Sunday, March 10, 2019

Succumbing to Columbella by Phyllis Whitney

This is the second of two posts for today--Sunday, March 10th. I've been a bit behind--hence the two entries.

Columbella was published in 1966, at a time when Phyllis Whitney was at the height of her best writing of mysteries/ romantic suspense novels. I purchased it for $1.99 from Early Bird Books for my Nook, and today, in the grips of languishing from a vicious cold, I managed to enjoy finishing it.

Like many of Whitney's novels, Columbella is set in a somewhat exotic locale--in St. Thomas,  in the U.S. Virgin Islands. No, this is most assuredly not Elin Hilderbrand's USVI of the 21st century, St. John.
Whew--what a time warp! Columbella is set at a time at least 50 years before Hilderbrand's  Winter Paradise. Yet, like Hilderbrand's novel,  most of the action in Columbella takes place in a grand household on a great hill overlooking St. Thomas, just as Hilderbrand's novel is set in a resplendent mansion overlooking St. John. I much appreciated Whitney's attention to the details of St. Thomas's capital city Charlotte Amalie and even more by the plants and the vividly depicted scenery which made the settings in Columbella so  intensely vibrant. Whitney had a genuine strength in the depiction of setting--she visited the locales she wrote about, did loads of research in the libraries of the places that were her settings.  I enjoyed this one, and as I was feeling quite out of sorts physically, it soothed and distracted me, as I hoped it would.

If today is any measure of how I'm faring with this idiotic cold, I'll be able to enjoy at least another day or two of intensive reading.

I have started reading The Radetsky March by Joseph Roth, the novel that encapsulates the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through WWI. A riveting and completely unexpected first chapter has me poised to venture forward quickly into the reading of this novel.


  1. Sorry to hear you have a rotten cold, Judith. I hope it doesn't last too long but yes, an excellent excuse to wallow in good books!

    I don't believe I've ever read anything by Phyllis Whitney... suspect her books are along the lines of Mary Stewart's, she was pretty good at 'place' too. Although my favourite books of hers were her Merlin trilogy. Sadly this sort of book has gone a bit out of fashion, which is a shame really. I have several Mary Stewarts on my Nook to read for the European challenge which I finally succumbed to even though I said I would not. Famous last words...

    1. Hi Cath,
      You're so right--the best writers of this "romantic suspense" genre stopped writing years ago. Whitney wrote prolificly, authoring more books in the genre than Stewart, but I will say that Stewart's books were absolute gems. And the Merlin Trilogy was an exemplary piece of writing. How I luxuriated in the reading of that series! I have favorites among Whitney's novels. I think The Winter People, set in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, and Snowfire are my two favorites thus far.
      This cold knocked me down flat, and it looks like I'll be reading in bed for at least a day or two longer.