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Search tags: Barbara-Michaels
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-07 20:43
Shedding some light . . . .
The Walker in Shadows - Barbara Michaels

This was at least my third or fourth read of this book.  I initially read it when the Berkley mass market paperback edition came out in 1992; that's the edition I bought new and still have.  I read it again during the summer of 2016, shortly before Halloween Bingo and our buddy read of Michaels's Ammie, Come Home.  And I've just read it again, along with Be Buried in the Rain.


This is my first review, however.


Pat Robbins has been widowed for a year.  She and her college-age son Mark -- I believe he's 19 -- live in a huge old antebellum mansion in western Maryland.  The style is American Gothic, not the Greek Revival pictured on the above cover.  So the house is spookier looking, less like Tara.



Pat is a nurse for what I'm guessing is a doctor or doctors in private practice.  Therefore she probably makes(or made, in the early 90s) decent money but not oodles.  I'm not sure exactly what her husband Jerry did for a living before he died.  Regardless how much Jerry fell in love with the house, an edifice like that requires . . . oodles . . . of money to restore, renovate, upgrade, and maintain.  Not to mention taxes and utilities.  It sits on a two-acre lot.  Did I mention taxes?


Mark attends the local community college in part for the cost savings and in part to stay with his mom while she's grieving the loss of her husband and his father.  Mark does not have a job.


After years, maybe decades, of sitting empty, the house next door to Pat's has been sold and Josef Friedrichs moves in with his teenaged daughter Kathy.  I'm not sure exactly how old Kathy is -- maybe 16? -- but she is blonde and pretty and attends a private girls' school to which Josef drives her every day.  Josef is obsessively protective of Kathy, so when she and Mark strike up a romance, Josef is bitter and nasty to both Pat and Mark, but especially to Mark.  And his nastiness to Pat is about Mark.


Given what's revealed about Josef's prior marriage, I didn't understand his vicious antipathy toward his daughter's new boyfriend.


Anyway, the house is purchased, contractors come in to repair and redecorate, and Josef and Kathy move in.


This house is a mirror image twin of Pat's house.  No explanation is offered as to why a single father with one daughter needs a three-story American Gothic mansion on two over-grown, untended acres, especially since said single father is decidedly anti-social.  It's not like he's going to be entertaining or anything.


Within a few days of their moving in, weird things start happening.  Creepy lights, attacks on both Kathy and Josef, and so on.  Pat intervenes, and thus a relationship of sorts is established between the two families.  The weird things get weirder and more dangerous, Mark and Kathy join forces to figure out what it is, and then everyone lives happily ever after.


Unlike the problems I had with the house in Ammie, Come Home, the twin mansions in The Walker in Shadows worked well with the story.  There were no structural issues; other than the idea of two people rattling around in a house with five or six or eight bedrooms, the house part worked okay.


The historical research Mark and Kathy did to "solve" the mystery also worked well and made sense, with a somewhat surprising twist.  The resolution to the supernatural aspect seemed a little too contrived and easy, but it wasn't totally out of the blue.  I would personally have preferred a little more tension in the climactic confrontation but oh well.


Mark and Kathy's insta-love didn't pose a problem.  They're both young and eager and their relationship is more catalyst than main plot, so good looking young man falls head over heels (almost literally) for pretty new neighbor and that's okay.


What didn't work for me at all was the romance between Pat and Josef.  Pat is still grieving.  Josef is still angry.  That they fall in love and start calling each other "dear" and "darling" was just syrupy to me.  I realized that Michaels seems to have this problem in a lot of her books -- the romances are often just not believable.  It's as though they're thrown in because someone told her "we're going to publish it as romantic suspense, so make sure you have some romance."


There were major romance problems in Ammie, Come Home as explored in our buddy read analyses, and also in House of Many Shadows as well as Wait for What Will Come and Patriot's Dream.  Michaels did better with the romances in both Be Buried in the Rain and Houses of Stone, but I'm not really sure why or how.


Could the romance threads in these novels have been improved?  I think so, but I wasn't her editor!  I guess my only comment at this point would be, don't count on a great romance woven through these books; just take them as they are.




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text 2017-10-03 17:15
Halloween Bingo -- Gothic --read and called -- STILL NO BINGO
Patriot's Dream - Barbara Michaels




Read on 21 September 2017.





