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Book Name: Secret for a Nightingale

Author: Victoria Holt

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Overall Rating: (3.8/5) View all reviews (total 5 reviews)

In this Victorian romance, Susanna Pleydell loses her husband to drugs and her dearly loved child to her husband's neglect. She develops an obsessive hatred for Damien Adair, the physician she holds responsible for both tragedies. She tries to forget by taking up a nursing career, eventually going to the Crimea. There, working beside Dr. Adair, she finds herself attracted to him despite her hatred. The ending is predictable. This is one of the better Holt novels, with a well-drawn historical background. Susanna does not always make sense, but she is a strong and loving woman whose friendships ignore class boundaries. Literary Guild main selection. Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Coll. Lib., Davenport, Ia.Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


cloven feet

by Agent Scully

One of the longest VH's I've read. It's too long, meandering in fact, with too many locales and no big mystery to tie it all together. At least it doesn't dwell on the heroine's childhood. She's a young adult and soon married. (Clearly she didn't get my memo from an earlier VH review that when the heroine marries before page 50, hubby has the average life expectancy of a fruit fly).Sure enough, the marriage goes sour. At first all is magical in romantic Venice during their honeymoon. But one night hubby comes home and rips her bodice. The heroine is horrified by rough sex and falls out of love with hubby. Kind of. Seriously, VH's no-graphic-details writing style and first-person POV was a real disadvantage here. Without knowing what happened, we're left to scratch our heads as to what hubby actually did. With no info, the heroine comes across as an overwrought Victorian prude who's horrified at the notion of taking off her flannel nightie for sex.Hubby turns out be an opium addict and fulfills his destiny of an early death. I was surprisingly sad, at the waste I guess. Not as sad though as at ***spoilr*** the death of their child. Warning here if you're sensitive to reading about that! The stricken heroine develops a bizarre fixation with the doctor who she feels led her husband into drugs and neglected her child. She dwells and dwells on his guilt without the slightest proof, and calls him the Demon Doctor, endowing him in her mind with devil horns and cloven feet yet.Naturally he turns out to be the hero. Sans cloven feet (I assume). But before we get to that, there's a long section of the heroine training to be a nurse, interacting with way too many supporting characters that I couldn't care about, and finally traveling to the Crimea. All the while brooding on the Demon Doctor and her revenge. There are some nice historical touches about the Crimean war and the poor state of medical care, but this section just goes on way too long.Finally around the 250 page mark, the hero shows up. And I was ... underwhelmed. Seriously, he would have to have superman ability (or cloven feet) to live up to all the build up. But he just turns out to be a gruff but dedicated doctor, who happens to be interested in Eastern drugs and hypnotic techniques that might help the suffering men in his care. Of course heroine continues to rage against him in her fevered brain, while her body is mysteriously falling for him, natch. Of course the fool heroine is nearly caught by white slavers in the Mysterious Orient, and has to be rescued by the hero's sidekick. Giving her an opportunity to berate the hero for lounging around in Eastern clothes like some pasha with a harem (At this point I got the feeling the heroine needed to get laid. Fast.)So the Demon Doctor turned out to be rather a disappointment. I expected more charisma, more saturnalia (is that a word?), more something. But what really ticked me off was when (apparently not knowing the heroine's identity), he blames the wife of his young friend (hubby #1) for leaving him after their child's death and letting him fall prey to drugs, instead of staying and saving him. WTF? As if anyone can save a druggie from his drug! And he never apologizes for this gross accusation later. And the heroine never calls him on it later. Blargle!I was left with the feeling that all along this story was headed for an explosive confrontation between a revenge-seeking heroine and a possibly-evil hero. But sadly that never materialized after all the build up, leaving us the readers with a damp squib. And no climax. Blargle again.

