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Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels
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Houses of Stone (original 1993; edition 2009)

by Barbara Michaels

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501731,583 (3.61)16
Member:AmCorKragujevac
Title:Houses of Stone
Authors:Barbara Michaels
Info:Harper (2009), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:R19

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Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels (1993)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Gothic romance is a fun genre for me and this book proved to be a good one by Michaels. As an English lit major, I enjoyed the background story and had met those professors, I am sure. Houses of Stone certainly does show its 1990s roots, but as long as you remember there aren't cell phones and ubiquitous access to the internet, it is easy to sink into the story. I sort of wish that the "found novel" really existed as I think I would have enjoyed it.

There are enough plot twists to keep me going, from love interests to dastardly deeds. I think an important quotation from the book is "A house of stone can be either a refuge or a prison." Reading the book lets you see both sides of the story.

If you like romantic suspense, I suspect you'll like this book. ( )
  Jean_Sexton | Oct 19, 2016 |
3.5 stars-Enjoyed the book but thought the ending was rushed. The rest of the story went at a a nice pace and then it was like Michaels woke up & said oops my deadline is today & just threw the ending together in a couple pages. The fast batch job at the end just didnt flow with the easy pace of the rest of the book. ( )
  EmpressReece | Aug 22, 2016 |
Michaels delivers a poor-man's Posession with Houses of Stone, and I mean that in the best possible way. This has everything I like in a light read: crumbling mansions, literary references, buried documents, near-murders and very old bones. If you like This Kind of Thing (and I do) this is Very Good at This Kind of Thing. If you don't (like This Kind of Thing, that is) I suggest reading a different book. ( )
  aliceoddcabinet | Jul 25, 2015 |
Houses of Stone manages--don't ask me how-- to simultaneously be a critique, homage, and spoof of the gothic novel.

Karen is a professor of English literature specializing in romantic/feminist literature of the 19th century who stumbles upon an incredible manuscript: the first draft of a gothic novel by an unknown female author. Karen follows the trail of the mysterious author to a plantation home in Virginia, where as she investigates the sinister atmosphere and gloomy house, she begins to take on the role of a gothic heroine. The story alternates between atmospheric and hilarious as Michaels pulls out all the tropes--burning buildings, crazy relatives locked up in the attic, being buried alive, swooning heroines, heroes fighting for their lady's honor, etc. The fun comes from the characters' genre-savvy bewilderment as they wander around in a modern version of Mysteries of Udolpho.

Karen really isn't my favorite heroine. She is unnecessarily prickly and dependent, alternating needy whining with snapping at her friends for perceived condescension. But then, I don't like gothic novels, and Karen alternately plays the role of the romantic heroine, admiring reader, and critic of the genre. I don't really like the Byronic love interests of the tale either, who are stereotypically dark, sinister, and handsome. The only saving grace here is Bill Myer, who, as a professor of literature, is amusingly genre-savvy. From the first moment things start getting supernatural, he starts pulling out plummy lines from the classics in an amused, sardonic fashion. From that point forward, it's difficult to tell whether he is feeling like a Byronic hero and voicing his thoughts, or simply making the statements he believes are apropos to him in his role of gothic hero.

I loved the well-drawn side characters: the gutsy, pragmatic Peggy and the ditsy Joan, as well as the incidental villains and comedic relief. However, perhaps the best part of the book for me was the knowledge I gained about the history of the genre and the historiography of women's literature over time, including pithy and rather appallingly chauvanistic comments made by various critics that appear at the start of each chapter. Although I am not a fan of gothic fiction and detest the Brontes, I found Michaels' analysis of her to be very interesting. It almost makes me want to reread them. But not quite. One thing that always bothered me about Barbara Michaels is that she totally underestimates Jane Austen. She calls Austen "demure" and says she only made one protest about the male-dominated field of literature. It's as if she's never read Austen, who continually makes scathing commentary about sexism. Since the Brontes hated Austen and made lots of nasty (jealous) comments about her, I think people tend to choose sides, and Peters ended up on the Bronte side. A pity, though.

Overall, although I found the main protagonist unendearing, the book is a lot of fun and very educational. I am not as fond of this one as many of the other Barbara Michaels stories and most of the stories published under her other soubriquet of [a:Elizabeth Peters|16549|Elizabeth Peters|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1232144920p2/16549.jpg]. However, Houses of Stone gives Michaels a wonderful opportunity to discuss a topic dear to her heart: female voices in literature and the tendency to entomb them in a house of stone. ( )
  page.fault | Sep 21, 2013 |
If someone had written a book just for me, this would be it. When I finished reading it the first time, I went back to the beginning and started it all over. Old houses, old books, wonderful stuff. ( )
  grundlecat | Jul 25, 2010 |
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Epigraph
Literature is not the business of a woman's life, and it cannot be. 

Letter from SOUTHEY to CHARLOTTE BRONTË, 1837
Dedication
This one, especially, is for Kristen.
First words
If only Simon weren't such a practical joker!
Quotations
A house of stone can be either a refuge or a prison.
I prefer horror to be more delicate—a frisson, a suggestion, instead of a catalog of disgusting details. The whisper from an invisible throat, the shadow where there is no object to cast it, a sudden breath of cold air in a warm room.
The friendly, intimate ambience Simon had created was partially responsible, but the books themselves had an almost physical effect upon her. What they represented was little short of a miracle—contact, as direct as any spiritualist medium could claim, with minds long dead.
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Professor Karen Holloway travels to Virginia to search for the grave of Ismene, the mysterious author of a battered 19th-century manuscript. But eerie, inexplicable coincidences make Karen wonder if Ismene is desperately trying to warn her from the grave.

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