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review 2017-09-30 21:53
Greygallows by Barbara Michael
Greygallows - Barbara Michaels

This was really disappointing, actually. It had an interesting premise, but never really took off. The main character, Lucy, was so passive that she made me want to spit nails. The villain was cartoonish. The hero was passably attractive, but nothing special.


The suspense aspect of the book just fell flat for me. It took forever for things to get going, followed by an abrupt and convenient ending. If I were required to describe this book in one word, that word would be "meh."


It's not a bad book. It's just not a good book either. At least I can use it for Halloween bingo.

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text 2017-09-30 17:19
Reading progress update: I've read 46%.
Greygallows - Barbara Michaels

I am hoping that this one will work for Haunted Houses, otherwise I will use it for my second card! It's not very ghosty so far, but with a title like "Greygallows," there is probably still time!


This is a historical gothic by Barbara Michaels, and I'm pretty sure that it is the first one I've read in recent memory. It's set during the early Victorian era, and is quite reminiscent of Victoria Holt, whose gothics are mostly historical.


At this point, the main character, heiress Lucy Cartwright, is annoyingly docile. She had one spark of independence that was easily squashed, and became even more compliant at that point, which I didn't necessarily think was possible. She'd better buck up soon, because someone is probably trying to kill her.

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review 2017-09-22 04:46
Halloween Bingo -- Gothic -- more like patriot's snooze
Patriot's Dream - Barbara Michaels



Published in 1976, this can't be anything but a blatant and really crass cashing in on the popularity of the American Bicentennial.  It just wasn't that good of a book.  Not the story and not even the writing.


Jan is 23 years old in that summer of 1976.  I think her last name is Wilde, but I'm not really sure.  She lives in New York City, where she has been an English teacher.  At first she taught in the public schools, then in a private girls' school.  She hated teaching, hated what she saw as the futility of it.  At her mother's urging, Jan has left NYC and gone to Williamsburg, Virginia, to spend the summer "resting" and helping her aged great-aunt and great uncle.  Camilla and Henry Wilde have sold the family home to the Williamsburg Foundation, which will take possession of it upon their deaths and add it to the tourist attraction.


On her first night in the Wilde home, Jan has a remarkable dream of being in the house on the eve of the American Revolution.  She dreams again the next night, and the next.  Her dreams are remarkably clear and in fantastic detail.  They feature the Wilde family as it existed at the time, as well as numerous other figures, historical as well as unknowns.


The bulk of the novel is taken up with the activities Jan sees in her dreams, which is basically her ancestors' involvement in the war for independence.  Most prominent among them are Charles Wilde, who is presumably the forebear of Uncle Henry, and his dear friend Jonathan, last name not revealed.  (This is weird, because Michaels provides a family tree that clearly shows Jonathan's last name is Muller and that he is Charles's first cousin.)


Jan becomes a bit obsessed with her dreams, but there's no real reason given for why she becomes obsessed.  And other than the conflict between the two cousins Charles and Jonathan, there's not much drama in the historical sections of the book.  Charles heads off to war; Jonathan, for various reasons, doesn't.  I reached the point where I skimmed those parts in the second half of the book.


Aunt Camilla -- who is only a Wilde by marriage, obviously -- seems obsessed with getting Jan married.  Various suitors are paraded for her benefit -- the local doctor, one of the craftsman who works in the Williamsburg village, an obnoxious lawyer -- but Jan doesn't seem interested.  I'm not sure if the issue of her "resting" for summer is some kind of hint that she had or is about to have a nervous breakdown because of her teaching experience or what.  But Camilla's interest in the family seems awkward, since it isn't really her family anyway, and I'm not sure exactly how Jan's lineage fit into the family tree.


The last fifty or sixty pages of the book finally got interesting, and the twist toward the end of the historical part was quite clever.  The actual ending of that part, however, was nasty and really didn't make any sense.  (Mary Beth would never have done that.  Never.)


But long before I reached the last fifty or sixty pages, I was bored to tears.  Or yawns.  Or snores.


The plot was weak, but the writing wasn't much better.  The historical characters were much better drawn than the 1976 people, most of whom were little better than caricatures.  During Jan's dream sequences, point of view shifted not only into the various historical characters but also into an omniscient third person narrator.  I think that was part of the reason I never got any clear idea of how Jan really felt about the dreams; the events in them were detached from her.


The book reminded me in some ways of Daphne DuMaurier's The House on the Strand, except that book was much, much creepier.  Patriot's Dream was just a snorer.






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