Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt

Title: The House of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Victoria Holt
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Collins, 1974


From the moment Jane Lindsay heard of the House of the Thousand Lanterns she was fascinated by it. She discovered it belonged to an unusual ma, Sylvester Milner, to whom her mother had become housekeeper and who was to have a great influence on her life.
When her relationship with Sylvester's nephew ends in disaster she turns to him and seeks solace in the study of Chinese art and customs.

The story moves from the surroundings of the English country house, Roland's Croft, to Hong Kong and the House of a Thousand Lanterns. In this exciting foreign place with its ladder streets, sampans and temples a new life opens for Jane but gradually she begins to feel the hidden menace. When the house passes into her hands she becomes certain someone is trying to kill her. Who is it? One of the people who surround her, or is it the resentful spirit of the House of the Thousand Lanterns?

By the late 1950's Eleanor Hibbert, writing as Jean Plaidy, was at the height of her success as Britain's most popular historical novelist when her publisher saw the potential for her to be a best selling author in a different way. She was contracted to write a novel combining romance, suspense and gothic elements , a genre that had declined since its 19th century heyday. Jean Plaidy's love of Cornwall and Daphne du Maurier's work had influenced her first books and she returned  to this inspiration for her new venture.
Thus Victoria Holt was born and in 1960 Mistress of Mellyn was published, the first of many titles using this pseudonym ,and an instant success.

I was working as a librarian in the 1970's and well remember the enormous popularity of these books, the anticipation waiting for each new one and the long, long waiting lists. Re reading The House of a Thousand Lanterns all these years later was as much a pleasure as the first time: more so, perhaps because I don't think I appreciated when younger how effortlessly she weaves so much historical knowledge into her stories.
While each book has the same basic structure.....the romance, the mystery and suspense......the author sets them in countries all over the world so all have their own individual flavour.

Wonderful light and entertaining reading by a master storyteller!

The Four Month Challenge 3

Historical Tapestry ABC Historical Fiction Challenge

J is for Jane.


  1. What a lovely review! If you love reading Plaidy's, we've got a Challenge up at the Plaidy site:

    come check it out:)

  2. Perhaps I should check her out, I mean the library have no plaidy, but they have Holt

  3. Thanks Ms. Lucy - I'll keep it in mind for next year. I must not add any more challenges this year . :(

    Blodeuedd - lighter reading than JP but still good.

  4. The only Holt I remember reading is My Enemy the Queen, which I really enjoyed!

  5. Jean Plaidy was my introduction to historical fiction -- I devoured them when I was a teen. I never know her real name was Eleanor Hibbert.

  6. So did I, Stephanie. :-)