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Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels (1993)
#1
Smile 
Barbara Michaels is a very uneven writer in my opinion. The same book can have great elements and then the most schmaltzy stuff. But I really enjoyed Houses of Stone and I have to give it an A-.

English professor Karen Holloway is an expert in Gothic literature. She finds a "lost masterpiece" of a 19th century writer named Ismene. The book is written in the Gothic tradition, but the author is a mystery. Karen tries to unmask the writer, but finds herself in the middle of a ghost story from old Virginia.

Here's the good stuff....

1. First and foremost, I learned A LOT about Gothic romance and literature. Karen Holloway is a professor and Michaels laces the story with a lot of information and literary analysis. This is really why I'm going as high as an A-.

2. Michaels is a feminist writer and she has a definite issue with how women writers have been overlooked by academia. She is a very strong advocate for their writing and it comes through in this book.

3. Great quotes in the beginning of each chapter.

4. The guy Karen falls for is the guy I wanted her to fall for.

5. Michaels writes some very eerie scenes. Great ghost writer.

What was bad....

1. Barbara Michaels should NOT write humor. Sometimes she tries to be funny, but the writing just seems corny to me.

2. There can be too much of a good thing. Sometimes the feminism is a little over the top, where she's hitting you over the head with her point. I get it okay!

3. Karen's adventures with her friends sometimes reminded me of a Nancy Drew caper where she had to hook up with her "chums."

4. The romance only really lasted about a page! Pah!

But the good way overshadowed the bad, and I would recommend this for sure.
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#2
Hi Desdemona,
I recently read Houses of Stone and couldn't agree with your assessment more.
I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter but I too feel she pushed the feminist agenda a little too hard. (And as a dyed in the wool feminist myself I can't tell you how much it hurts me to say that).
I also thought that for a book written in the 1990s it had the feel of something twenty years older.
But I enjoyed the book enough to keep an eye out for more of Michaels work.
Any recommendations
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#3
Hmmmmm, I'll probably pass. I don't care for "uneven writing"; it's annoying.

Speaking of annoying:

Was reading The Gingerbread House by M. Dobner. No "uneven writing" there -- just a very moody author. One minute the setting is calm and brooding, the next second you're tossed into the equivalent of a Mexican salsa dance contest. >:-\ No set pace at all. The author can (and does) switch story mood/tone rather drastically even from one page to the next. As if my husband isn't moody enough. Not sure I'll finish that novel.

Anyway, thanks for the heads up. Likely I'd pass on it due to the date of publication. I have this thing about not reading Gothics past a publication date of 1976...
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#4
Bellatrix Wrote:Likely I'd pass on it due to the date of publication. I have this thing about not reading Gothics past a publication date of 1976...

That's unfortunate. I'm a big fan of Michaels. I have not read Houses of Stone but I can tell you that she has written some nice Gothics. If you like historical Gothics, "The Wizard's Daughter" and "Sons of the Wolf" are my favorites. The contemporary Gothics I've read by her all contain supernatural elements and they make the hair on my skin stand up. "Ammie, Come Home" is a very good example.

As for feminist viewpoints, I don't think I enjoy reading too much of that. Under her other pseudonym, Elizabeth Peters, I know that Barbara Mertz (Michaels) has written some mysteries that have very strong feminist views. Although I do not believe the male sex is superior to the female sex, I am not a feminist. I just happen to believe there is a role for both sexes and they have to work well together. And I do not mean master and slave.
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#5
tamtam Wrote:
Bellatrix Wrote:Likely I'd pass on it due to the date of publication. I have this thing about not reading Gothics past a publication date of 1976...

That's unfortunate. I'm a big fan of Michaels. I have not read Houses of Stone but I can tell you that she has written some nice Gothics. If you like historical Gothics, "The Wizard's Daughter" and "Sons of the Wolf" are my favorites. The contemporary Gothics I've read by her all contain supernatural elements and they make the hair on my skin stand up. "Ammie, Come Home" is a very good example.

Thank you for those recommendations. I may reconsider. Smile

Quote:Although I do not believe the male sex is superior to the female sex, I am not a feminist. I just happen to believe there is a role for both sexes and they have to work well together. And I do not mean master and slave.

Agreed.

However, having just recently departed a somewhat abusive platonic relationship (a priest), part of the healing process from that has been reading these woman-affirming/positive/focused books with our brave heroines.

No more priests for me, thank you. And that's enough said.
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#6
tamtam Wrote:Although I do not believe the male sex is superior to the female sex, I am not a feminist. I just happen to believe there is a role for both sexes and they have to work well together. And I do not mean master and slave.

How are you not a feminist? This sounds like feminism to me. And what's wrong with that?
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#7
There's nothing wrong with feminism if you don't go overboard. (I guess that applies to everything.)

Women may be the fairer sex, the gentler sex, but they are not necessarily the "weaker" (physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, etc.) sex. I certainly oppose those ideals that calls for the woman to rely solely upon her male counterpart to take responsibility for everything. So I don't like books with weak females and domineering males. I don't believe all males are comfortable with that kind of ideal either.

On the other hand, I am not a feminist because that word now has very negative connotations for me. I know of some women who are so strong in their feministic ideals it gets out of hand. Just as an example, there are some cities here that allow women to go around topless just because men can. I am not so blind from feminist ideals that I believe men and women were built the same. There's a role for each sex and although we can be equals in intellect, etc., we have to acknowledge that we have our differences, whether that makes us better or worse is to be determined individually.
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#8
tamtam Wrote:Just as an example, there are some cities here that allow women to go around topless just because men can.

Where do you reside, may I ask?

That'd definitely be a head-swerver here in the US, lol. I actually envy men their ability to go topless, particularly in the summer. But I'll keep my blouse and bra on [don't want that sort of attention], thanks. Big Grin

I've known some very hostile/bitter feminists. Of course after 43 years on me, I'm not always so kindly disposed to most men anymore either. Having had a loving, responsible father and a nice, attentive uncle while growing up helped maintain a balance.
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#9
Bellatrix Wrote:[Where do you reside, may I ask?


I'm in OH. Columbus allows topless women.
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#10
Looked up my notes on my booksfree borrowings, found my Barbara Michaels list.

Ammie, Come Home was a very creepy spine tingler for sure.

Greygallows, very Jane Eyre.

Stitches in Time, very good, modern, clever gothic

The Haunting, quite tightly written, very creepy.

House of Many Shadows, the same.

Be Buried in the Rain, excellent, ending a bit hokey but pulls it all together--you are right, she can't do comedy/light stuff and make it work with darker gothic.

Shattered silk, more romantic suspense than Gothic, but good.

Wings of the Falcon, total gothic historical set in italy

Someone in the House very spooky, not at all what I thought would happen at the end.

Black Rainbow-Jane Eyre again, with some surprising twists!

The Dancing Floor -very clever, one of her best, modern
Sons of the wolf, gripping gothic

The Master of Blacktower another jane eyre spinoff, but really gripping hero, one of my faves.

Need to start re-reading these! They were great!
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