Book Review: Philippa Carr’s The Changeling

Posted August 25, 2014 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Philippa Carr’s The Changeling

The Changeling

in Hardcover edition on May 3, 1989 and has 368 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon., Barnes & NobleKobo.

Fifteenth in the Daughters of England historical fiction series in the gothic romance vein. The focus in this one is on a Victorian-era daughter, Rebecca Mandeville and her family.

>My Take

A typical gothic romance with cozy overtones that thwart Carr’s attempts to create tension and drama. I’m not sure if my frustration with this is due to how long ago this story was first released and the silly tropes used in this were typical of the writing styles when this was written or if this was an aberration. I know I liked Victoria Holt, one of Carr’s pseudonym’s, when I was a kid. That said, the protagonist, Rebecca, annoyed the hell out of me. She’s such a snot. Granted, she has reason for her unhappiness, but even as she grows, she doesn’t acknowledge how unfair she’s been, although she’s quite keen to disparage others for doing exactly what she’s doing.

She is so incredibly clueless… And I thought this was the Victorian era when single women couldn’t go anywhere unattended? Rebecca goes EVERYwhere unattended. Including into some very dubious establishments. What is Rebecca, or should I say, what is Carr thinking?

I’m confused. If Angelet and her husband went to Australia to make it big and come back to England to live in comfort, how has she managed her current comfort if he died there? Then there’s Benedict’s marriage to Celeste. Supposedly he needs a wife who can hostess dinners, etc. for this upcoming and brilliant politician. And she can barely speak English. How does this make her an asset?

That penultimate scene between Pedrek and her…MAJOR eye roll there. I mean, duhhhh, all, and I mean ALL, the evidence is right in front of her and she’s too stupid to make the connections??? Give. Me. A. Break. I thought she was supposed to be intelligent. The scene with Jacque-Philip at Tor Hill? Puh-lease. How naive can she be? Personally, I’d’ve leaped to the conclusion that the attacker was him way before anyone else!

Tragedy, drama, whining, the stupid trope, it’s all here.

The ending was happy enough, and much too easy.

The Story

It’s so romantic that Angelet and Benedict are free to marry each other, having been childhood sweethearts separated by events. They’re so incredibly happy with only one fly in the ointment: Rebecca hates her new stepfather for taking the place of the father she never knew.

When Angelet becomes pregnant, Rebecca looks forward to her new brother or sister arriving. What no one anticipates is how hard the birth is. And Benedict is like Sir Ronald, unforgiving. It’s a pair they are, two people hating in a family with a newborn.

A few years later, disaster strikes at Christmas, and Lucie loses her mother tragically. Luckily, Rebecca and her grandparents are kindly people and take Lucie in. Lucky in so many ways…

The Characters

Rebecca is Angelet’s beloved daughter. Angelet Mandeville lost her husband during a rescue attempt in Australia. Now she lives in London with her daughter and visits her grandparents often at Cador, their house in Cornwall. Miss Brown is Rebecca’s governess. Mr. and Mrs. Emery are the handyman and housekeeper/cook in the London house; they’ll be elevated to butler and housekeeper when they move to Manorleigh The maids, Jane and Ann, will move as well. Mrs. Grant is the cook hired for Manorleigh. Alfred is a footman in the London house. The baby is Belinda Mary, and Leah will become her nurse. Jim Fedder is a groom in the Manorleigh stables. Miss Stringer is Belinda and Lucie’s governess.

Miss Martha is the daughter who survived her mother’s, Lady Flamstead‘s death. Sir Ronald never forgave her.

Cador in Cornwall
Rolf is Becca’s grandfather; Annora is her grandmother. Jack is Angelet’s brother; he and his wife, Marian, will inherit Cador when their parents die. They have two children, twins: Jacco and Anne-Mary. Mrs. Garnett is the cook at Cador. Jim Isaacs and Stubbs are two of the grooms. Dr. Wilmington is the family doctor. Madge is a new kitchen maid with a loose tongue.

Pedrek Cartwright is Rebecca’s best friend — they were born in the same house out in Australia. His grandparents, Josiah Pencarron and his wife, own a mine near Rebecca’s grandparents’ home in Cornwall. Justin and Morwenna Cartwright are Pedrek’s parents who live in London.

Benedict Lansdon is the grandson of “Uncle” Peter, a great friend of Rebecca’s family. Amaryllis is Peter’s wife. Peterkin is their son, and he works with his wife, Frances, at the Mission his father established. Helena is Peter and Amaryliss’ daughter and is married to a politician, Martin Hume. I’m not sure where Grace Hume fits in, other than she’s worked closely with Benedict at some point besides working at the Mission. The wealthy Lizzie Morley was Benedict’s first wife. Celeste Bourdon will become his third. Yvette is her lady’s maid.

Oliver Gerson is a charming business colleague of Benedict’s whom he inherited when Uncle Peter’s businesses came to him. Tom Marner is an Australian mine owner and colleague who visits Benedict at Manorleigh.

In Cornwall
Jenny Stubbs is a young woman who lost a child she cared for and so lost a bit of her mind as well. She becomes pregnant with Lucie. She works for the kindly Mrs. Bullet and, I guess, Mrs. Granger. Mrs. Polhenny is an excellent midwife and vituperative religious nut job. Leah is her much-abused daughter who does beautiful embroidery.

The Bourdons are French émigrés who will buy High Tor. Celeste is the daughter; the licentious Jean Pascal is the son. The Stennings are the latest tenants of High Tor.

Madame Perrotte is teaching Rebecca to curtsy for her presentation. Jack Kellaway worked for Josiah and was injured in a mining accident. A tragedy left his wife, Mary, and daughter, Mary, alone.

The Cover and Title

The cover is gothic enough with its woods and the tightly buttoned-up Rebecca sitting on the stone bench with her letter and the mysterious gentleman in the background. With all that orange on the ground, I’m tempted to say it’s autumn, but the trees still have their leaves.

The title is where it ends up, with The Changeling. A rather obvious one.