Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bride of Pendorric

Bride of Pendorric
by Victoria Holt

(Edited) Blurb:
When Favel Farrington met Roc Pendorric on the Italian island where she lived with her father, they fell deeply in love, and there was no reason to suspect that they would not live happily ever after. When he took her home to Pendorric, the ancient family home on the Cornish cliffs, no family could have welcomed her more warmly than Roc's sister, her husband, and their twin daughters. In fact everyone in the house and the village was eager to meet "the bride of Pendorric". 
At first the phrase amused Favel. Then she found herself looking more and more often at the portraits of two other Brides of Pendorric who had died young and tragically-- one of them Roc's own mother. The very stones of Pendorric seemed to be waiting for her to slip; the courtyard seemed to have eyes. And was there speculation even in the eyes of the young twins, who watched her constantly? Did she imagine it, or was Roc curiously attentive to other women at Pendorric-- and did his absence grow more frequent? Surely no legend, no evil out of the past could threaten their happiness. Surely Roc's love for her had not been pretense. 
At last, in a terrifying moment, Favel can no longer dismiss as accident the strange things that are happening to her at Pendorric. She must confront the very real dangers of the present.

My Reaction:
I found this an enjoyable romantic gothic mystery and would recommend it to other fans of the genre-- while it's not particularly outstanding or literary, it's a pleasing work of "light suspense"-- excellent escapism.

This is yet another "gothic romance/mystery" that is less about the romance than the mystery/suspense.  The hero is distant-- both figuratively and literally!  Though the heroine tells us how much she loves him, it's not really clear why, and if you blink you'll miss their courtship.  (She seems to have an obsession with his satyr-like pointy ears, which was good for a few laughs.  Though Bride of Pendorric was published years before its premiere, I still find myself wondering if Favel ever watched Star Trek...)

Favel isn't always smart as a whip-- but she is young and inexperienced, so we can make some allowances.  On the plus side, there are three sets of twins-- two of them identical-- which was fun.

Certain aspects of the various mysteries were fairly obvious, yet I could never be completely sure exactly how everything would be explained, so it held my interest.

On the whole, I enjoyed it, even if it is just a silly little piece of gothic fluff.

Specifics (with SPOILERS):
-- I sometimes feel a bit hypocritical when remarking on strange character names, since I myself have a slightly strange name (for a woman).  In this case, however, I don't think it can be helped; there are so many strange names in this book!  Favel, Petroc (oops, I typed "Petrol" and had to correct it!), Roc, Morwenna/Wenna, Hyson, Lowella, and Barbarina.  That's a lot of odd names, right there.

--There seem to be a lot of gothic romance-mysteries set in Cornwall.  Either that, or I just happen to be finding a lot of them, lately.  There's often a strong emphasis on the beauty of the gardens in these novels, because the Cornish climate is milder than that of most of England (I gather).  I enjoy the little snippets about the gardens.

--In a list of other great houses along the coast, the author sneaked in "Mount Mellyn" and "Mount Widden", a reference to one of her earlier novels.  (I prefer Bride of Pendorric to Mistress of Mellyn, incidentally.)

--At first, I couldn't quite pinpoint when the action is set.  It must've been a contemporary setting, back when the novel was published, in the early 1960s.

-- Looking back with the knowledge that Lord Polhorgan is Favel's grandfather and that Roc knew it before he'd even met her, it seems strange that he should have spoken so disparagingly of him to her.  I don't remember his exact words, but I have the impression that he was fairly negative toward the old man.  He knew all along that Favel would probably eventually learn of the relationship, so why wouldn't he try to be more neutral?

--Is there another definition of "bridling" that I've never come across before?  Favel congratulates Mrs. Dawson on the success of the ball at Polhorgan.  Mrs. Dawson is described as "bridling", but she sounds happy-- and when she passes on the compliment to Mr. Dawson, we are told that "he was as pleased was his wife".  ...So either there's an alternate meaning or...

--Roc's defensiveness when Favel finally questions him about his relationships with a few women in the neighborhood is particularly unappealing.  He practically accuses her of jealousy-- but what normal woman wouldn't be concerned, under the circumstances?  This is not the kind of behavior I like in heroes, but then, Roc is pretty much a failure as a romantic hero, unfortunately.

--I've written before that I have a weakness for diaries in novels.  That's still true, but sometimes they're a crutch-- an easy way for the author to quickly dump information that could otherwise be tricky or time-consuming to work into the story.  In the case of the diary that Favel finds and reads near the end of this novel, it is extremely convenient.

--At some point, it started to drive me crazy, the way the author so frequently trailed off before the last word or two of a sentence.  It began to get... annoying!  But I only started to notice it toward the last quarter or so of the book, I think.  It could've been... so much worse!