My grandmother loved Victoria Holt, and I must have read my fair share of these historical romances from her stash when spending summers at her place, back in the day. The only one I can actively remember is The India Fan, but there must have been others. How else would you explain the fact that I could predict much of the plot of Seven for a Secret by the end of the first chapter? Holt has her patterns, her beloved tropes, and she turns to them faithfully.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. It’s fun to dive into a book where you know exactly what you’re going to get. Where the beautiful, but wild and willful girl named Tamarisk will end up in a bad relationship as surely as sun will rise in the morning. Where you can tell the villains from the second they lick their lips, or flirt with all the young maidens. And where you can tell with absolute certainty that the plain protagonist is a ravishing beauty, who will end up with the taciturn, proud man who supposedly either hates her or doesn’t notice her at all.
So it’s not just snobbery that makes me give this book just two stars out of five (really two and a half). Holt is good at writing books you can’t put down, even if you know there will be no surprises in store. But this one is too long by half, and too full of all kinds of goings on that could be done without. Also, a novel like this lives and dies on the unresolved sexual tension between the main pairing, and while poor Frederica and Crispin try their very best, they can’t quite convince me that they desperately want to jump each-other’s bones, but can’t. Maybe that’s where the predictability plays against the characters: you just know they will, eventually.