Review: The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt

The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt
Re-release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Pages: 384
Source:  book was provided by NetGalley for review



“I shall be back,” he said
“Perhaps sooner than you think.”

He took my face in his hands and looked at me; I thought he was going to kiss me, but he seemed to change his mind and suddenly, he was gone and I was alone in the autumn-scented garden.

Dark Secrets. Lost Treasure. Delicious Scandal.

Anna Brett fears she’s doomed to be a governess to an English family for the rest of her life. But when the dashing captain Redvers Stretton struts back into her life, she is whisked away from the bleak English countryside forever. But is that such a good thing?

While the charming blue-eyed captain makes Anna forget her troubled past, he is hiding dark secrets of his own. It’s no coincidence that Stretton’s ship is named The Secret Woman. During their voyage to the South Seas, with a murder dogging her steps and the mystery of a missing treasure haunting her dreams, Anna is forced to confront the clever captain-a man who may have just as many secrets as she.


Review: After Anna’s parents move to India, she is sent to live with her Aunt Charlotte.  This was to be a temporary arrangement, but when Anna’s mother dies it becomes  permanent.  Charlotte is a rigid, bitter woman that is bent on molding Anna into her own image.  Anna’s interest in antique wood furniture is the only bond she and Aunt Charlotte share.  At the age of twelve, Anna accompanies her Aunt to a nearby castle to inspect a piece of furniture.  While she is waiting for Charlotte to conduct her business, Anna sets eyes on Captain Redvers Stretton for the first time.  From that point on, Anna becomes obsessed with Redvers.

Redvers has a very interesting past. He is now a sea captain and it’s a life he is happy with.  He is the most charming of men and the ladies seem to melt in his presence.   He has a terrible reputation for having a lady in every port.  Anna has little contact with him until her Aunt Charlotte dies under mysterious circumstances and leaves Anna with her many debts and under a cloud of suspicion.  The only bright spot in Anna’s life is her best friend, Chantel.  After Charlotte passes away, Chantel goes to work as a nurse  at the Credition Castle.

It seems that Chantel will be caring for Monique,  Captain Redver’s wife.  Montique has consumption and is in very poor health. It is decided that she would do better in her own land. So, Chantel arranges for Anna to travel with them as governess for Montique and Redvers son, Edward.  With nothing left to keep her from accepting the position, Anna sails away on a high seas adventure filled with danger and intrigue.

I love Victoria Holt and have a nice collection of her novels, but I had never read this one.  To me this was one of her more scandalous novels.  Blantant adultery,  a wife and mistress living in the same home,  Redvers being forced to marry after Monique had conceived a child and of course a sordid mystery involving a ship, diamonds and greed.

Sadly, this was not one of Victoria’s better novels. I had a hard time deciding what score to give this one.  I went with the four because, well, it’s Victorica Holt and while it was not her best work by any means, it was still an interesting read.  It was predictable in many ways, but I thought it was a bit ahead of it’s time in other ways.  This book was published  originally in 1970.   In many of the romantic suspense novels of that time period,  some scandal could be hinted at , but for the most part these books were chaste, no premarital sex or sex scenes at all.  So, this book dealt with subject matter not usually addressed.  The story did get off to a very slow start and didn’t really become interesting until over the half way mark.  Too much time was spent on Anna’a life with Aunt Charlotte and it took too long to set up the senario that would lead to finding out who was behind the demise of Redvers ship, who was behind Charlotte’s death, and other murder attempts.  Once we got to that stage,  the story moved at a much faster pace.

As I said earlier,  there was a predictability to this one and you many not have any trouble guessing who the culprit is, but it was still interesting how they planned it all out and there are still some surprises.   I wouldn’t say I was disappointed in this one, but I was just bit let down.  Having said that,  I still think Victoria Holt was one of the best Gothic and Romantic suspense authors of all time and certainly inspired many of today’s popular authors in these genres.   Even when she wasn’t on the top of her game,  she still shines.