Thursday, 15 September 2011

Nostalgic Reads: Victoria Holt

A small selection of my Victoria Holt books!
After the previous nostalgic post about Mary Stewart, this next one had to be about Victoria Holt! I first discovered these gripping romantic suspense novels in my teens and was completely hooked. Between visits to the library, then buying every hardback I could afford after leaving school, I couldn't get enough of their escapism. Even the titles were enough to ignite the imagination.

The Victoria Holt novels tended to be historical, with unusual settings, dark and often dangerous heroes and a feisty heroine. Some were almost Gothic in their mystery and suspense, with titles like The Demon Lover and The Devil on Horseback. Exactly what this romantic, escapist teenager wanted to read. There were an incredible thirty two books under the Victoria Holt name, published between 1960 and 1993, and I probably read every one of them. I can't even pick out a favourite now, but the titles that come to mind first are The Shivering Sands and The Legend of the Seventh Virgin.

But Victoria Holt was only one of the pseudonyms of the remarkably prolific writer, Eleanor Hibbert. Born in 1906, this British author also wrote some of the best and most popular historical novels as Jean Plaidy, which taught me more about history than school ever did! But she didn't stop there - she also wrote as Philippa Carr and Eleanor Burford (her maiden name), as well as a few others. No wonder she sold a million books by the time she died in 1993.

I'm not the only modern writer who is still influenced by those Victoria Holt novels well into adulthood, for romantic suspense is high on the list of the type of novel many of us love to read - and hope to write! As with the Mary Stewart books, I'm still wondering whether to read all my Victoria Holt books again, or if perhaps they belong to a different time in my life and I'd be disappointed. Watch this space!

Rosemary

18 comments:

Jo said...

What a great blog post, Rosemary! I have left a comment on Facebook. I didn't realise 'Victoria Holt' had sold a million books! What an achievement. I didn't know her real name either or that she wrote under another Philippa Carr and Eleanor Burford. I have several novels I read as a teenager on my shelves and I'm almost scared to re-read them in case they disappoint! I hope you enjoy reading yours!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for visiting, Jo! It's strange about being apprehensive about reading old favourites, isn't it. I think they were so well loved that we don't want to spoil the memories.

Cathie Dunn said...

Wonderful post, Rosemary. You sum up exactly my own reasons for reading Victoria Holt as a teen. Like you, I haven't read any lately and I'm not sure I should. It's the same with my older Barbara Erskine novels. Strange!

I have read VH's Philippa Carr novels but strangely enough Jean Plaidy escaped my teenage attention. Perhaps I should catch up with those...

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Cathie - thanks for visiting, and for following! Barbara Erskine is another I used to like - haven't read any for a while. I think you'd enjoy the Jean Plaidy historicals.

Lorna F said...

I read my mother's copies of Victoria Holt and Jean Plaidy novels and have an enormous affection for them - I moved on to Mary Stewart afterwards. These writers must have influenced later successful writers like Barbara Erskine and Philippa Gregory. I too feel worried about revisiting books like The Legend of the Seventh Virgin in case of disappointment!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for visiting, Lorna - isn't it wonderful the way these writers have influenced so many of us!

Carolb said...

I never knew she wrote under all those names, Rosemary. So this has been a very interesting post, thank you.
I remember reading the Miracle at St Bruno's- a Philippa Carr book- when I chose it as a prize in Secondary school. But I read most of her Jean Plaidy novels and loved them all.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Carol - what an output from one writer! I never read any Philippa Carr, so maybe I'll need to put that right one day.

K.C. Woolf said...

I don't think I've ever read anything by her. But wow, 32 books!

Debs Carr said...

I had no idea she wrote under so many pseudonyms. Fascinating, thanks.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

And that was only as Victoria Holt, K.C!

Wasn't she amazing, Debs! I can't even get my next one finished.

Gail Crane said...

I read all the Victoria Holt novels and enjoyed them but much preferred the Philippa Carr and Jean Plaidy books.

I collected the whole set of Jean Plaidy and have read most of them several times. It was through these books that I grew to love history.

I have such admiration for her. Imagine the amount of research she must have undertaken in order to write what amounts to the history of England from the Anglo Saxons to Victoria.

Paula Martin said...

I think I'm one of the few people who didn't like the Jean Plaidy novels. I felt she skimmed over a lot of history which, to me, made her novels somewhat superficial. I preferred her Victoria Holt books, since she wasn't trying to write about 'real' historical people in those.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Gail - I wish now that I'd read some Philippa Carr as I feel I missed out!

Hello Paula - I understand what you mean about the JP history, but I think they provided some good background to historical periods. I too preferred the VH escapism!

Talli Roland said...

I've never even heard of Victoria Holt (eep!). Thanks for bringing a new author (to me) to my attention, Rosemary!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I'm sure you're too young to have read her, Talli! Some of us of a certain age used to devour her romantic suspense when teenagers!

Sharon Sullivan-Craver said...

I loved reading Victoria holt ( still go back and re-read some) I went from her to Barbara Cartland (from whom I received a letter, my prized treasure) Thank you for letting read your blog.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Sharon - I went on to B.C. too for a while!