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Saturday, September 09, 2006

**** The Judas Kiss by Victoria Holt. Gothic.

I think I've already mentioned that gothics are the first romances I ever read. I didn't realize at the time, of course, that they were romances--I considered them more a peculiar form of mystery. (Yes, my feet were wet, and I could see the pyramids.) I also considered them a guilty pleasure. Now, it's more nostalgia.

The Judas Kiss is about Pippa Ewell. She and her older sister Francine are orphaned and sent with to live with their cruel, controlling grandfather. He intends to marry Francine to their Cousin Arthur. Rescue comes in the form of foreigners at Granter's Grange, the neighboring estate. Francine runs off with Rudolph, heir to the ruler of a small Bavarian kingdom. Pippa gets a few letters from Francine, telling about her marriage and child, then the letters stop. Some time later, she learns that Francine had been killed when Rudolph was assassinated, and that nobody in Bruxenstein believes there was a wedding or a child.

Making things worse for Pippa, her grandfather has now transferred his plans to her, and intends for her to wed Cousin Arthur on her 17th birthday.

When foreigners return to Granter's Grange, Pippa meets and falls in love with Conrad, who she takes to be an upper-level servant of some sort. He asks her to come with him as his mistress, but she declines.

Hmmm. I'm going to be outlining the entire plot of the book if I keep this up. Not what I intended to do. Suffice it to say that Pippa ends up in Bruxenstein, looking for her nephew and evidence of her sister's marriage. She and Conrad are torn between love and duty, amid dangerous political machinations.

As with a lot of older gothic romances, I had a hard time believing either of the couples had truly fallen in love. It's almost as if the falling in love part is just too private to be mentioned--either that, or it's considered something along the lines of magic--something that "just happens" and has no rhyme or reason to it.

And I knew who Conrad was from the start, which made me think Pippa was... if not TSTL, at least pretty darn dumb.

Also, the murder whodunit was never really completely solved.

However, particularly once Pippa gets to Bruxenstein, the emotional angst is quite well done. If you accept that Pippa and Conrad are in love (and you pretty much have to accept it as a given, otherwise the rest of the story is pointless), they truly are caught between a rock and a hard place, both of them for different reasons.

I also appreciated the mystery of Francine's child. There were a couple of red herrings and wrong turns, and I was sure I knew who he was, but I was wrong.

Other than who killed Francine and Rudolph being assumed but never proven, the rest of the threads in the story were neatly tied up, including those I'd assumed had been forgotten.


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