The House of a Thousand Lanterns

THE HOUSE she had dreamed of since childhood…

THE HOUSE where her worst nightmares were about to come true…

THE HOUSE OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS… the spellbinding new novel by Victoria Holt.

Jane Lindsay never dreamed she would be wealthy. Nor that she would fall in love with a man she could not trust. Against the background of 19th century England and Hong Kong, Victoria Holt unfolds the story of a young English woman who finds a strange new world in the HOUSE OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS…

Copyright Victoria Holt 1974. First Fawcett Crest printing July 1975. Cover art Harry Bennett.

I’ve had an email from Jess, who is trying to re-find a favourite gothic romance. She has a vague recollection of the plot but the title eludes her. From her description below, I thought it shared similarities with Victoria Holt’s House of a Thousand Lanterns but I don’t think this is the one.

Here’s what she can remember:

It involved a young girl coming to stay at OR getting involved with a wealthy household in San Francisco. I think I remember specifically either bothers or close cousins and while she originally was attracted to one, she ends up with the other. There is a costume party at one point where she goes as Qwan-Yin, the Chinese goddess, even wearing a wig of blue yarn. I also remember there being some sort of disaster, but cannot recall if it was the great fire or an earthquake. There was definitely an element of horror/mystery though.

Did think I had found it in “The Trembling Hills” by Whitney and ordered an old used copy, but while it had been a book I’d read previously, it was not the one I was looking for.

Any ideas anyone?

 

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The Waiting Sands

“I feel so strongly as if everything here was waiting. The house, the shore – and now these sands are waiting.”

Rachel had been waiting, too. Waiting for an end to the nightmare that had already taken two lives and now threatened more. Someone Rachel knew and loved had become a murderer and had turned the handsome old Scottish manse into a place of horror.

But which face, which dear familiar face, was the mask of the killer?

Rachel did not know – yet.

Written by Susan Howatch. First Fawcett Crest printing, February 1975.

Another day, another gorgeous Harry Bennett cover. And another cracking read from Susan Howatch. Set within a remote castle in Scotland, The Waiting Sands tells the tale of six people whose fates become forever intertwined when two of them are murdered at a birthday party.

The story opens with Rachel receiving a letter from an old school friend called Decima, inviting her to Decima’s 21st party at her home in Castle Roshven (renamed Ruthven in later editions?). Situated on an isolated Scottish island surrounded by quicksand, Roshven is a bleak place – accessible only by boat and bereft of modern conveniences like hot running water. But Decima loves her crumbly old home and is more than happy to forgo a few creature comforts in exchange for the peace and quiet Roshven provides her.

Decima’s new husband Charles is not so taken. A scholar, and far too much of an English gent to actually work for a living, he wants Decima to sell the castle so they can travel the world,  living in luxury on the proceeds of the sale.

Not surprisingly this has caused a rift in their relationship, with both partners seeking solace in the arms and hearts of others. Enter siblings Rebecca and Daniel, fellow academics and students of Charles. This dynamic brother / sister duo had popped into Roshven on their way to the Edinburgh Festival and have now ended up living there, since their presence seems to help ‘ease the tension’ (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) between our feuding couple.

Dark & Brooding Ace Edition

To further complicate matters, there is a catch in Decima’s parent’s will. (Isn’t there always? Why are parents so cruel?) Decima is set to inherit Castle Roshven and all its land outright as soon as she reaches twenty one. However if she dies even one minute before then, her husband is the one who ends up with everything. 

So by the time Rachel arrives with best friend Rohan, she is met by a house heaving with paranoia and not so petty jealousy. Decima is sure her dearly beloved is out to kill her — all she need do is survive till Midnight when she officially turns twenty one and she will be free from Charles and his threats forever. Oh if only it was that simple, if only…

Though the premise of this novel is very similar to The Dark Shore, another Susan Howatch book I reviewed earlier on this blog, it still kept me engaged right up to the end. What makes her books so readable is the depth and complexity she manages to bring to her characters and the relationships between them. I tend to get a bit lost with stories told from multiple viewpoints but the voices in this one are all so distinct it wasn’t a problem, in fact it made trying to suss out who the murderer was all the more enjoyable.

I noticed The Waiting Sands got pretty bad reviews on Amazon and I’m not sure why – as well being an enjoyable murder mystery there’s a great gothic setting, with full use being made of the gloomy castle and its surrounding storm-swept coastline. So I’m giving this one a big fat four out of five.

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.