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Victoria Holt

Updated on October 18, 2014

Victoria Holt - The Queen of Gothic Suspense!

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, three of my favorite authors were Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr. Imagine my surprise when, years later, I discovered that these books were all written by one person - Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert!

Sometime in my late twenties all my Victoria Holt books were accidentally sold at a garage sale. Now, I'm in the process of rebuilding my library of these wonderful gothic suspense novels.

If you're already a fan of Victoria Holt, welcome friend! If you've never experienced the wonders that are these books, you're in for a treat. Read on!

The "Real" Victoria Holt - Eleanor Hibbert

Eleanor Hibbert (1 September 1906 - 18 January 1993) was a British author who wrote under various pen names. Her best-known pseudonyms were Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, and Philippa Carr; she also wrote under the names Eleanor Burford, Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Anne Percival, and Ellalice Tate. By the time of her death, she had sold over 100 million books.

Personal Life

Hibbert was born Eleanor Alice Burford on 1 September 1906 in Canning Town, in what is now the London borough of West Ham. She inherited a love of reading from her father, Joseph Burford, a dock labourer.

She was captivated by the city of her birth. "I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born and raised in London," she later wrote, "and to have had on my doorstep this most fascinating of cities, with so many relics of 2000 years of history still to be found in its streets. One of my greatest pleasures was, and still is, exploring London. Circumstances arose which brought my school life to an abrupt termination; and I went hastily to a business college, where I studied shorthand, typewriting, and languages. And so I had to set about the business of earning a living."

Eleanor left school at the age of 16 and went to work for a jeweller in Hatton Garden, where she weighed gems and typed. In her early twenties she married George Percival Hibbert (c. 1886-1960s), a wholesale leather merchant about twenty years older than herself, who shared her love of books and reading. She later said, "I found that married life gave me the necessary freedom to follow an ambition which had been with me since childhood, and so I started to write in earnest."

Eleanor Hibbert died on 18 January 1993 on the cruise ship Sea Princess, somewhere between Greece and Port Said, Egypt. A memorial service was held on 6 March 1993, at St Peter's Anglican Church, Kensington Park Road, London.

Writing Career

At first Eleanor tried to emulate her literary heroes - the Brontës, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Leo Tolstoy - and during the 1930s she completed nine long novels, all of them serious psychological studies of contemporary life. However, none of these were accepted for publication. Determined to succeed, she tried her hand at short stories for newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Evening News. The literary editor of the Daily Mail was credited with steering her writing in the right direction; he told her, "you're barking up the wrong tree: you must write something which is saleable, and the easiest way is to write romantic fiction."

She published her first novel in 1941 under the name of Eleanor Burford, her maiden name, which she used for her contemporary novels. By 1961 she had published 32 novels under this name.

She chose the pseudonym Jean Plaidy for her historical novels about the crowned heads of Europe. Her books written under this pseudonym were popular with the general public and were also hailed by critics and historians for their historical accuracy, quality of writing, and attention to detail.[citation needed] Her Borgia trilogy was among the first to show Lucrezia not as an amoral poisoner but as an innocent pawn and victim of her family's political machinations, an interpretation more in accordance with the historical record than the traditional one.

From 1950 to 1953 she wrote four novels as Elbur Ford; from 1952 to 1960 she used the pseudonym Kathleen Kellow for eight novels; and from 1956 to 1961 she wrote five novels as Ellalice Tate.

In 1960 she wrote her first Gothic romance under the name Victoria Holt, and also wrote one novel under the name Anne Percival.

She created her last pseudonym, Philippa Carr, in 1972.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Get Victoria Holt from Amazon

Books By Victoria Holt

Single novels

Mistress of Mellyn (1960)

Kirkland Revels (1962)

Bride of Pendorric (1963)

The Legend of the Seventh Virgin (1965)

Menfreya in the Morning (1966)

The King of the Castle (1967)

The Queen's Confession: The Story of Marie-Antoinette (1968)

The Shivering Sands (1969)

The Secret Woman (1970)

Shadow of the Lynx (1971)

On the Night of the Seventh Moon (1972)

The Curse of the Kings (1973)

The House of a Thousand Lanterns (1974)

Lord of the Far Island (1975)

The Pride of the Peacock (1976)

Devil on Horseback (1977)

My Enemy, the Queen (1978)

Spring of the Tiger (1979)

Mask of the Enchantress (1980)

Judas Kiss (1981)

The Demon Lover (1982)

The Time of the Hunter's Moon (1983)

The Landower Legacy (1984)

The Road to Paradise Island (1985)

Secret for a Nightingale (1986)

Silk Vendetta (1987)

The India Fan (1988)

The Captive (1989)

Snare of Serpents (1990)

Daughter of Deceit (1991)

Seven for a Secret (1992)

The Black Opal (1993)

Omnibus

Remember, Remember: The Selected Stories of Winifred Holtby (2000)

Antholgies in Collaboration

"The Bride of Pendorric" in Three Great Romantic Stories (1972) (with Hebe Elsna and Lucy Walker)

Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Wrote some of the best historical suspense novels.

    • VictoriaHolt profile image

      VictoriaHolt 3 years ago

      Great lens, thank you for your research and sharing. I didn't know most of this about the woman whose name I bear now that I'm married. I have several of her gothic romances and when I am in the right mood, there is no book to compare! I'm an author now, and have had to use a shortened form of my legal name!

    • profile image

      MaryMitchell 4 years ago

      I started in my early teen with Georgette Heyer, and then progressed to Victoria Holt. Both great writers of great romantic stories.

    • Winter52 LM profile image

      Winter52 LM 5 years ago

      I loved her books and what amazed me was the fact that her stories never seemed to age! Oh wait... I see that I have been here before... nearly a year ago! I don't know what made me think of her today!!

    • purpleclouds profile image

      purpleclouds 5 years ago

      I love her books, great lens :)

    • Winter52 LM profile image

      Winter52 LM 6 years ago

      Oh, what a wonderful writer. I spent many an hour reading her books as a teen!! I should have been studying, but couldn't tear myself away from her books!!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I had never heard of her before, but it sounds like her books ought to be made more popular. I am watching the HBO series of The Borgias right now, I love those medieval dramas, and I am sure her trilogy is a great read. Great review of this author, blessed.

    • oxfordian profile image

      oxfordian 6 years ago

      OMG I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Victoria Holt. Like you, I was in high school when I discovered her and read everything she wrote. I didn't find out until over 20 years later that she was once of the best selling writers of all time and wrote under so many other pen names. I love your lens!