Two Gothics!

The Wizard's Daughter is, I think, the only one of hers which isn’t in first person. It’s in omniscient, with a narrator who wryly comments on the heroine Marianne’s naivete, speculates on what Freud might have to say about Marianne’s dreams of her father, and mentions that no one yet knew the concept of allergies. More than any of Michaels’ Gothics but Someone in the House, it’s almost a Gothic parody.

When innocent and extravagantly beautiful (silver-gilt curls) Marianne is left penniless after her father’s death, she gets caught up in evil nightclubs, séances, and questions about her parentage. She ends up trying to call up her father’s ghost in a house inhabited by assorted peculiar characters, from an insane gardener who lurks in closets to an aunt with hundreds of cats. It’s very funny, down to the explanation of Marianne’s psychic trances and the revelation of the true fate of her father.

Read more... )

The Master of Blacktower, one of Michaels’ earlier novels, starts out more seriously, with Damaris (red-gold curls,) also orphaned after her father’s death, taking a position as secretary to the Master of Blacktower in rural Scotland, where servants and peasants make dire warnings in phonetic dialect. The Master has a scarred face and black silk gloves which he never takes off. At one point Damaris is shoved off a turret, caught, then dropped. To prove that he wasn’t the one who caught and dropped her, the Master inquires whether the person who grabbed her had all his or her fingers, then whips off his gloves, revealing that he’s missing several fingers and the glove fingers are stuffed with cotton!

Sadly, this is not supposed to be hilarious (I think) though as [livejournal.com profile] coraa pointed out you’d think that Damaris would have noticed before that only some of his fingers ever moved. Then there’s a rather random duel, people thought to be dead return, and several characters fall to their deaths in the Very Same Pool that killed the Master’s first wife. It’s ridiculous but not really played for laughs, which in this case makes it less funny than The Wizard’s Daughter.
Two Gothics!

The Wizard's Daughter is, I think, the only one of hers which isn’t in first person. It’s in omniscient, with a narrator who wryly comments on the heroine Marianne’s naivete, speculates on what Freud might have to say about Marianne’s dreams of her father, and mentions that no one yet knew the concept of allergies. More than any of Michaels’ Gothics but Someone in the House, it’s almost a Gothic parody.

When innocent and extravagantly beautiful (silver-gilt curls) Marianne is left penniless after her father’s death, she gets caught up in evil nightclubs, séances, and questions about her parentage. She ends up trying to call up her father’s ghost in a house inhabited by assorted peculiar characters, from an insane gardener who lurks in closets to an aunt with hundreds of cats. It’s very funny, down to the explanation of Marianne’s psychic trances and the revelation of the true fate of her father.

Read more... )

The Master of Blacktower, one of Michaels’ earlier novels, starts out more seriously, with Damaris (red-gold curls,) also orphaned after her father’s death, taking a position as secretary to the Master of Blacktower in rural Scotland, where servants and peasants make dire warnings in phonetic dialect. The Master has a scarred face and black silk gloves which he never takes off. At one point Damaris is shoved off a turret, caught, then dropped. To prove that he wasn’t the one who caught and dropped her, the Master inquires whether the person who grabbed her had all his or her fingers, then whips off his gloves, revealing that he’s missing several fingers and the glove fingers are stuffed with cotton!

Sadly, this is not supposed to be hilarious (I think) though as [livejournal.com profile] coraa pointed out you’d think that Damaris would have noticed before that only some of his fingers ever moved. Then there’s a rather random duel, people thought to be dead return, and several characters fall to their deaths in the Very Same Pool that killed the Master’s first wife. It’s ridiculous but not really played for laughs, which in this case makes it less funny than The Wizard’s Daughter.
An obscure Gothic by the author of one of my very favorite children’s book, the seminal psychic kid novel The Girl With the Silver Eyes (Apple Paperbacks). The latter holds up well to reading as an adult, or at least I still enjoy it.

