Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Devil on Horseback by Victoria Holt

cover of The Devil on Horseback by Victoria Holt
I've mentioned before that Victoria Holt was one of my favorite authors. I discovered her when I was a teen, and I devoured her romantic suspense books. I've read most of the Victoria Holt books and a good number of the Philippa Carr, her other pseudonym. One of my favorite of the Victoria Holt books was The Devil on Horseback. When you read something as a teen, and then reread it as an older adult, you sometimes wonder what you ever saw in the book you loved. So I have been hesitant to read some of favorites over again.

This time, I saw The Devil on Horseback on the local library shelf, and I decided that read it again. The heroine of the story is Minella Maddox, an English girl who helps her mother run a girls' school in England. The local lord of the Derringham Manor sends his daughters to the school, and he encourages his friends to do the same. When the Comte Fontaine Delibes comes with his wife and daughter to the Derringham estate, he sends his daughter, Margot, to the school. Minella, or Minelle as Margot calls her, and Margot become friends. When Minella goes to the manor house to take tea with the Derringham girls and Margot, Minella wanders into the Comte's bedroom as she secretly wanders during a game of hide and seek. The Comte is instantly fascinated. Also fascinated by Minella is the only Derringham son, Joel. Minella's mother dies, Joel is sent to Europe before he could commit to a relationship with Minella, and Margot runs off with a stable boy. Margot is brought back, but is found to be pregnant. The Comte has an idea of how to solve the problem of Margot and how to get closer to Minella. Minella will act as a cousin to Margot. The pair would go off to a distant town in France for Margot to have her baby, and then Minella would go with Margot as a companion and cousin, back to the Comte's estate in France. Of course, Minella has been raised to behave properly, and she does not succumb to the Comte's overtures. Intrigue follows Minella as the Comte's past peccadillos are revealed to her. He has an invalid wife, an illegitimate son (Etienne), Etienne's mother (the former mistress), and the surviving twin of a child that the Comte killed in a riding accident (Leon). The Comte's wife dies from an overdose; was it suicide or murder? Margot is blackmailed over her illegitimate child. Minella is a target of murder attempts, and the whole of France is an an uproar with the approach of the French Revolution.

The story is well-written, and I found myself on the edge of my seat for the last quarter or so of the book. There were a variety of twists to the plot, and it looked like things would end poorly for the Comte. He's the Devil on Horseback of the title. The book has the perfect blend of romance and suspense. I found myself becoming very attached to the characters, and I was anxious that all would turn out well for them. The Devil on Horseback lived up to my fond memories, and I would have to say that it is still one of my favorite of the Holt books.

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