I've read this at least three times, maybe more, with the most recent reread about a year ago when I was reading all of the Barbara Michaels gothics that I have.
That particular reread was with a specific purpose: I had started writing another contemporary romantic-suspense-with-ghosts and I wanted to get good handle on how Michaels had structured hers. I already knew Ammie, Come Home had serious plot and detail problems. Be Buried in the Rain was written about twenty years later, so I was hoping she had improved her technique.
Be Buried in the Rain was also one of my favorites of the Michaels gothics, along with Houses of Stone and The Walker in Shadows. Even though I read all three books last year, I still had some issues with both Houses and Be Buried. So although I'm already involved in several other reading projects, this afternoon I picked up the latter to see if I could finally figure out the solution to my problem with it . . . or accept that maybe Michaels had left a major thread dangling.
And I think I did it. In the process, I gained a grand new respect for the writer Michaels/Mertz/Peters became after the almost laughable errors in Ammie.
No spoiler posted here, and maybe everyone else who has read Be Buried in the Rain picked up on this detail the first time through and I'm just the dullard who missed it until the (at least) fourth read. But I feel more confident tonight about my own writing.
And now, back to my own ghosts!
I know, I know, that post title could apply to basically every single gothic romance ever. In fact, as Linda Hilton knows, as I actually cribbed the title from an essay she discusses in this post (which is well worth reading, so you should read it!).
Nine Coaches Waiting centers around Linda Martin, a young French woman who is hired as the English speaking governess for Count Philippe Valmy, the nine year old heir to the Valmy estate and fortune. There are a couple of "accidents" where Philippe is nearly killed, at which point Linda begins to wonder if they were really "accidents" at all, or if someone really is trying to get rid of the young count.
As always, Mary Stewart's descriptions are truly lovely and evocative. Linda meets Raoul Valmy, Philippe's much older cousin, who is dashing and handsome and oh so mysterious. He doesn't live at Chateau Valmy, rather he lives at one of the lesser Valmy family properties near by. As the conspiracy unfolds, Linda falls head over heels in love with the enigmatic Raoul, which she realizes after possibly the most epic first date ever set down in fiction.
I am not going to describe that evening in detail though, as it happens, it was desperately important. It was then, simply, one of those wonderful evenings … We stopped in Thonon beside a stall where jonquils and wallflowers blazed under the gas-jets, and he bought me freesias which smelt like the Fortunate Isles and those red anemones that were once called the lilies of the field. Then we drove along in a clear night with stars as warm and a waxing moon staring pale behind the poplars. By the time we reached Geneva – a city of fabulous glitter and strung lights whose reflections swayed and bobbed in the dark waters of the Lake – my spirits were rocketing sky-high; shock, loneliness, the breath of danger all forgotten.
OMG, can Mary Stewart turn a phrase or what?
Linda realizes the truth about the so-called accidents and takes flight from the Chateau with young Philippe, and what follows is several chapters of suspense where the two of them are being chased, hiding, escaping and trying to make their way to safety, without really knowing who is behind the attempts to murder Philippe. As was true of This Rough Magic, Stewart has a definite talent for ratcheting up the reader's anxiety. As is de riguer with romantic suspense, there is a happy ending.
This is my fifth Mary Stewart, each one more delicious than the last. At some point, I assume, I will have to hit a clunker.
Does anyone else write like Mary Stewart? Because if there is another Mary Stewart out there, I want to find her. Her books are the perfect combination of romance and suspense, set in the most beautiful places. I really enjoy the fact that they are contemporaries for the time that they were written.
I would say that the closest that I have found to Stewart is Phyllis Whitney, who writes very similar romantic suspense/gothic romance, but she just doesn't have the writing chops of Mary Stewart. I'm wondering if anyone is aware of any modern authors who are writing this same type of book. I don't really enjoy the Pamela Clare style of romantic suspense, and J.D. Robb doesn't do much for me.
This was my first time reading This Rough Magic - it was one of my massive Mary Stewart kindle book purchase last fall. It is definitely up there with The Moonspinners for me in enjoyability, and I liked it better than both The Ivy Tree and Wildfire at Midnight.
This Rough Magic follows the Mary Stewart playbook - attractive young woman on her own goes to exotic place, becomes embroiled in something dangerous - espionage, smuggling, murder - falls in love with an equally attractive young man after they cross paths. Stewart has a gift for creating suspense, and one of the things that I liked about This Rough Magic is that the main character, Lucy Waring, extricates herself from danger with resourcefulness and persistence. She doesn't wait to be rescued - she rescues herself. I liked this a lot, and it placed Lucy on a footing of equality with the male love interest.
The Corfu setting is beautiful. Mary Stewart used Shakespeare's The Tempest as a jumping off point for the book, with quotes from the play as chapter headings, and discussions about The Tempest between the heroine, Lucy, a not-terribly-successful actress from London and Julian Gale, a very successful Shakespearean actor who has come to Corfu to recuperate from a nervous breakdown. Stewart's descriptive talents are formidable and she does a wonderful job of painting a mental picture of beautiful places. It had the same effect on me as The Moonspinners in making me want to jump on an airplane and fly off to a sunny climate, especially given that I am suffering mightily from spring fever in the midst of a grey Oregon winter.
As a downside, as is the case with a lot of mid-twentieth century fiction, there is a lot of colonialism and superiority in Lucy's interactions with the native Corfuites - the "nobility of the peasantry" condescension. This is likely inevitable given the time in which it was written, but, still, it is present.
Overall, This Rough Magic was a delightful read.
I'm remembering why I didn't like this book the first time I read it.
Drusilla is a wimp. She admits, from the vantage point of the future, that she should have foreseen Lavinia's disasters. But she didn't. And she never really admits to her own responsibility.
But she's also passionless. At best she's "fascinated" by the House, but she never says why. She goes along with Lady Harriet's plans without protest or enthusiasm. Even through the whole business with Fleur, there's no emotion.