Houses of Stone
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Houses of Stone

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,230 ratings  ·  59 reviews
It is a find of inestimable value for Karen Holloway. The battered manuscript she holds in her hand—written in the nineteenth century and bearing the mysterious attribution "Ismene"—could prove a boon to the eager young English professor's career. But Karen's search for the author's true identity is carrying her into the gray shadows of the past, to places fraught with dan...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 27th 2009 by Harper (first published 1993)
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Carly
**edited 12/04/13

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, sh...more
Amy
Barbara Michaels is my favorite lazy-day author. I love the subtle mysteries and the occasional paranormal elements and the inevitable autobiographical spunky old side-kick, but most of all, the ridiculous romantic elements.

There are painfully slow and small developments throughout all the stories -- two men, and you aren't sure which one is the hero or which one is the devious ne'er-do-well until the last few pages of the book. Then the heroine and the hero, after only a few sprinkled paragraph...more
Psmith
It was a veritable treat to read this book. I just devoured all the tidbits about the early female authors who had to suffer a lot at the hands of their male chauvinistic counterparts. I positively hate Nathaniel Hawthorne for his viewpoint and would NEVER EVER read a book by him again. The crux of the story is the race to own an 18th century hitherto unpublished manuscript written about a mysterious lady called "Esmene". The main protagonist, Karen Holloway is literally chased by her counterpar...more
Margaret
This is one of Michaels' later efforts and unfortunately in many ways not one of her better ones. The plot always hooks me quickly, because it has to do with the discovery by an English professor of a long-lost Gothic novel by a 19th-century woman, which is an intrinsically interesting subject for me.

However, the plot Michaels constructs around the discovery of the novel simply doesn't live up to her usual standards of suspense, nor does the romantic intrigue. Still, the characters are engaging...more
Marian
I'm a sucker for stories-within-stories, and for mysteries with their origins far enough back in the dusty past that you need a genealogical chart to help keep things straight. I think part of my fascination is with how the past affects/informs the now--but maybe it doesn't? The answer to that depends on who the author is, of course, but I like looking over the shoulder of someone working through that philosophical conundrum.

This book is also fun because it serves as a mini-history of the Gothic...more
Kathy Jackson
I'm afraid it took me longer than I thought it would to get through this book. I love Barbara Michaels but this one just didn't grab me like most her books do. I wasn't overly crazy about Karen and found the fight between the sexes a bit overdone.

Karen's character didn't seem all that deep to me - I don't know - I just couldn't relate to her at all. The gothic horror and mystery surrounding the manuscript was what kept me reading till the end.

This isn't one of Michaels best but it isn't horrib...more
F
For entertaining, enjoyable reads, there are MANY published gothics that are better than "Houses of Stone". At times, I thought of the book as a documentary analysis of early gothics. Once during the book, Peggy told Karen "okay, I've had enough of that spiel". (I was thinking like Peggy.) One of the points Barbara Michaels made in the book was that early female writers were not respected for their talents, and I didn't know that Hawthorne was so vicious with his pen in that area. I saw several...more
Tory
I liked this book. Probably not so much to consider it one of the best ever, but it entertained me and appealed to me in many ways.

There were all kinds of early American literature references and comparisons, lots of intelligent dialogue and an interesting plot - the finding of an unidentified manuscript from the early 1800’s and the search to find the author.

The main character was quite unlikeable. She wasn’t nice to anyone and was more feminist than I can appreciate. I’m alright with feminis...more
Louise
It is not often that I come to a book with absolutely no prior knowledge of its content or have never heard of the author. I even had trouble getting hold of it, there being no copies in any Swansea library so I had to buy it from AbeBooks. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked on Houses of Stone. I did so because it was a friend's choice for February's book group.

