book review

Book Review: Mistress of Mellyn

Sometimes when you pick a random book off a library shelf, you get lucky. Last week, I wandered toward the H’s. Which is why I’m writing a book review of Mistress of Mellyn.

Victoria Holt was Eleanor Hibbert’s pen name when she was writing gothic novels. But she was also Jean Plaidy (fictionalized historicals) and Phillipa Carr (family sagas). So lots of the romance books I read and loved as a teen and young adult were actually written by the same person.

Mistress of Mellyn was published in 1960 and I was curious to see if time and social changes had impacted on it. Well, yes. And no.

The main character Martha Leigh is an impoverished but intrepid gentlewoman who takes a position at an estate in Cornwall as governess for a troubled child. There is a very nice progression of growth as Martha transitions from embarrassment at and resentment of her low status to fascination with the challenges of working as a governess.

Necessarily (spoiler alert) she falls in love with her boss, the mysterious and crabby Connan TreMellyn, and they live happily ever after.

I know exactly how romantic I would have found Mistress of Mellyn as a teen. Very.


As an adult reader in 2017, I have trouble figuring out just exactly what Martha sees in Connan. I know, I know – tall, dark, handsome, brooding, wealthy Alpha male.

Still, they spend very little time together. Their conversation is limited to arguments about the welfare of the child. He travels for business at the most inconvenient moments. Since they are in different social strata, Holt has to work hard to come up with reasons for them to interact at all.

Their relationship is so distant their first kiss is almost as surprising to the reader as it is to Martha.

Most important, Connan has a significant emotional issue he has to surmount in order to love again and because the story is from Martha’s viewpoint only, we don’t get to see much of his character development.

He’s probably a nice guy underneath it all – hey, Martha likes him. But he’s kind of a standee hero. Which is distressing, because I liked Connan too, in the abstract. I just wish I could have seen more of him.

I guess, from a reader, that’s the ultimate compliment.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. Wednesday is generally book review day. Unless it isn’t. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online. Waiting For You is coming soon.