My Dark Spooky Castle Addiction

Last year I set up a new reading nook and created a plan to reduce the number of books I own (you can read about it here).

Progress was slow at first; then I gained a bit of momentum as I went through my old Mills and Boon nurse romances. Every single one of them made it into the “donate” pile.

Next I tackled my collection of Heartsong Presents romances. In the 1990s they were some of the first Christian romances I read, including this early novel by Lauraine Snelling:

Dakota December, a 1996 novel by Lauraine Snelling.

I remember how happy I was to find these books. I think they were among the first romances I found that included an element of faith woven into the story; and the best part was the publisher distributed the books by mail order. Every month four new Heartsong Christian romances magically appeared in my mail box! Woo-hoo!

Another genre I read a lot was romantic suspense; and because my older sister bought just about every Victoria Holt gothic adventure novel ever published and passed them along to me, I developed quite a passion for them.

The cover of The Legend of the Seventh Virgin by Victoria Holt.

Each of Holt’s novels followed a pattern: A beautiful/lovely young woman—alone in the world—inherits/takes a job/goes to live in a legend-haunted castle/chateau/mansion.

Cover of The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt.

Soon after her arrival, the heroine either gets curious or inadvertently discovers a long-buried secret, thereby putting herself in danger. Usually that danger involved spooky specters, trap doors, and attempts to murder her in order to keep that dark family secret hidden from her prying eyes.

This epigraph in the front of Holt’s novel The King of the Castle helps set the tone for the spookiness about to ensue:

To me Holt’s heroines were a wonderful blend of Nancy Drew, Jane Eyre, and Lucy Pevensie. They were honest, brave, resourceful, and smart. And no matter what threats or dangers were thrown in their way, they never backed down. In the end, they were rewarded with everything they ever wanted: love and a place to belong.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I devoured Victoria Holt’s books. Manfreya in the Morning was my favorite and I’ve read it many times over the years.  

The cover of Manfreya in the Morning by Victoria Holt

But my spooky castle novel addiction didn’t stop with Victoria Holt. Once I finished reading all of her books, I sampled gothic suspense novels by other authors.

The cover of A Finger to Her Lips by Evelyn Berckman

They were pretty good, too; but for me, Victoria Holt was the queen of romantic suspense.

Over the last few weeks I’ve re-read her wonderful novels. The stories are still great; but reading them also took me back to a time when they provided a much-needed escape from my humdrum world of school and work. And now that I’ve reread them all, I know it’s time to say goodbye to them.

It’s a tough decision to make, but into the donate box they go. Next week I’ll pick another genre of books from my collection to re-read and either donate or re-shelve. I wonder what books I’ll choose?

Is there a book or genre that takes you back and reminds you of “the old days” every time you read it?

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