Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book Review: Menfreya in the Morning

(Reclaimed from Blogjob. Tags: Cornwall in novelsEleanor Hibbert as Victoria HoltEnglish popular fictionGothic romance novelromance novels with mobility-impaired heroinessocial class in British novelsVictorian melodrama.)

Title: Menfreya in the Morning 
[Click on the pretty picture to buy an early hardcover large print edition. Other editions are available cheaper; if you order this title from me you'll get one of them, possibly in better condition than this edition for which Amazon had a good clear picture.]
Author: Eleanor Hibbert as "Victoria Holt"
Date: 1966
Publishers: Book Club, Doubleday, Fawcett
ISBN: 038506098X
Length: 253 pages
Quote: "To see Menfreya at its best was to see it in the morning."
Eleanor Hibbert was an extremely successful writer of popular novels for women. The historical novels she wrote as "Jean Plaidy" even reflected enough research to be overtly read by "serious, scholarly" adults. The early novels she wrote as "Victoria Holt," beginning with Mistress of Mellynseemed bizarrely, exotically, implausibly out of date to U.S. audiences from the day they were written, and Hibbert seems to have dashed them off strictly as potboilers...but they kept the pot boiling because, for people who liked that sort of thing, "Victoria Holt" wrote the sort of thing they liked.
The one my high school library had was Menfreya in the Morning. I read it in high school. I don't remember thinking it was great. I do remember thinking it was worth reading again, as an adult, when I found a copy on the ten-cent rack at a book sale for a good cause. So I bought and re-read it. It didn't dazzle me with brilliance or overwhelm me with nostalgia; knowing that "Holt" and "Plaidy" were the same writer inspired me to compare Menfreya unfavorably with Victoria Victorious. It was a good, frivolous, one-time read.
As a daughter of the English upper-middle class, Harriet seems likely to be cheated out of Papa's money and any prospects of a life her few friends won't consider tragic and pathetic unless she can marry a real aristocrat. Her best girl friend and only boy friend happen to be minor aristocrats yet, due to a trivial physical "affliction" (she walks with a limp) and Papa's unpopular choice of a second wife, people have led her to believe that either her boy friend won't marry her or, when he does propose, he won't really like her. And, when she marries him anyway and moves into the great house called Menfreya, strange and nasty things begin to happen. Does her husband, or do members of his family, hate her enough to want to kill her? Is she going to inherit money--to leave behind--after all? Should she love her husband, or leave him?
Since Harriet is the one telling the story we know she's not going to be murdered. She is going to solve a mystery. I can't say how easy it is to guess who's up to what, since I'd read the story before.
Eleanor Hibbert no longer has any use for a dollar, so this is not a Fair Trade Book, and my minimum price is still $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment. However, paperback editions are small and will fit comfortably into a package with one or more Fair Trade Books.