Return to Darkness is entertaining but forgettable, though enlivened by some memorably ridiculous plot twists. Young RN Brianne Jorgensen takes a job as the private duty nurse to Simon Ruechelle, an old man who has had a stroke, because her mother never speaks about her family, and Brianne suspects that they are the same Ruechelles. The family is weird, Simon can’t speak, and ominous lipsticked messages appear on Brianne’s mirror!

The second-best part is the reveal:
Read more... )
The best part of this book was the ads for other Lancer Gothics. If anyone can locate and mail these to me, I will certainly read and review them:

Inherit the Darkness (also by Roberts): Thomasina must find her missing twin—before they both die!

These lack blurbs but make up for it with the titles alone: Curse of the Island Pool, An Air That Kills, Ghost of Ravenkill Manor, The Ashes of Falconwyk, Gemini in Darkness, Bride of Terror, Jewels of Terror, Castle Terror (the last is by Marion Zimmer Bradley!), Children of the Griffin (sadly, the griffin is almost certainly metaphorical) and best of all, The Love of Lucifer.

Vanish with the Rose.

I am very fond of Barbara Michaels, though I never got into her other series’ as Elizabeth Peters. Her Michaels Gothics and romantic suspense generally have sensible and tough heroines, likable heroes, and clever twists on genre expectations.

When lawyer Diana’s brother disappears after caretaking at a historic estate, Diana decides to impersonate a landscaper to gain access to the property without raising suspicions. As one does. As she frantically tries to keep up with the charming old lady owner’s knowledge of rose history and botany while searching for clues to her brother’s fate, she is haunted by spooky visions, flirted with by the owner’s eccentric son and manly handyman, stalked by a local wife beater, and forced to face her own family dysfunction.

All these threads come together in a surprising yet satisfying manner. I especially liked the resolution of the romance and the lesson that there is much more to fluttery old ladies than meets the eye. The ghost is creepy, the characters are appropriately likable or hissable, the history and rose lore is interesting, there are some very funny bits, and the whole story is much more thematically coherent than I had expected. If you like this sort of thing, this is an excellent example of it. I have more Michaels reviews under her author tag.
An obscure Gothic by the author of one of my very favorite children’s book, the seminal psychic kid novel The Girl With the Silver Eyes (Apple Paperbacks). The latter holds up well to reading as an adult, or at least I still enjoy it.

Return to Darkness is entertaining but forgettable, though enlivened by some memorably ridiculous plot twists. Young RN Brianne Jorgensen takes a job as the private duty nurse to Simon Ruechelle, an old man who has had a stroke, because her mother never speaks about her family, and Brianne suspects that they are the same Ruechelles. The family is weird, Simon can’t speak, and ominous lipsticked messages appear on Brianne’s mirror!

The second-best part is the reveal:
Read more... )
The best part of this book was the ads for other Lancer Gothics. If anyone can locate and mail these to me, I will certainly read and review them:

Inherit the Darkness (also by Roberts): Thomasina must find her missing twin—before they both die!

These lack blurbs but make up for it with the titles alone: Curse of the Island Pool, An Air That Kills, Ghost of Ravenkill Manor, The Ashes of Falconwyk, Gemini in Darkness, Bride of Terror, Jewels of Terror, Castle Terror (the last is by Marion Zimmer Bradley!), Children of the Griffin (sadly, the griffin is almost certainly metaphorical) and best of all, The Love of Lucifer.

Vanish with the Rose.

I am very fond of Barbara Michaels, though I never got into her other series’ as Elizabeth Peters. Her Michaels Gothics and romantic suspense generally have sensible and tough heroines, likable heroes, and clever twists on genre expectations.

When lawyer Diana’s brother disappears after caretaking at a historic estate, Diana decides to impersonate a landscaper to gain access to the property without raising suspicions. As one does. As she frantically tries to keep up with the charming old lady owner’s knowledge of rose history and botany while searching for clues to her brother’s fate, she is haunted by spooky visions, flirted with by the owner’s eccentric son and manly handyman, stalked by a local wife beater, and forced to face her own family dysfunction.

