I love a good gothic romantic suspense book, and Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt was a good one! Lord of the Far Island was written in 1975, and Holt was obviously doing a great job of honing the tools of her craft. Ellen Kellaway was the typical Holt heroine: strong-willed, rambunctious, not easily contained by social protocol. Unfortunately for Ellen, she was the Poor Relation in the family. Her mother had run away from her husband when Ellen was three, and then had the nerve to die when Ellen was five. That left Ellen at the mercy of Cousin Agatha. Well, with Ellen's personality, Cousin Agatha was at Ellen's mercy. Agatha never let Ellen forget that Ellen was a Poor Relation. All the attention was to go to Agatha's daughter, Esmeralda. Esmeralda was a submissive girl, and she quickly formed a bond of friendship with Ellen. Ellen would get the pair into trouble, for which Ellen would have to do lines or tapestry as punishment. Imagine the horror that Agatha felt when the younger son of the wealthy and powerful Carrington family, Phillip, asked Ellen to marry him instead of Esmeralda. It was an escape from the threat of being governess to a miserable woman, but Ellen started to have doubts about her love for Phillip as the wedding drew near. Especially troubling was the mysterious stranger who shows up in the house that Ellen and Phillip are planning to buy. Less than a week before the wedding, Phillip was dead, supposedly a suicide. Everyone looked at Ellen for an answer, but she had none, other than the suspicion that Phillip would not kill himself. Ellen then had a near miss with a fall off the Dead Man's Leap when a railing gave way. What was going on? Since the wedding was off, Agatha tried to send Ellen off as a governess, but a letter from Ellen's father's family gave Ellen a welcome release. She was off to the Far Island to meet her guardian, Jago Kellaway, who turned out to be the mysterious stranger! Ellen was in danger, but she didn't know from which direction. She was falling in love with Jago, and he seemed to love her, or did her really just want the Far Island, to which she was the heiress? Or was there someone else who was out to end Ellen's life?
Sometimes readers say that Holt could tend to spend too much time on the back story of the heroine, and that it would ultimately lead nowhere. However, I thought Lord of the Far Island was nicely paced. The story quickly moved along, and there was just the right amount of tension through the book to keep me engrossed in the story. It didn't take me a long time to read because I didn't want to put the book down. Ellen had tons of gumption, which got her into trouble, but in the end, there is happiness and love for Ellen. It was a very enjoyable and satisfying read. Lord of the Far Island would be a good start to introduce someone to the worlds that Victoria Holt created. I would say the book is definitely at the top of my list of the best of her books.