Watch the Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge

Watch the Wall My Darling - Jane Aiken Hodge I had never heard of Watch the Wall, My Darling until it started appearing in my recommendations on Goodreads, and with such an intriguing title I knew it was a book I would have to consider reading eventually!

First published in 1966, Watch the Wall, My Darling is a gothic romantic suspense novel set on the south-east coast of England during the Napoleonic Wars. As the story begins, Christina Tretton, a young American woman whose father has recently died, is returning to her family’s ancestral home, Tretteign Grange. After encountering a gang of smugglers on the journey, Christina arrives at the Grange – also known as the Dark House – and is met by her Aunt Verity, her invalid grandfather and her handsome cousin, Ross.

Settling into her new home, Christina quickly takes control of the management of the house and the servants. Impressed with his granddaughter, old Mr Tretteign decides to change his will and leave the Grange to Christina – on the condition that she must marry either Ross or her other cousin, Richard. Christina insists that she has no intention of marrying either of them, but her two cousins, who each have their own reasons for wanting the Grange, have other ideas. Despite herself, she finds herself drawn to Ross, but soon discovers that he is involved in something very dangerous – and with England expecting a French invasion at any moment, the lives of everyone at the Dark House could be at risk.

I enjoyed this book – it was a fun, undemanding read with plenty of adventure and intrigue and a touch of romance. I kept being reminded of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, Georgette Heyer’s Cousin Kate and Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, though this is not as well written or memorable as any of those, in my opinion. The historical background didn’t feel particularly strong and Christina felt more like a woman of the 1960s than the 1800s, while I didn’t find Ross quite as fascinating and attractive as she did. The introduction of two new characters towards the end of the book didn’t really add anything to the story either. Still, with smugglers, soldiers and spies, a crumbling abbey believed to be haunted, family secrets and an inheritance to be decided, there was more than enough to keep me happy!

And if you’re wondering, the title comes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling called A Smuggler’s Song:

“Five and twenty ponies
Trotting through the dark
Brandy for the parson,
‘Baccy for the clerk;
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the gentlemen go by!”

18 thoughts on “Watch the Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge

  1. Lark says:

    I’ve read one book by Jane Aiken Hodge, and I remember liking it, but I can’t remember the title. How frustrating! This one sounds just as good though; I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for reminding me about this author. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I know she wrote a lot of books and I’m looking forward to reading more of them. Sorry you can’t remember which one you read, but I’m glad you liked it anyway!

  2. Anbolyn Potter (@anbolynp) says:

    Goodreads recommends this to me too! It must be a standard recommendation if you’ve read Mary Stewart. I’m glad you read it because I’ve been wondering if it’s any good. My library owns quite a few of her novels – I’ll have to give one a try!

    • Helen says:

      It felt similar to some of Mary Stewart’s novels, though not as good. I would recommend giving one of her books a try, especially if you can get some from your library.

    • Helen says:

      This is the first of her novels I’ve come across but I’ll now be looking out for more of them. I could see the influence of Georgette Heyer in this book.

  3. Teresa says:

    Fabulous title and great cover, I think I’ll stick with du Maurier though! Looking forward to an upcoming BBC adaptation of Jamaica Inn. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I’m looking forward to watching Jamaica Inn too. It’s going to be on over Easter, isn’t it? This book was good but not as good as du Maurier!

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