All these threads come together in a surprising yet satisfying manner. I especially liked the resolution of the romance and the lesson that there is much more to fluttery old ladies than meets the eye. The ghost is creepy, the characters are appropriately likable or hissable, the history and rose lore is interesting, there are some very funny bits, and the whole story is much more thematically coherent than I had expected. If you like this sort of thing, this is an excellent example of it. I have more Michaels reviews under her author tag.
Three suspense novels, all of them entertaining reads, none of them in the first rank of those author's works. I'd recommend any of them as airplane reads, since they'd keep you glued to the pages, but could be abandoned without too much of a qualm when you're done. Well, personally, I wouldn't abandon the Holland, but that's because it's out of print and you'd never be able to find it again if you wanted to re-read it.

See my overview of Barbara Michaels for more details on her work. Be Buried in the Rain is mid-range Michaels, with some intriguing elements but somewhat awkward plotting and a less-than-compelling romantic subplot. Julie is a medical student who gets stuck spending her summer break caring for her grandmother Martha, who has had a stroke, on her picturesquely decaying Virginia mansion with attached Spooky Historic Graveyard (TM). When Julie was a child, her mother left her with the physically and emotionally abusive Martha for several years. At that time Martha managed to cripple Julie's self-esteem, and later destroyed her relationship with a guy named Alan. Alan, now an anthropologist, has returned to Virginia, intent on excavating the Spooky Historic Graveyard (TM); naturally, the romance rekindles, although the most compelling relationship in the book is between Julie and a stray dog she adopts.

This is a little difficult to describe without spoilers, but my problem with the main plot, which involves a mysterious female skeleton found holding a baby's skeleton (Aieeee!), is that it trundles along without much input from Julie, so that her story doesn't seem very integrated with the suspense plot until near the end. If you read this book, I recommend not doing so as bedtime reading. I finished it in bed, and the fucking creepy final paragraph terrorized me not only that night, but for about the next three nights.

Isabelle Holland's Bump in the Night is a non-Gothic suspense novel about Martha (yes, another Martha), an alcoholic divorced mother whose son is kidnapped by a pedophile. It sets up that in order to save him, she must remain sober, but actually the fact that she remains sober throughout the book turns out to be more of a personal victory than the means to saving her son. The son has a more active role than one might expect, which I kind of liked but which also, rather like the Michaels book, made Martha a marginalized player in her own story. This is one of those books which would have had to be substantially rewritten if cell phones had existed at that time, as interminable amounts of verbiage concern people waiting for phone calls and trying in vain to call each other. There are animals in this one too-- the son's cat and a neighborhood cat lady's cats have minor but significant roles.

The hero of Dick Francis' Second Wind is a weather forecaster whose decision to accompany a friend who wants to fly his private plane into the eye of a hurricane sucks him into an elaborate suspense plot. The plot in question doesn't really hang together for-- I swear I really did read all three of these books in quick succession-- the same reason as the two above: the plot would have worked out in pretty much the same way if the protagonist hadn't existed. Also, the romance is perfuctory. There's a great shipwrecked on a deserted island sequence, though. This one doesn't have any characters named Martha, but a filly and a herd of cows play supporting but crucial roles.
Three suspense novels, all of them entertaining reads, none of them in the first rank of those author's works. I'd recommend any of them as airplane reads, since they'd keep you glued to the pages, but could be abandoned without too much of a qualm when you're done. Well, personally, I wouldn't abandon the Holland, but that's because it's out of print and you'd never be able to find it again if you wanted to re-read it.

See my overview of Barbara Michaels for more details on her work. Be Buried in the Rain is mid-range Michaels, with some intriguing elements but somewhat awkward plotting and a less-than-compelling romantic subplot. Julie is a medical student who gets stuck spending her summer break caring for her grandmother Martha, who has had a stroke, on her picturesquely decaying Virginia mansion with attached Spooky Historic Graveyard (TM). When Julie was a child, her mother left her with the physically and emotionally abusive Martha for several years. At that time Martha managed to cripple Julie's self-esteem, and later destroyed her relationship with a guy named Alan. Alan, now an anthropologist, has returned to Virginia, intent on excavating the Spooky Historic Graveyard (TM); naturally, the romance rekindles, although the most compelling relationship in the book is between Julie and a stray dog she adopts.

