Cottage in Dartmouth, Devon, England
Coast of Cornwall
Skipton Castle, Yorkshire, England
Yorkshire Dales, Northern England
I love my country, the USA, but I must admit to being somewhat of an anglophile. I’ve never visited England, but I love castles, thatched-roof cottages covered in ivy and roses, bluebells, hedgerows, English breakfast tea and old English pubs. And then there is my inexplicable fascination with Queen Elizabeth I. So, I'm sure I'll indulge my passion with a post about Old Blighty now and then. My ancestors, on both my mother’s and father’s side, came from England, so perhaps it’s in my blood. I think I was also greatly influenced by the gothic romance novels I devoured as a teenager. Books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights - and my favorite - the novels of Victoria Holt.
I didn’t realize until I was much older that Victoria Holt was a pen name for British author, Eleanor Hibbert (1906-1993.) She also wrote under the pen names of Jean Plaidy, Philippa Carr, Eleanor Burford, and others. I only knew I loved her books of romance and intrigue, set in places like the Yorkshire Moors and the coast of Cornwall. Hibbert was born in London and got her love of reading from her father who was a dock laborer. She attended business college, and it was only after her marriage that she began writing. She published her first novel in 1941 under the pen name Eleanor Burford, which was her maiden name, and her first novel as Victoria Holt in 1960. Hibbert went on to sell more than 100 million copies of her books.
The first Victoria Holt novel I read was The Legend of the Seventh Virgin, set in Cornwall in a brooding mansion that was once a convent. I was hooked and read every single book by Victoria Holt after that…some of them many times over. One of my favorites was “Kirkland Revels,” which takes place in a spooky, stone mansion set high in the Yorkshire Moors. Of course, there is a young bride who arrives there with her husband, and slowly she discovers the secrets of the family that lives there. It was more than enough to fuel my young imagination, and I credit these books for greatly influencing my desire to become a writer. Thank you, Eleanor Hibbert, for many, many hours spent exploring abbey ruins, wandering hallways of centuries old mansions, and hiking the coast of Cornwall. You helped one shy, small-town teenager imagine a vastly different world.