Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt

The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt
I made a switch of genres, and just finished reading The Demon Lover by Victoria Holt. I don't remember ever reading this book in my younger days, and I'm sure that if I did, I would have remembered. The heroine in this book is Kate Collison. She comes from a long line of renown portrait painter, specializing in miniatures. Kate's father is Kendall, and he fallows the family tradition of having the KC initials when he names Kate. As Kate becomes a young adult, she learns that her father is losing his eyesight to cataracts. The time is around 1865, and cataract surgery at that point is not every advanced at all. Pretty much, Kate's father is doomed to blindness. This is a problem for someone who paints miniatures, but Kate is equally as good at painting, and her father hatches a scheme for Kate to accompany him when he goes to paint Baron Rollo de Centerville. Kate will sit in on the the Baron's sittings, and then she will try to work on the miniature after the sitting. Again, since this is 1865, the Collisons go to France to stay with the Baron to do the painting. Of course, Kate develops some fondness for the Baron's poor relation, Bertrand de Mortemer. The Baron figures out that Kate has been doing the painting, and even though he is a reprehensible person, he starts to promote Kate and her painting ability. Kate goes to Paris to paint the Baron's young, virginal fiancee, Marie-Claude. Of course, Kate feels sorry for the girl being engaged to such a monster. Meanwhile Bertrand fights with the Baron because Bertrand refuses to marry the Baron's mistress, Nicole. In retaliation, the Baron kidnaps Kate and rapes her. Then he brings Bertrand to the house where Kate is held captive to show that the Baron had sex with her. The relationship between Kate and Bertrand ends, and Kate finds herself pregnant. Nicole, the Baron's former mistress befriends Kate, and provides a house for Kate to use as a home and a studio. Kate's father is back in England, going blind, and marrying a distant relative. Paris around 1870 is a dangerous place, and Nicole is killed in the Prussian bombardment of Paris during the Franco Prussian war in 1870/1871. Kate, her son, Kendall, and the Baron become trapped in Paris during the siege. Eventually, they get out of Paris and return to the Baron's castle in Centerville, where the Baron's wife, Marie-Claude, is with a child she conceived with someone else prior to her wedding to the Baron. Of course, now the Baron realizes that he loves Kate, and she is starting to think she loves him. When Marie-Claude dies, Kate suspects the Baron had a hand in it.

Now the above description may sound confusing, but Holt tells the story well, and I found myself captivated with the story and unable to put the book down. The one huge complaint is one that any woman would have reading the book. The Baron rapes Kate, and although he did it for reprehensible reasons, to ruin Bertrand's relationship, he late couches the event in terms of love. Even Kate, who at first is horrified, starts to have feelings of lust as she recounts the story later. She admits that she may want to go back to being a willing captive of the Baron's. Throughout, even when Kate abhors the Baron and his act, Nicole tries to say that the Baron isn't such a bad person. That really irks me, and I think it really left a bad taste in my mouth at the end of the book when Kate started to change her tune about the Baron. So I am really conflicted about this one. I really was captivated by the story, and It was one of the better Victoria Holt books that I read. I think that's the negative rap on some of the romance books. Rape and consensual sex are confused in these books and it's not a positive image for women.

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