The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt
Description: Victoria Holt demonstrates her mastery once again in her most exciting novel set in turn-of-the-century England where a young woman grows up in the shadow of the great estate - and privileged way of life - that was once her family's birthright. But a unique inheritance compels Jessica Clavering to marry the owner of a fabled opal mine and leads her to faraway Australia. There she will discover the mysteries - and evil - surrounding the greatest opal ever found. There she must confront the danger that lust for the stone has aroused even in her own husband - and there she must find love.
My Review: Victoria Holt is the pen name of Eleanor Hibbert and she used this name to write romantic suspense. In my opinion, she's a queen of the genre. She weaves an intriguing tale and has little twists and turns to keep the reader guessing right up until the end.
The first half of The Pride of the Peacock takes place in England. Jessica Clavering doesn't fit in with her family. She feels like there is more to the story than just a major financial ruin, yet she doesn't know what that issue is. The old family home was purchased by a man, Ben, who spends most of his time in Australia, mining opals, until an injury brings him back to England. They meet and become friends and the family's secret is slowly unraveled. Ben makes a deathbed demand that Jessica and Ben's son, Joss, must follow through with. I loved this first part--the mystery and unlikely friendship were fascinating to me. I could visualize the setting and really came to feel for the characters and for their situations.
The second half takes place after the wedding--in Australia. I didn't enjoy this half quite as much, even though this is where the story comes full circle and is resolved. I felt that Joss and Jessica were childish and extremely stubborn. Neither one of them could make the first move to be at least friends. They seemed content to hold a grudge towards Ben, taking it out on each other. I wish that Joss, especially, would have grown up a little, since he was about 14 years older than Jessica and she was alone in a foreign country. I did like both of their determination and the bravery that Jessica showed, especially in some of the situations she was put in.
language--a few mild words
violence--mild (death, but nothing graphic)
romance--implied premarital relations (no details--very vague); kissing.
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