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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