This is a little difficult to describe without spoilers, but my problem with the main plot, which involves a mysterious female skeleton found holding a baby's skeleton (Aieeee!), is that it trundles along without much input from Julie, so that her story doesn't seem very integrated with the suspense plot until near the end. If you read this book, I recommend not doing so as bedtime reading. I finished it in bed, and the fucking creepy final paragraph terrorized me not only that night, but for about the next three nights.

Isabelle Holland's Bump in the Night is a non-Gothic suspense novel about Martha (yes, another Martha), an alcoholic divorced mother whose son is kidnapped by a pedophile. It sets up that in order to save him, she must remain sober, but actually the fact that she remains sober throughout the book turns out to be more of a personal victory than the means to saving her son. The son has a more active role than one might expect, which I kind of liked but which also, rather like the Michaels book, made Martha a marginalized player in her own story. This is one of those books which would have had to be substantially rewritten if cell phones had existed at that time, as interminable amounts of verbiage concern people waiting for phone calls and trying in vain to call each other. There are animals in this one too-- the son's cat and a neighborhood cat lady's cats have minor but significant roles.

The hero of Dick Francis' Second Wind is a weather forecaster whose decision to accompany a friend who wants to fly his private plane into the eye of a hurricane sucks him into an elaborate suspense plot. The plot in question doesn't really hang together for-- I swear I really did read all three of these books in quick succession-- the same reason as the two above: the plot would have worked out in pretty much the same way if the protagonist hadn't existed. Also, the romance is perfuctory. There's a great shipwrecked on a deserted island sequence, though. This one doesn't have any characters named Martha, but a filly and a herd of cows play supporting but crucial roles.
The House of Arden (New York Review Children's Collection), by E. Nesbit. Now that I've read this, its sequel, Harding's Luck, is probably the only E. Nesbit book I haven't read. Two kids, Edred and his older and rather wiser sister Elfrida, inherit a decrepit castle and its guardian Mouldiwarp, a talking white mole who commands all white things, like daisies and doves, and can send the kids back in time to try to find the hidden treasure with which they can rebuild the castle and fix the tumbledown homes of the people living on its lands. (Nesbit was a Fabian socialist, and liked to sneak in messages about social justice and helping out poor people into her books.) The book is charming, frequently funny (if Edred and Elfrida squabble, they can't travel in time for the next three days, and their enforced attempts to get along are quite amusing), and the Mouldiwarp's method of time travel produces some gorgeous images, such as when daisies begin marching in formation to create a clock face upon the grass.

Witch, by Barbara Michaels. A woman buys a house in the woods near a teeny tiny and very rural Southern town, and soon finds that not only do the locals believe it's haunted by the ghost of a Spanish witch, but they soon think she's a witch too. Bring out the torches and pitchforks! A fun suspense novel with twists that I found fairly predictable, but are enjoyable nevertheless. Southern readers may be annoyed at her portrayal of the town as borderline-medieval, but since I lived in a rural town with a similar mindset that happened to be in India, I took it more as a commentary on insular rural towns in general than at the south in particular.

Straydog, by Kathe Koja. Borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink's shelves-- she has a nice review of it in her memories that made me pick it up. A slim YA novel about a teenage girl who works at an animal shelter and becomes obsessed with a feral collie, whom she names Grrrl, becomes determined to save from euthanasia, and identifies with more than is healthy. With that premise, you just know it won't work out well. It's very well-written, and it made me cry in Starbucks. So far I've liked all three of Koja's YA novels (Buddha Boy and Blue Mirror) even though they're all pretty similar: intense, bordering on stream of consciousness first person narratives about teenage artists who have an encounter with someone who teaches them about trust or love or art and changes their life for the better, but in the very YA-happy ending mode where the protagonists never win the contest or save the dog or get the guy or whatever it was that they wanted initially-- and yet in the midst of their miserable life with their alcoholic mother or whatever, there is that little ray of inner hope that says they will survive.

