday, February 17, 2013

The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt

cover of The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt
I have definitely been in a mood for comfort reads. To me that means classic mysteries and gothic romantic suspense. I was looking through the numerous titles that Eleanor Hibbert (aka Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, and Jean Plaidy), and I saw a few Holt titles that I don't remember reading. I started with The House of a Thousand Lanterns. This one caught my eye because of the exotic setting: Hong Kong/China in the late 1800s.

The story revolves around Jane Lindsay. When she was a child, her father died. Her mother got a job as a housekeeper in a place that would allow her to bring Jane with her for vacations. Jane's mother was set and determined to send Jane to school just as others had in Jane's father's family. The family had disinherited the dad when he married Jame's mother. Anyway, Jane's mom finds the perfect job at Roland's Croft, which is owned by Sylvester Milner. Sylvester made his living buying and selling Chinese art. He was quite skilled at his job, and there is some mystery about his treasure room, which is always locked. After Jane was caught sneaking into the room, Sylvester kept his eye on her and offered her a job as his assistant when Jane graduated from school. Soon after Jane started working for him, she met his nephew Joliffe. Of course, they both fall in love, and after a whirlwind romance, Jane and Joliffe get married. Within months, Jane found out that Joliffe had another wife. Joliffe thought the first wife had died in a train accident, but she didn't. Jane returned to Roland Croft, found out she was pregnant, and wound up marrying Sylvester to give the baby a name. Of course this caused quite a bit of controversy with Joliffe who just wanted to run off with Jane. The title of the book comes from the house that Sylvester owned in Hong Kong, where the action in the last half of the book takes place. Sylvester died, Jane (after a year) remarries Joliffe, whose first wife finally died, and both Jane and her six-year-old son, Jason, both find their life threatened. Of course, most of the drama is caused by Jane not knowing if she could trust Joliffe even though she loves him so much.

As is typical of Holt's books, this one has a very long middle section that sets up a lot of the history and personal interactions between the characters. I would have loved to smack Jane. She married someone, but then never communicates her concerns or questions Joliffe about his actions. If only she were open with him, she would never have found herself in dire straits. Of course, there would not have been any story, but the way Jane goes on and on about it was just so irritating. That said, I did enjoy the book. It was a typical Holt with a strong female character and a questionable, but really okay, male character. The mystery was decent. All in all, it was a good read to take my mind off of the troubles of life.

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