Daughter of Deceit by Victoria Holt

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Daughter of Deceit Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

This novel is less concerned with romance and mystery and more with the forms, positive and negative, that a parent's love for a child can take. The title directs the reader to focus on Noelle as a daughter. From title to final page, the novel develops variations on the parent-child bond. The deceits practiced by Desiree, including permitting Charlie Claverham to think that he is the father of her child, are inspired by her love for Noelle and the desire that she be cared for. This seemingly harmless deception brings unhappiness to Noelle, who is prevented from marrying Roderick Claverham, Charlie's son, when she is told of her parentage. Eventually, they are able to marry, but the sad truth is that without Desiree's well-intentioned lie, Noelle could have known her real father, Ennis Masterman, much earlier and the unhappy marriage of Roderick to Lisa Fennell could have been prevented.

Roderick's mother and Charlie's wife, sad, stern, Lady Constance, plays out another misguided drama of parental love. Her desire that her son make a suitable match, a match "to maintain the standards laid down by our ancestors," brings her to interfere in his choice of mates, causing pain to herself and others. Her love for her son is corrupted by her concern for "standards." After going through a crisis with Noelle, she sees the error of her beliefs and reveals the deception in her own life. She has known for many years of her husband's affair with Desiree. While Lady Constance may have been reconciled to having Noelle as a daughter-in-law, she is never reconciled to her son's second choice. The love of the mother for her son and her desire for his happiness finally takes its most extreme form when she poisons Lisa so that he may marry Noelle.

Surrogate parents play a role, too,...

(The entire section is 461 words.)