The Growing Season, by Noel Streatfield. Four English kids go to stay with their eccentric Irish Great-Aunt Dymphna when their parents are unexpectedly called away on an emergency. Aunt Dymphna recites poetry in response to all questions and expects the kids to totally fend for themselves. The oldest girl, Penny, who is twelve, gets stuck doing all the cooking and cleaning while the oldest boy, who is thirteen, wanders around with the youngest two buying food and trying to catch shrimp. Toward the very end Aunt Dymphna suggests that Penny didn't have to take on all the work herself, but too little, too late. Aunt Dymphna annoyed the hell out of me, and so did every other adult in the book. The kids had never had to take care of themselves before, and all any adult did was give them vague suggestions, then criticize them for doing things wrong and complaining about not being taken care of. They're kids! They're used to being taken care of! Usually I like the genre of kids learning new skills in a new environment, but this one rubbed me the wrong way by being too realistic about how hard it would be, but by then seeming to take the adults' side and claiming it was actually a great learning experience.
The House of Arden, by E. Nesbit. Now that I've read this, its sequel, Harding's Luck, is probably the only E. Nesbit book I haven't read. Two kids, Edred and his older and rather wiser sister Elfrida, inherit a decrepit castle and its guardian Mouldiwarp, a talking white mole who commands all white things, like daisies and doves, and can send the kids back in time to try to find the hidden treasure with which they can rebuild the castle and fix the tumbledown homes of the people living on its lands. (Nesbit was a Fabian socialist, and liked to sneak in messages about social justice and helping out poor people into her books.) The book is charming, frequently funny (if Edred and Elfrida squabble, they can't travel in time for the next three days, and their enforced attempts to get along are quite amusing), and the Mouldiwarp's method of time travel produces some gorgeous images, such as when daisies begin marching in formation to create a clock face upon the grass.

Witch, by Barbara Michaels. A woman buys a house in the woods near a teeny tiny and very rural Southern town, and soon finds that not only do the locals believe it's haunted by the ghost of a Spanish witch, but they soon think she's a witch too. Bring out the torches and pitchforks! A fun suspense novel with twists that I found fairly predictable, but are enjoyable nevertheless. Southern readers may be annoyed at her portrayal of the town as borderline-medieval, but since I lived in a rural town with a similar mindset that happened to be in India, I took it more as a commentary on insular rural towns in general than at the south in particular.

Straydog, by Kathe Koja. Borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink's shelves-- she has a nice review of it in her memories that made me pick it up. A slim YA novel about a teenage girl who works at an animal shelter and becomes obsessed with a feral collie, whom she names Grrrl, becomes determined to save from euthanasia, and identifies with more than is healthy. With that premise, you just know it won't work out well. It's very well-written, and it made me cry in Starbucks. So far I've liked all three of Koja's YA novels (Buddha Boy and Blue Mirror) even though they're all pretty similar: intense, bordering on stream of consciousness first person narratives about teenage artists who have an encounter with someone who teaches them about trust or love or art and changes their life for the better, but in the very YA-happy ending mode where the protagonists never win the contest or save the dog or get the guy or whatever it was that they wanted initially-- and yet in the midst of their miserable life with their alcoholic mother or whatever, there is that little ray of inner hope that says they will survive.

The Growing Season, by Noel Streatfield. Four English kids go to stay with their eccentric Irish Great-Aunt Dymphna when their parents are unexpectedly called away on an emergency. Aunt Dymphna recites poetry in response to all questions and expects the kids to totally fend for themselves. The oldest girl, Penny, who is twelve, gets stuck doing all the cooking and cleaning while the oldest boy, who is thirteen, wanders around with the youngest two buying food and trying to catch shrimp. Toward the very end Aunt Dymphna suggests that Penny didn't have to take on all the work herself, but too little, too late. Aunt Dymphna annoyed the hell out of me, and so did every other adult in the book. The kids had never had to take care of themselves before, and all any adult did was give them vague suggestions, then criticize them for doing things wrong and complaining about not being taken care of. They're kids! They're used to being taken care of! Usually I like the genre of kids learning new skills in a new environment, but this one rubbed me the wrong way by being too realistic about how hard it would be, but by then seeming to take the adults' side and claiming it was actually a great learning experience.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Jun. 5th, 2004 04:05 pm)
Barbara Michaels writes romantic suspense novels. (She also writes romantic-ish mysteries under the name of Elizabeth Peters.)

