Eleanor Hibbert is a name that is not that familiar to many readers and yet she was one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century. She wrote in a variety of genres with several different pseudonyms. Most historical fiction fans will know her as Jean Plaidy; romance novel aficionados will recognize her as Victoria Holt. She used other pen names, some anagrams or portions of her real name, but these two are probably the best known.
This summer I read Holt’s historical romance, The Captive. A first-person narrative, the story features Rosetta, named after the Rosetta Stone by her professor father, an authority on all things ancient Egypt and author of The Significance of the Rosetta Stone and other works to do with archaeology. He is an aloof and mysterious figure, as is her mother who assists him in his work. Rosetta’s early life was the downstairs world of the butler, Mr. Dolland, the cook, Mrs. Harlow, the maids, and Nanny Pollock until the arrival of the most influential person in her life, her governess, Miss Felicity Wills.
However, Rosetta’s life is one of many changes. Felicity weds, Rosetta heads off to school, and then comes the most incredible change of all: Rosetta’s father is to go on a lecture tour to Cape Town, Baltimore, and New York City and Rosetta is to accompany him and her mother. There is an infamous and mysterious murder just before they leave England and onboard ship Rosetta recognizes a friend she has met through Felicity, the charming but cynical Lucas Lorimer and develops a passing acquaintance with someone who turns out to be Simon Perrivale, the accused in the recent murder who, disguised as a deckhand, proclaims his innocence and is fleeing from the justice of the hangman’s noose.
The true adventure begins when the ship is wrecked in a furious storm off the Cape and Rosetta, Lucas, and Simon, are cast up on a deserted island. Then pirates come, the castaways are separated, visit exotic locations, survive harrowing experiences, and Rosetta and Lucas reunite in England where she is determined to prove Simon innocent. In doing so, Rosetta faces threats as serious as those she faced abroad with the courage and intelligence while maintaining the two friendships of her early experiences.
A fast read as the suspense woven throughout the story continues to build right to the end. A great tale, full of amazing detail of life below stairs, dangers in a Turkish harem, and deadly intrigue amidst the country gentry of Victorian England. And finally, the choice between two men who are equally in love with her. Enjoy! * * * *