The House on Hay Hill

One of today’s outstanding novelists writes tales about love, intrigue, wealth, power – and of course romance. THE HOUSE ON HAY HILL will keep the reader’s dreams intact and keep the reader turning pages deep into the night.

Here is romantic suspense at its best – the beguiling story of a young woman’s unexpected legacy and a bewildering impersonation that threatens her future.

Written by Dorothy Eden. First Fawcett Crest printing May 1976

For me, it’s Autumn, rather than Spring, that symbolises the beginning of things – with Summer being relegated the season of closing up shop and shutting off from the world. As a result, there is something about this time of the year that brings out the butterfly-brained in me – and I find myself barely able to concentrate on much of anything useful, let alone read and review a whole book.

So it was nice to come across a collection of short fiction by Dorothy Eden with this gorgeous cover by Harry Bennett. As well as the title story, House of Hay Hill includes five others – The lady and the Tycoon, Fly by Night, Summer’s Love Affair, The Hopeful Traveller, Love in the Wilderness, Mirage and Happy Ever After. Acknowledgement is made to Woman’s Journal and Good Housekeeping where they first appeared.

I reviewed one of Dorothy Eden’s books, Voice of the Dolls, last year and found it less than amazing, but I’m three stories into House and enjoying it very much. The titular story is the longest and my favourite so far – a twisted tale of intrigue and impersonation where a young heiress finds her inheritance under threat when someone pretending to be her starts burglarising her house, then flogging off the family heirlooms. Haunted by a mysterious doppelganger and sinister antique shops that have a habit of disappearing, she turns to her handsome cousins for help but, when there is this much money and a grand Victorian mansion up for grabs, how far can she really trust them?

The cover art on my Fawcett Crest edition is lovely – the flowing headscarf, gown and beads combo (almost) making me yearn for the days of flares and kaftans, and judging from the beautiful regency-style facades behind her, she could be parading round The Old Steine in Brighton. Four out of five stars.

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The Voice of the Dolls

Sarah was first lured into the Foster household by her concern for Jennie. She had overheard the little girl exercising her extraordinary talent for mimicking the voices of her dolls.

Since Sarah was looking for a job at the time, she was glad to become Jennie’s governess for the winter. But that was only the beginning. Soon she too was trapped in the stifling atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion engulfing the house. One ‘accidental’ death had already disturbed the peace. Was there to be another?

Written by Dorothy Eden. First published 1950 by Hodder & Stoughton. This edition published by Coronet 1978.

Dorothy Eden was a new Zealand author, best known for her historical, suspense and gothic novels. I have a few of her gothics and thought it high time I gave one of them a go.

Voice of the Dolls tells the familiar tale about a young governess, Sarah Stacey, coming to work for a family of eccentric characters, only to find herself embroiled in murder, mystery and attempts on her life.

Sarah’s charge is Jennie – a young, withdrawn girl who spends most of her time playing with her own ‘family’ of creepy dolls. Sarah is determined to win her over and bring her out of her shell, but things are not helped by the brooding atmosphere in the house. When Jennie’s maudlin father, Eliot, hangs himself, all of Sarah’s instincts tell her to flee, but her love for the child makes her stay –  in order to solve the mystery behind the awful secret harboured within this strange family.

I thought this gothic started out well, Dorothy Eden is good at writing descriptions and building suspense. The ending was quite good too. Unfortunately the story seemed to grind to a halt about a third of the way in and I found the middle of the book a little difficult to get through. Apart from the odd suicide and a cook who likes to foresee the future by reading tea leaves, there isn’t a lot happening for much of the book and I found the pace a little slow.

Written in 1950, this is one of Dorothy Eden’s earlier attempts in this genre. Though this book didn’t impress me too much, I like her prose style enough to try one of her later novels, so watch this space. Two out of five stars.

And there is another review of Voice of the Dolls, with an example of some great cover art, over at the wonderful Gothicked blog HERE.