There's no better airplane reading than Barbara Michaels. She has a nicely unfussy prose style, a page-turning approach to pacing, and generally sensible heroines. her novels, which are all stand-alones, sometimes have supernatural elements, but sometimes the seemingly supernatural elements have a non-supernatural explanation. This gives her novels a pleasing unpredictability. Her historical and other research is solid.

But the main thing that makes her interesting to me is her method of plotting, which is to take some familiar genre plot and do something interesting and unusual with it. She doesn't usually deconstruct standard plots or completely invert them, but there's always something odd or non-standard going on in her books.

Because of this, they're a little difficult to discuss without spoilers, but I'll try as I want to do an overview for anyone who might be unfamiliar with her. If you want to discuss specific genre-warping elements, please do so in the comments.

The Sea King's Daughter. "Don't call me Ariadne. That's not my name any more." There's an odd tendency for Michaels' most evocative titles to adorn her worst books, but this one's an exception, being quite good. Ariadne is a young swimming jock who goes to a Greek island to assist her archaeologist father, whom she never knew. There she gets entangled in ancient Greek... stuff. This one's fun and the atmosphere of sun and sea is vivid.

Into the Darkness. Meg Venturi inherits her grandfather's jewelry business and lots of trouble, family and otherwise. This one is notable for the romantic lead, a moody Vietnam vet (I've never encountered a cheerful and lighthearted one in fiction), a sense of truthfulness about love and family, and great details about jewelry. The genre-bending in this one is that the hero has a serious physical disability, but I think that's been done a fair amount in Gothics before.

Wings of the Falcon. "Authors who write in the first person cannot expect their readers to be seriously concerned about the survival of the main character." Set in 1860 Italy against a backdrop of politics and rebellion. A somewhat tongue-in-cheek Gothic pastiche with identical twin romantic leads, ancient Etruscan tombs waiting for a blonde heroine to get locked into them, and a mysterious masked rebel called Il Falcone. I can forgive Michaels for her addition to the long list of evil effeminate bisexuals in literature because of the startling plot twist which befalls him, and also because it must be the first time in the history of the genre that the heroine's father provides for her by becoming the kept man of another man.

Someone in the House. Some critic said that the plot of the Gothic novel is "girl meets house." In this quintessential example of Michaels' peculiar approach to genre, a girl meets a possibly haunted house. A lighthearted, romantic comedy-meets ghost story approach leads to a truly startling conclusion. I imagine Michaels laughing as she wrote the last page of this one.

Shattered Silk. After being dumped by her husband of ten years, Karen opens a vintage clothing shop. This one reminded me a bit of Jennifer Crusie, being a witty two-couple story with likable heroes, good character development, and a very funny dog. The mystery element is also pretty good.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Her first book, and though it shows it's still a good read. There's a horrendously bad prologue which is somewhat redeemed at the end, when we realize why everyone sounded so stilted. It's her only book which has a male protagonist, and it has some good twists. One of the few books which I enjoy despite the presence of Satanists as characters. (I usually detest books which involve Satanists.)

HOUSES OF STONE. A feminist English professor discovers works by a hitherto-unknown female eighteenth century writer. The background of this one is fascinating, but the romantic suspense part feels tacked on.

HOUSE OF MANY SHADOWS. A heroine suffering from hallucinations after an accident moves into a historic house that might be haunted. A nice intertwining of past and present mysteries.

SONS OF THE WOLF. Another historical Gothic pastiche. Not one of her best but redeemed by an unusual and clever turn of the narrative toward the end.

HERE I STAY. Another girl meets house story. This is ruined by the total unlikability of the right-wing heroine. It does have a nicely surprising end, though.