I suppose you could call it an adventure story, though a rather tame one. Think Indiana Jones but with less peril and with...more
Amy  Eller Lewis
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.
Beth
What I really love about the later Barbara Michaels' books is that you learn something while you read a great story. In this book I learned about early women writers... my mother in law reccomended this and I read it in only a few days. I could NOT put this book down. Already she is up on my list of favorite authors.
Ali
This is a bit corny, but I thought this was a fun read. A bit spooky with fun characters. The main character is a literature professor who specializes in gothic novels. This story is a bit of a gothic novel itself, but the characters acknowledge it and kind of make fun their situation.
Delene
Take an English Lit Professor, a new author, and a new undiscovered manuscript, and the fun begins. It is a Gothic mystery within a mystery. I greatley enjoyed the book. Barbara Michaels has been one of my favorite authors through the last 20 years.
Melinda
Three and a half stars. A good fun mystery and a lot of Gothic novel references. How can you not love a book that keeps talking about Jane Eyre?
Jennifer
Sep 16, 2007 Jennifer rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of gothic fiction
This book was like a poor man's version of Possession. A real page-turner, well-researched, but it's never going to be studied in a literature class.
Ryan G
This was my first Barbara Michaels book and I'm so mad at myself for not reading her earlier. This book hit all the right notes as far as atmosphere and character development. While I was reading the book I found myself getting lost in the serach for Ismene's real identity. I found myself jumping at the wailing heard in the woods, my heart started to beat a little faster when Karen's aparment caught fire and she had to jump for it. I anticipated every clue that Karen dug up about Ismene and her...more
Julie
This was a 1993 publication. Barbara was on her soapbox a little bit in this one. But, I did like most of what she had to say here. Each chapter began with a quote, most having to do with attitudes toward female authors back in the 17-1800's. The quotes by Nathaniel Hawthorne were particularly snarky.
So, the premise here is that a manuscript has been unearthed that could be worth a fortune. Karen is summoned by her old friend Simon to look at the manuscript. Karen was responsible in part for th...more
Catherine Siemann
I read about this book on writer Sarah Rees Brennan's "gothic Tuesdays" on her blog, and she was so funny and charming about it that I decided I needed to read it. It's a gothic (in the sense of the popular genre of the 1960s and 1970s) about a gothic (in the sense of a rediscovered manuscript of a novel in the original gothic genre of the late 18th/early 19th cs), and it has feminist English professors running about trying to find out more about mysterious rediscovered manuscripts of potentiall...more
Tracey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sherri Dub
I feel as if I need say (nothing) as this is written by the highly talented, Barbara Michaels.
But, I will do my best, in short summary.
I really felt connected to the main character, Karen, as I read this while I was studying for my BA in Anthro in Alaska. It was exciting to compare the heroine's research methods with my own.
Each page is a treasure.
I love all of Ms. Michaels classic barbs and sparring dialogues between the always in-danger heroine and the on-hand hero that emerges to become a ro...more
LJ
HOUSES OF STONE - Good
Michaels, Barbara - standalone

English professor Karen Holloway stumbles upon the find of a lifetime: a battered, faded manuscript, the "lost masterpiece" of a 19th-century poet called Ismene. While racing against other scholars to bring Ismene's true identity to light, she is haunted by a tormented voice screaming out to her from the Virginia woods.

It was well written, but I keep expecting more from her books. More suspense, romance...something.
Alexandra K
This is a novel about a recently-discovered gothic novel that uses the conventions of a gothic novel in order to solve the mystery of the afore-mentioned novel's authorship. There is an old house, family secrets, small-minded townsfolk, and somebody who is maybe trying to prevent the main character from doing her job. There is more emphasis on female friendship than romance, and the main character is a grouchy feminist.

So basically I *really* enjoyed this.
Kati
This was a solid book but nothing really stood out for me. The plot seemed fairly generic... Girl finds book by mysterious female author, girl travels to potential home of authoress, girl thwarts villain and reveals the truth about the books. I did enjoy reading this book and still cannot believe that Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels are the same person. This book is worth a read but probably not spending a lot of time and money trying to find it.
Marley
This book was very dated (three piece suits?) and was shocked it was published in '93. I was thinking more like '73. A LOT of talk about women's lib. That really wasn't the issue. The main character was so unlikeable. She scowled, sulked, and never once did anything besides be miserable and hate on everyone for the 100+ pages I was able to get through. This read like a bad romance novel. Could not continue...just didn't seem worth it.
Jamie Rosen
I found Karen to be a rather petulant protagonist, but it wasn't offputting because everyone else in the book was so well-drawn that I never felt like Michaels was giving her behaviour tacit approval. The mystery was engaging, and despite the expectations of the cover and back text, it was actually a fairly light-hearted book. I'll definitely be trying more of Michaels' books in the future.
Chris Wolak
This was a fun book to read--full of feisty feminist academics and crazy southerners--that has, at its core, a serious subject matter: the subjugation of women writers. The characters were delightful, the plot was believable (even the haunted house aspect), and the women's history lesson was a seamless part of the storyline.
Dark-Draco
This is the first book I've read by this author and I loved it. A mystery with a supernatural edge to it, old books and gothic mansions. It's well written and the pace is just right, although the identity of the mysterious author, Ismene, seemed to suddenly appear out of nowhere. Or maybe I missed a page somewhere!
Jellicle
As a long time fan, this is another (like The Dancing Floor) that took several reads to fully appreciate the characters and the creepiness of the story. As always, when Michaels tackles a new theme (old roses, jewelry, fabric etc) she does her homework and really brings it to life.
Tacey
This novel moved a little too slowly for my taste. It was loosely a modern day gothic tale about a literature professor researching an unpublished gothic tale by a mysterious female writer. Several of the supporting characters were better written than the heroine.
Betsy
The climax of this book was a huge disappointment. Plus it was very slow moving. I only finished it because I've read quite a few BM books and they are typically way better than this. I kept hoping it would be worth the read. It wasn't.
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Barbara Michaels is a pen name of Barbara Mertz. She also writes as Elizabeth Peters, as well as under her own name.

She was born in Canton, Illinois and has written over fifty books including some in Egyptology. Dr. Mertz also holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Egyptology.
More about Barbara Michaels...
Stitches in Time (Georgetown, #3) Ammie, Come Home (Georgetown, #1) The Dancing Floor Smoke and Mirrors Vanish with the Rose

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“She loved the smell of books, the feel of books, the look of them on the shelf.” 41 likes
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