Monday, August 3, 2009

Our Heroine Does The Work That Hollywood Won't Do

My cousin was sad on Facebook today because she said that when she's done reading the Twilight saga, she knows she's going to be depressed that she can't escape to that world anymore. To which I say, "Hurry up and get out of that world. That world is the worst." But also, I was thinking about novels that are actually good, also very romantic, meant for grown-ups, and that have some things in common with Twilight, like a dark and brooding hero with a tragic secret; a heroine who is a little unsure of herself in new surroundings and who is wholly unaware of her effect on men, a compelling rival for the heroine's affections, and a (possibly) supernatural mystery.

Mary Stewart comes to mind as the master of this genre, but I love her lesser-known colleague Victoria Holt. Specifically, I adore the Mistress of Mellyn, which I have threatened to write about before.

This book is awesome! It's the first grown-up book I ever read outside of school. My mom gave me the Reader's Digest Condensed Version after I had finished reading Jane Eyre and was all hopped-up on old-timey Byronic heroes and the plucky heroines who save them inside stately English country homes.

Mistress of Mellyn is pulpy (the official Amazon review calls it "a delightful mix of highbrow writing and lowbrow sentiments," which sums it up perfectly) but it is as addictive as circus peanuts. Here's the plot summary:
Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned...But what bout its master--Connan TreMellyn? Was Martha Leigh's new employer as romantic as his name sounded? As she approached the sprawling mansion towering above the cliffs of Cornwall, an odd chill of apprehension overcame her. TreMellyn's young daugher, Alvean, proved as spoiled and difficult as the three governesses before Martha had discovered. But it was the girl's father whose cool, arrogant demeanor unleashed unfamiliar sensations and turmoil--even as whispers of past tragedy and present danger begin to insinuate themselves into Martha's life. Powerless against her growing desire for the enigmatic Connan, she is drawn deeper into family secrets--as passion overpowers reason, sending her head and heart spinning. But though evil lurks in the shadows, so does love--and the freedom to find a golden promise forever... is SO good. And the ball scene..I won't tell you about it, but it's every lady's fantasy (if your fantasy involves a glorious emerald green ball gown, and being kissed in the conservatory by a hunky British lord. Which you know it does.) AND it has two things going for it that Twilight doesn't: a heroine with an actual personality and...grown-ups.

Now that I'm thinking about it, they should totally make The Mistress of Mellyn into a movie, and Damien Lewis should play Connan TreMellyn. I actually think his real-life wife, Helen McCrory, would make an excellent Martha Leigh.

Hollywood, I have already done half your work for you:


Kieran said...

Best book EVER!!!!!!!!!!!

Our Heroine said...

Kieran, you and I need to be best friends, because that IS the Best. Book. Evah!

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