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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2011
When you pick up a Victoria Holt novel, you know you're in for suspense a-plenty plus conflict and romance as well as a bit of mystery thrown in. And like almost all the stories I've read of hers, Victoria Holt delivers all the above in spades with 'The Secret Woman'.

More of a saga-style story for me than some of her other novels, it tells the story of Anna Brett, an orphaned child sent to live with her cantankerous Aunt Charlotte, old Miss Brett, whose life and strange house is filled with the antique trade. Anna learns all about this business as she grows up, and along the way meets Redvers Stretton, the illegimate son of a local shipping magnate. Their home, Castle Crediton, is full of local legend, as is one of their ships that Captain Redvers is in charge of, The Secret Woman. When their budding attraction is scuppered by Aunt Charlotte and the discovery that Redvers already has a wife, an island woman met on one of his voyages, Anna believes she will end her days an old maid, becoming this generation's 'old Miss Brett'.

But life has other plans for her, beginning with the arrival of the attractive and fun-loving Nurse Loman to look after Aunt Charlotte. It it through her that Anna becomes involved in the Crediton/Stretton family saga and leaves her home and England's shores aboard a vessel captained by her forbidden love, bound for the mysterious island where he met and was forced into marriage with the wild woman who is his wife. What happened to the infamous ship, The Secret Woman, and why does Anna feel that she is in danger, especially after history looks set to repeat itself with a death due to overdose...

This is a fairly long book but appealing enough to keep you turning pages right to the end. And though I guessed who was really to blame for the first death where Anna is suspect, I didn't expect the other twist. And I loved the double meaning in the title, too. Recommended reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2014
Originally released in 1970, Victoria Holt’s gothic novel, The Secret Woman makes a renewed debut. After the deaths of her parents, her Aunt Charlotte becomes Anna’s legal guardian. They live in an old manor filled with antique furniture purchased and sold as part of her aunt’s business. Anna develops a strong interest and acquires much expertise regarding antiques, as she is being prepared to take over when her aunt dies.

At the age of twelve, Anna meets Redvers Stretton, one of the heirs to the Crediton family fortune. She falls in love and over the years becomes obsessed with the kind, handsome sea captain. When her aunt dies, suspicion falls on her, and she soon finds herself nearly destitute. Fate brings her back to Crediton Castle where she works as a governess. There she learns that Redvers is married to a sick wife named Monique and Chantel, the nurse who cares for her. Soon, Anna finds herself sailing to exotic islands near Australia where secrets will begin to unravel.

This is a wonderfully complex novel filled with plenty of secrets, a strong gothic atmosphere, a mystery involving a ship and missing diamonds, mind altering potions, a poignant love story, and fascinating characters that kept me entertained and guessing until the end. The start and middle of the story were slow, but near the middle, the story picks up and the pace is greatly increased. Despite this, the book is definitely worth reading for its lush storyline and great writing
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2014
Rather dreary in parts, the nurse,Chantel comes over as being rather self satisfied and her friend,Anna, as being exactly the opposite, descriptions of far-island festivities are vivid and the account of the Ritual l Fire Dance is well managed.
The two Captains are rather colourless and self-pitying.
Ending is untidy

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on 10 February 2015
Rather slow to start with but picks up pace around the middle of the book, having read this many years ago I have decided to 're trace my foot steps and read them again. Not as exciting as the other novels but enough to keep you interested.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2014
not read it yet
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