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The Trembling Hills (1956)

von Phyllis A. Whitney

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1392157,626 (3.36)13
"Dark-eyed Sara Jerome is bright, passionate and indomitable, but her nights have been tormented since childhood by dreams of a candlelit figure glimpsed in a mirror and a sensation of evil so strong she can barely fight herself awake. When she decides to follow her beloved Ritchie Temple to San Francisco, her mother is violently opposed but will not explain why. Sara, however, is determined not to lose him and hopes to find her father's family and be raised to a station in life that will allow Ritchie to marry her. When her wealthy, domineering great aunt seeks Sara out, she's given the chance to fulfill her ambitions, but the price is high, and in the towering old Varady Mansion she finds herself forced to confront her childhood nightmare turned into reality"--P. [4] of cover.… (mehr)
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The Trembling Hills was never one of my favorites among Ms. Whitney's romantic suspense books for adults when I was young. Of two other books she set in San Francisco, I'm not even sure that I've read her teen novel, The Fire and the Gold (also published in 1956 and set in 1906). It was her 1957 juvenile, Mystery of the Green Cat that I loved, the one which I was so glad to get when I experienced the magic of having my very own copies of favorite library books.

The Trembling Hills is only the third of Ms. Whitney's books for adults, but it features elements that were standard in them: a heroine removed from a parent's home and kept cut off from that parent/parent's family, a traumatic event witnessed as a small child that still terrifies the heroine as an adult, and a neglected child whom the heroine befriends.

Sara Jerome and her mother come to San Francisco so Mary Jerome can be the new housekeeper for the rich Renwick family of Nob Hill. Mary has been using her maiden name since she took her four-year-old daughter and fled to Chicago. Sara has only an old photo of her father, Leland Bishop, and his name. She thinks she has memories of him, but can't be sure. Why has he never written or come for them?

Mary never wanted to see San Francisco again, but that's where Sara's beloved Ritchie Temple moved, so that's where she's going to go. Sara has a rival in the beautiful elder Renwick daughter, Judith. They're not married yet, Sara reasons. That means there's hope.

Mrs. Renwick has been enjoying herself by staying home and eating or doing what she likes since her bossy husband, William, died. Her son, Nicholas, is now the junior partner at the Renwick and Merkel Insurance Company. (Oh, dear...) Ritchie is working there, even though he studied to be an architect. The neglected child is Allison, the youngest, whose only friend is Comstock, her terror of a tomcat.

Sara manages to get office work. If she could sew as well as her mother does, instead of merely having a flair for design, she might be able to make money without having to type and take shorthand. Didn't Mrs. Renwick take Sara's advice about Judith's new evening gown over that big name seamstress? Meanwhile, Ritchie's behavior toward her is leaving Sara's heart sore. Nick Renwick is a very nice man, but he'll probably marry sweet Geneva Varady, who adores him.

Sarah has been doing some investigating about her father's family. She dreams of becoming Ritchie's social equal, not just the daughter of his late parents' housekeeper. Could she be related to that grand San Francisco dame, Hester Varady? Geneva thinks Sara reminds her of someone, but she can't recall whom. Mary Jerome considers Hester to be a wicked and dangerous woman, but won't tell Sara why.

Expect good descriptions of real locations. The 1906 earthquake and fire form an exciting part of the action. It's in the rebuilding phase that Sara comes to know her heart and find meaningful work. Will she be able to overcome the obstacles that stand in her way?

Hester Varady's Chinese servant, Ah Foong, may speak only pidgin English, but he is old, wise, extremely competent, and loyal. If you're hoping for some stereotypical sinister 'Chinaman,' you'll have to look in some other old book (thank goodness).

The Trembling Hills is well worth reading. ( )
  JalenV | Feb 14, 2015 |
Long before Sara came to San Francisco, the candle lit figure in the mirror haunted her dreams. But in the towering, old Varady mansion, the nightmare turned to reality. This is the story of a young woman caught between love and suspicion and forced to confront a past she has hidden from everyone--including herself.
  WeHomeschool | Feb 21, 2006 |
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"Dark-eyed Sara Jerome is bright, passionate and indomitable, but her nights have been tormented since childhood by dreams of a candlelit figure glimpsed in a mirror and a sensation of evil so strong she can barely fight herself awake. When she decides to follow her beloved Ritchie Temple to San Francisco, her mother is violently opposed but will not explain why. Sara, however, is determined not to lose him and hopes to find her father's family and be raised to a station in life that will allow Ritchie to marry her. When her wealthy, domineering great aunt seeks Sara out, she's given the chance to fulfill her ambitions, but the price is high, and in the towering old Varady Mansion she finds herself forced to confront her childhood nightmare turned into reality"--P. [4] of cover.

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