Don't be Frightened!

by Brittany "lady_jane_grey"

When I red the synopsis for this book, I thought I shouldn't read it because I thought it would be too into the occult, and as a Christian, that wouldn't b something for me to read. Some other Christians read it, and didn't say anything bad about it so I thought I would give it a try. I'm glad I did! Don't be frightened! The occult is just mentioned, and is frowned upon. It is all right for a Christian to read!Susanna grew up in India, but went to school in England. On her return visit, she finds Aubrey St. Clare (It is a man! I've known girls named Aubrey, but this one is a man!). They fall in love and marry back in England. Her marriage is all but shattered when she finds out Aubrey is into opium and the occult. She tries to make the marriage work, but when Aubrey's way of life causes her son to die, she leaves forever. Before she regrets it, Aubrey dies as well.She decides to leave England and become a nurse, but she never forgives Dr. Damien Adair, the man she blames for Aubrey's downfall and her son's death. Much to her surprise, she meets up with Damien and, is it love? Could she love the man that ruined her husband and son?This Victoria Holt book is different because the ending isn't very suspenseful, and the "bad-guy" isn't trying to hurt the heroine. Still, it is very good, like her others.

a true victoria holt threw and trew

by felicia

if you've never read a victoria holt book than this one you would love it is the 12th victoria holt book i read

Romance and social reform

by Jeanne Tassotto

This romance centers on the life of Susanna, the rather sheltered daughter of a widowed British colonel stationed in India. After her education in England Susanna returned to her father in India but soon found romance with the charming, wealthy heir to a country estate 'back home'. Soon after her marriage Susanna realized that her husband was addicted to drugs, and that a well known doctor and author was involved in his circle of drug taking friends. When Susanna can endure no more of this life she leaves her husband - a shocking action in Victorian society - and becomes involved with the equally shocking Florence Nightingale. Susanna's path leads her to Germany and then the Crimean War theater. Along the way she learns not only nursing but to question long held beliefs about her society and herself.As is typical of Ms Holt's work romance abounds in exotic locations. Although the plot is rather formulistic and the mysteries quite transparent and the happy ending obvious from the beginning it is an entertaining way to spend a few hours.

Holt's weakest; lacks mystery and charm

by Meglet

I adore Victoria Holt novels. I like the author in all her pen names. But the books attributed to Victoria Holt have always been superior to the rest. They are usually well constructed, with an engrossing plot full of mystery, strong lead characters, and a powerful sense of place. "Secret for a Nightingale" lacks all of the above. It is the first Holt book I've been utterly unhappy with.The plot is as thin as mountain air; thinner. It surrounds a young woman who quickly discovers her new husband is not only an opium addict but a proud, self-professed devil worshipper. Tragedy destroys her marriage and she forms a bizarre fixation on the man she's decided to blame: a well-respected doctor and author of several provocative books about his exotic travels. Without any real, legitimate, factual reason, she forms a personal vendetta against him.She is soon joined by not one but three random young girls she passively takes under her wing. The scenarios surrounding these friends are far-fetched in the extreme.The story meanders and plods along. Despite being tangentially important to the action, Florence Nightingale is only talked about; she has zero presence in the story. In fact, nursing in general has little presence. It's merely a vehicle for the heroine to enjoy, in coincidence after coincidence, the way-too-easy "hunt" for her sworn enemy, dubbed "The Demon Doctor."The love story is usually secondary to the mystery for me in Holt's Gothic novels. But there is no mystery here. Sharp readers will be shocked and annoyed at the transparency. Nor is there the classic house/castle/island/village full of unknowns.The setting jumps all over, and one never really gets a good grasp on any one place.The most far-fetched and badly fleshed out feature of the mess is the love story. Even as you see it coming from chapters away, the narrative fails to deliver a plausible development.The more I think about it, the more ludicrous this novel becomes. From start to finish, it lurches and sways like a drug addict, ending abruptly, but not leaving the reader craving more.Instead of this junk I highly recommend "Night of the Seventh Moon", "The Judas Kiss", "The Secret Woman", and "The Shivering Sands." Holt can be masterful with the Gothic romance genre. Here she faltered.

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