OTHER WORLDS. Her most recent novel is experimental: a re-telling of historic ghost stories in a club where famous historic figures propose various solutions. Incredibly boring.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Jun. 5th, 2004 04:05 pm)
Barbara Michaels writes romantic suspense novels. (She also writes romantic-ish mysteries under the name of Elizabeth Peters.)

There's no better airplane reading than Barbara Michaels. She has a nicely unfussy prose style, a page-turning approach to pacing, and generally sensible heroines. her novels, which are all stand-alones, sometimes have supernatural elements, but sometimes the seemingly supernatural elements have a non-supernatural explanation. This gives her novels a pleasing unpredictability. Her historical and other research is solid.

But the main thing that makes her interesting to me is her method of plotting, which is to take some familiar genre plot and do something interesting and unusual with it. She doesn't usually deconstruct standard plots or completely invert them, but there's always something odd or non-standard going on in her books.

Because of this, they're a little difficult to discuss without spoilers, but I'll try as I want to do an overview for anyone who might be unfamiliar with her. If you want to discuss specific genre-warping elements, please do so in the comments.

THE SEA KING'S DAUGHTER. "Don't call me Ariadne. That's not my name any more." There's an odd tendency for Michaels' most evocative titles to adorn her worst books, but this one's an exception, being quite good. Ariadne is a young swimming jock who goes to a Greek island to assist her archaeologist father, whom she never knew. There she gets entangled in ancient Greek... stuff. This one's fun and the atmosphere of sun and sea is vivid.

INTO THE DARKNESS. Meg Venturi inherits her grandfather's jewelry business and lots of trouble, family and otherwise. This one is notable for the romantic lead, a moody Vietnam vet (I've never encountered a cheerful and lighthearted one in fiction), a sense of truthfulness about love and family, and great details about jewelry. The genre-bending in this one is that the hero has a serious physical disability, but I think that's been done a fair amount in Gothics before.

WINGS OF THE FALCON. "Authors who write in the first person cannot expect their readers to be seriously concerned about the survival of the main character." Set in 1860 Italy against a backdrop of politics and rebellion. A somewhat tongue-in-cheek Gothic pastiche with identical twin romantic leads, ancient Etruscan tombs waiting for a blonde heroine to get locked into them, and a mysterious masked rebel called Il Falcone. I can forgive Michaels for her addition to the long list of evil effeminate bisexuals in literature because of the startling plot twist which befalls him, and also because it must be the first time in the history of the genre that the heroine's father provides for her by becoming the kept man of another man.

SOMEONE IN THE HOUSE. Some critic said that the plot of the Gothic novel is "girl meets house." In this quintessential example of Michaels' peculiar approach to genre, a girl meets a possibly haunted house. A lighthearted, romantic comedy-meets ghost story approach leads to a truly startling conclusion. I imagine Michaels laughing as she wrote the last page of this one.

SHATTERED SILK. After being dumped by her husband of ten years, Karen opens a vintage clothing shop. This one reminded me a bit of Jennifer Crusie, being a witty two-couple story with likable heroes, good character development, and a very funny dog. The mystery element is also pretty good.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Her first book, and though it shows it's still a good read. There's a horrendously bad prologue which is somewhat redeemed at the end, when we realize why everyone sounded so stilted. It's her only book which has a male protagonist, and it has some good twists. One of the few books which I enjoy despite the presence of Satanists as characters. (I usually detest books which involve Satanists.)

HOUSES OF STONE. A feminist English professor discovers works by a hitherto-unknown female eighteenth century writer. The background of this one is fascinating, but the romantic suspense part feels tacked on.

HOUSE OF MANY SHADOWS. A heroine suffering from hallucinations after an accident moves into a historic house that might be haunted. A nice intertwining of past and present mysteries.

SONS OF THE WOLF. Another historical Gothic pastiche. Not one of her best but redeemed by an unusual and clever turn of the narrative toward the end.

HERE I STAY. Another girl meets house story. This is ruined by the total unlikability of the right-wing heroine. It does have a nicely surprising end, though.

OTHER WORLDS. Her most recent novel is experimental: a re-telling of historic ghost stories in a club where famous historic figures propose various solutions. Incredibly boring.
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