Nobody today writes romantic suspense/gothic romances like they used to. At least, that's what I think after reading Menfreya in the Morning by Victoria Holt. As you can probably tell by the plethora of romantic suspense books in my reviews, I love a good romantic suspense. What makes a romantic suspense book good? Well, you have to have a heroine that you like, and she has to fall in love with a guy that is a handsome rake. Then you have to throw in some conflict that comes between them. Perhaps the heroine doubts the motives of the hero. Is he really in love with her? Has he married her for her money? Is there another woman? Then you have to have some mysterious circumstances, like threats to the life of the heroine. Is it coming from the hero, or from some other outside source? I want some romantic scenes, but I don't want graphic or explicit sex. Leave it to my imagination, because I can make it better than the author in most cases.
So how does Menfreya in the Morning compare to that ideal? It compares very well! Harriet Delvaney is the heroine: the only daughter of a wealthy member of Parliament. She falls in love with the Menfreya family because she doesn't really have love or attention at home. Gwennan, the younger Menfreya, becomes Harriet's BFF. Bevil, the elder son, of course, becomes Harriet's romantic interest. The Menfreyas are an interesting bunch. Women are attracted to the Menfreya men like moths to a flame, and the same goes for the women. Plain Harriet can't compare to the beautiful women and girls who fling themselves at Bevil's feet. Not only that, but the poor girl is also gimpy! Yes, she has a limp that becomes worse whenever she is trying to impress others. Harriet does not have an easy life at home, even though she is a (or will be) a wealthy heiress. Her mother died giving birth to Harriet, and her father blames Harriet for it. He can't stand the sight of Harriet, and because she knows it, she tends to be truculent when around him. When Harriet does achieve her dream of marriage to Bevil, she is still bedeviled about Bevil's motives. Did he marry her for money or love? To add to the gothic chills, there's a clock that signals the death of a Menfreya when it stops, and yep, it stops. Does that signal Harriet's possible doom? Does Bevil want to murder her to be with the governess that he might have impregnated?
All in all, I was extremely satisfied with the story and the suspense. The book was published in 1966, which makes it one of the earlier Holt books. She kept the story moving, and I think she did a great job with character and plot development. I really enjoyed reading Menfreya in the Morning, and I'm sure you will too.