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Houses of Stone

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,609 Ratings  ·  86 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 January 1st 1993)
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Aug 24, 2016 Eilonwy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is your typical Barbara Michaels -- the heroine goes somewhere away from home, tries to solve a historical mystery of some sort, is affected by possibly supernatural phenomena, and meets men who are into her.

I really enjoyed the mystery in this one, which consisted of trying to identify the pseudonymous female author of a possibly partially autobiographical Gothic romance written in 18th century Virginia and discovered 200 years later in a box from an estate sale. The present-day story pla
May 18, 2012 Carly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
**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
Jun 16, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic, paperback
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
Jan 06, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, fiction, mystery
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
Jan 17, 2017 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, meta-books
4 stars for the exploration of women and literature content, but the modern part of the story was average.
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
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
Feb 07, 2014 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2014 Marian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
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
Nov 01, 2014 Daniela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
"Houses of Stone" was my first book by Barbara Michels, though I am familiar with the Amelia Peabody and Vicky Bliss mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, which I like a lot (at least the first few novels in each series).

Sadly, his one was a disappointment. The heroine is bland as are the other characters and the "mystery" isn't that exciting. I think I have read too much romantic suspense with car chases and bolting horses to be able to appreciate a more mellow mystery. However, in my opinion Michaels
Feb 27, 2010 F rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2007 Tory rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amy  Eller Lewis
Jul 21, 2010 Amy Eller Lewis rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries, gothic
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.
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.
Oct 14, 2008 Ali rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 09, 2009 Delene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rebecca McNutt
This book certainly isn't the best in its genre, but it does offer a very exciting and suspenseful story with loveable characters and a creative plot.
Sep 16, 2007 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  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.
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?
Apr 02, 2015 Elena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Embarrassingly fun read.
May 19, 2015 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, romance, gothic

As a fan of modern gothic fiction-- and Jane Eyre-- I was intrigued by this novel's premise, however the reading experience was not one of unalloyed pleasure.

My patience was tested by the protagonist's unhealthy obsession with feminism, and I could've done with a little more interaction between the annoying "heroine" and the two potential suitors.  If there's a romantic element in a book, the author should really take the time to include some romance.  (Seriously.  So tired of books that sk
Kat Lebo
Aug 11, 2016 Kat Lebo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Houses of Stone
by Barbara Michaels

This was a modern gothic, set in the Bill Clinton administration (how do I know -- on page 141, the main character wears a sweatshirt that "featured the President of the United States, in glowing blue neon, playing a blue saxophone."). All the really gothic elements relate to a Victorian age author and the events of the time, although the spooky old estate house, the cold spots in attic and hallway, and the eerie voices/screams from the nearby clearing take plac
Maggie Craig
Feb 25, 2015 Maggie Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mysterious manuscript surfaces. It appears to be an early American Gothic novel by a previously unknown female writer. Young Professor of English Karen Holloway is tremendously excited by the discovery. Finding a new female American author of the late 1700s/early 1800s could be just what she needs to advance her career in academia.

Karen's not the only scholar who's interested. When she goes to the small town and big old abandoned house way out of that town where she suspects the author of the
Ryan G
Feb 08, 2010 Ryan G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ken Bickley
Jan 25, 2015 Ken Bickley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barbara Mertz, an Egyptologist who also wrote archaeological mysteries set in Egypt under the name Elizabeth Peters, here turns in a gothic novel about a gothic novel under her other pen-name. When a college English literature professor, Karen Holloway, finds a valuable never-published manuscript by an American woman of the early 19th century, a chain of events is set loose that pulls her to an old forbidding mansion in Virginia. Not only is she out of her natural element; her very life is threa ...more
Aug 25, 2015 Keeley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gothic fans who are tolerant of a slow plot
Shelves: cheapthrills
I really enjoyed the Vicky Bliss series by Elizabeth Peters, so I thought I'd try something from her other pseudonym. I didn't really see what the genre distinction was supposed to be, since like Vicky Bliss, the protagonist of this novel is a young and independent woman with a Ph.D. However, apparently there is a pretty serious distinction, because this book was way less interesting and fun than the Vicky Bliss novels. Maybe some of the Barbara Michaels books are great -- recommendations anyone ...more
Judy Hall
May 26, 2013 Judy Hall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good book. The tension stayed at a low-boil all the time. It might have been able to stand more, but it was always in the background. I really appreciated the feminist slant this book had. The heroine is a Professor specializing in women's literature. Throughout the book she laments the lack of respect that women receive as writers. The author showcases dismissive quotes about women's literature. I found it particularly interesting, since this book is 20 years old, and even as I ...more
Oct 19, 2016 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gothic romance is a fun genre for me and this book proved to be a good one by Michaels. As an English lit major, I enjoyed the background story and had met those professors, I am sure. Houses of Stone certainly does show its 1990s roots, but as long as you remember there aren't cell phones and ubiquitous access to the internet, it is easy to sink into the story. I sort of wish that the "found novel" really existed as I think I would have enjoyed it.

There are enough plot twists to keep me going,
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Barbara Michaels was a pen name of Barbara Mertz. She also wrote 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.
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“She loved the smell of books, the feel of books, the look of them on the shelf.” 63 likes
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