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SECRET FOR A NIGHTINGALE by Victoria Holt Kirkus Star



Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1986
Publisher: Doubleday

This latest Holt period romance hums and clatters on its predictable path through a patch of rum doings in an old castle, nasty deaths, danger and despair overcome by a heroine of Fortitude, and, of course, a demonic lover. Susanna Pleydell, raised in raj India and Victorian England, has doubts before her wedding to handsome Aubrey St. Clare, younger brother of dying Stephen, the current master of the 16th-century Minster St. Clare. There are hints of unsavory companions, rumors of opium smoking, and what was that gleam in Aubrey's eyes as he pointed out to his intended the portrait of a dissolute ancestor--who dabbled in the black arts and was a member of the Hell Fire Club of orgyists? (""I shivered and just then I heard a rumble of thunder""). Will Susanna marry Aubrey? Of course, and she's in for a shivering season: on the honeymoon in Venice, Aubrey reveals some unsavory avocations; Stephen's widow loses her unborn child under mysterious but damning circumstances; the Hell Fire Club rekindles in a cave; and in her brief absence, Susanna's only child dies. Throughout the horrors, circumstantial evidence points to a certain Dr. Damian, a ""Demon Doctor"" who seems to have been on hand at all the highlight nastiness. With a vow to take revenge on the D.D., Susanna leaves Aubrey (he'll soon conveniently die), eventually hies off with a friend to learn nursing in Germany, and to apply her training in the Crimean War. And who is there, in Turkey, presiding? Yes, of course. There'll be more damning evidence condemning the Demon Doctor until Susanna separates furious fiction from faultless fact and is free to choose wisely between suitors, and return to living and loving with--but, of course. As usual, in the Plaidy-style blab-all confessional narrative, a plot programmed for goodness rewarded and badness sizzled out, with a smidgeon of historical background. For the always-waiting, seasoned audience.