Friday, July 22, 2011

Mary Linn Roby: The White Peacock and Shadow Over Grove House

I picked up gothic romance author Mary Linn Roby's Signet Double Gothic from 1973 some time ago. I have an affinity for the doubles, and they aren't that easy to find. From what I found out about her in a search, she is now a writing and editing coach. The first novel in the double is The White Peacock. I really like the cover of the novel. It has that distinct early 70s look, and the blonde model has different features than most. The White Peacock

 I wanted to like this book, but I found the characterization thin at best. The heroine, art appraiser Irene Haverlock, (nice name) is likeable enough, but the love interest, David, is not well drawn. Consequently, the love affair is rushed and not believable. I am not sure why I kept reading other than the setting of Portugal. The villain was totally out of left field as well. I'm starting into the second one in the set,  Shadow Over Grove House. So far, it is off to a very fast start with little context, and I noticed it is only about 180 pages. I don't think I'll continue with it since there are no real Gothic elements jumping out at me. I might give Ms. Linn Roby's work another try again later. I noticed she has some great titles for her other novels. I like this one: Afraid of the Dark (Gothic) and If She Should Die, Pennies on Her Eyes, and Still As The Grave.

I know, lots of links, but some of the covers are very nice as well. Have you read a gothic romance by Mary Linn Roby? Did you enjoy it? If so, let me know in the comments so I can review it or you can. ;)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mary Stewart: The Ivy Tree

Mary Stewart's gothic romance The Ivy Tree was published in 1961. Many readers of this blog say it's their favorite novel by her. So far, I'd have to agree it's mine, too, of the ones I have read.

When Mary Grey meets Connor Winslow on the Roman Wall when she is sightseeing, he makes an offer she wants to refuse... but strangely, she is drawn to the job of impersonating Annabel Winslow, an heiress who disappeared eight years before from the family estate, Whitescar. Secrets and threats to Mary's life make the job fraught with peril. Someone wants Annabel dead for good.

Plot: 4/5  I was surprised by one major plot twist and not another. I will say that the novel drags after the first twenty pages which are riveting until around page 60. I know some won't agree, but there is one scene in particular that seemed way too drawn out (in Mary's boarding house with Lisa). Overall, though, the premise of the novel is intriguing, and the suspense and tension mounted until I didn't want to put the novel down. I was kept guessing for a while about a couple aspects of the plot.

Characterization: 5/5 Each character was well drawn. I could see Connor Winslow played by someone I can't quite grasp. He is that much his own character to me. Adam Forrest, the other love interest in the novel, is also compelling. I am not sure that any author does a love scene bathed in moonlight better than Stewart, and there are at least two in this novel that the heroine shares with both men in a parallel fashion. Some of the characters' names are also enviable in the novel. Stewart infuses them with symbolism and meaning.

Spooky elements/atmosphere: 5/5  For the sheer beauty of Stewart's description, I have to give this a 5. Mary Grey's walks in the moonlight took my breath away as did the world that exists in the novel. Stewart's prose is lush.

Literary elements: 4/5  Stewart has a snippet of a poem, often a ballad at the start of each chapter. In general, too, the writing is just intelligent.

Romantic elements: 5/5  This one is hopelessly heady and romantic. If you are a fan of studying how fate, choice, and chance intersect and the impossible love story comes to fruition, you will enjoy this one. I admire the way Stewart leaves doors open and explores nuances of feeling in each character. She focuses on the gray of emotions and relationships as well as the tension. One of my favorite set of lines in the novel is this, and I won't spoil any plot details by tagging them. The dark romance of these lines ranks up there for me with Wuthering Heights and some of the dialogue between Cathy and Heathcliff. From The Ivy Tree:

"Life does go on, and you change, and you can't go back. You have to live it the way it comes. You know that."

"Yes, of course. But it would be very much easier to be dead."

Rating: 4+ stars  ****+

If you want to know why Mary Stewart is so loved, this novel can help... :) "Time was. Time is... time is to come."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barbara Michaels: Be Buried in the Rain

It's no secret to regular readers of the blog that I love Barbara Michaels' gothic romance novels. I hadn't read Be Buried in the Rain, published in 1985, for years, so I decided to take it along on my trip to Barbara Mertz's (yes, Michaels is a pen name) near stomping grounds of Maryland.

The novel is set in Virginia, so it was close enough. ;)

Julie Newcomb, a first year medical student, is summoned back to Maidenwood, the dark Carr house where she lived during childhood. Her grandmother, Martha Carr, is a force to be reckoned with, and Julie's trip back stirs up ghosts from the past as well as skeletons in the present. Someone wants to keep the past buried and prevent Julie and her old flame archaeologist Alan Petranek from uncovering it.

Plot: 3/5 The novel drags a bit. I love the feel of Michaels' books. I get lost in them, and she has a gift of making the book seem as if it is really happening or as if it could happen. I can easily practice the willing suspension of disbelief as I read. Daily life goes on, and strange things break in that her characters must deal with. Living in her novels isn't tough. With that said, the novel has too much filler and not enough plot for my liking. I was still sad when I finished it, though.

Characterization: 5/5 Michaels shines here as she often does. Each character is memorable long after the novel is done. The hero is unconventional and intelligent, rather than a hunky cop or the like (not that there's anything wrong with that, I just get enough Navy Seals, cops, and others in more modern novels, and I think that's one reason I always come back to old gothic romances where the heroes span a universe of careers and types). Old Martha Carr is also well drawn and hard to forget. Even minor characters come alive with Michaels' writing.

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 3/5 The mist curls around the house, the family graveyard is fenced and locked, harrowing scenes from Julie's past are sprinkled throughout, and skeletons abound. This novel is not one of Michaels' scarier ones, though. As I mentioned, there is too much lag time and not enough thrills and chills.

Romance: 3/5 I like the hero, but there isn't a whole lot of romance. As is Michaels' forte, hero and heroine spar and match wits through much of the novel before falling into bed together as we knew they would.

Literary elements: 5/5 Yes. If you like poetry and literature, as usual Michaels uses it to a haunting degree. The Edna St. Vincent Millay poem she focuses on and that is used in part in the title will send a shiver up your spine.

Rating: 3.5+ stars ***.5

I recommend this one. It is not one of my favorites by Michaels, but it has its charms.
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