Books by Barbara Michaels

THE DANCING FLOOR by Barbara Michaels
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 1, 1997

After some 25 novels, Michaels (Houses of Stone, 1993, etc. etc.) by now has got her routine down pat, and this latest is no different: It won't knock your socks off, but the intrigue just won't quit. American schoolteacher Heather Tradescent's plan to travel to England to visit the country's historic gardens with her parents is cut short when the two die in a car accident. Heather, who was especially close to her father, is in her mid-20s and, now, virtually alone in the world. In an attempt to aid her emotional recovery and follow through on her father's desire to explore the gardens, she decides to make the trip by herself; with substantial insurance money in hand, she sets out on what is initially a very lonely journey. The trip proves so depressing, in fact, that she decides to return home after one last stop: Troytan House, an estate once owned by a man named Tradescent, who may have been her ancestor. The town, as Heather quickly discovers, is obsessed with a supposed case of witchcraft and, in particular, with a witch named ``Old Demdike.'' When Heather finds her way into Troytan House by way of an overgrown, ominous maze, she, too, becomes swept up in the witchcraft craze. Troytan House's current owner, the wealthy and eccentric Frank Karim, persuades Heather that she should stay and help him restore the grounds to their former 17th- century glory; a garden-lover in her own right, Heather can't turn down the offer. Meanwhile, secondary characters are each more mysterious and unpredictable than the other: caretaker Sean; Frank's son Jordan; the next-door neighbors, the Betancourts and Frank's friend Jennetall know a good deal more about witching than they let on. The supernatural stuff never gets silly or overblown, while Michaels's own subtle touch lends an effective air of spookiness to an intriguing study of a woman's coming into her own. ($100,000 ad/promo) Read full book review >
HOUSES OF STONE by Barbara Michaels
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 5, 1993

Reminiscent of A.S. Byatt's Possession, though less lofty, Michaels's latest (Vanish With the Rose, etc.) sets a feminist literary scholar chasing after the origins of an 18th-century manuscript on a Virginia estate—and finding unexpected romance along the way. English professor Karen Holloway is thrilled to come upon a novel by a mysterious early American writer who identified herself only as ``Ismene.'' Karen had begun to make her academic reputation when she discovered and edited a book of Ismene's poetry. Now she recognizes the chance for a scholarly coup. She traces the provenance of the manuscript to an old, decrepit estate in Tidewater Virginia, owned by the handsome, melancholy Cameron Hayes, then takes an apartment in the neighboring town to use as base camp for her explorations. Karen is subjected to the nosy intrusions of her landlady, who ropes her into giving a talk to the local ladies' literary club—but the old woman gets more than she bargained for when Karen mischievously chooses as her topic ``The Pen as Penis.'' Meanwhile, other English professors have caught the scent of a literary discovery and converge upon the town hoping to beat Karen out in bringing to light Ismene's true identity. Quickly it becomes clear that this will be a gloves-off competition: Karen is attacked in her apartment, nearly run over, and stalked. Her search is also impeded by eerie supernatural events: every time she approaches an old stone bunker in the woods near the estate's main house, a disembodied scream rings out, scaring her witless. Adding to the suspense is a question: Will the bristly Karen allow herself to be won over by either of the two men vying for her affections- -the taciturn Cameron Hayes and the slick rival scholar Bill Meyers? It never gets the pulse pounding, but it's diverting—with a refreshingly intelligent and unstereotypical heroine. Read full book review >
VANISH WITH THE ROSE by Barbara Michaels
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 1, 1992

Bestselling Michaels (Into the Darkness, 1990, etc., etc.) piles on the whipped cream but forgets the cake in this latest foray into romantic suspense—a contemporary cozy in which credibility is cheerfully sacrificed on the altar of whimsy and lace. There's something fishy about Diana Reed, the old-rose expert hired by a pair of former professors who've bought an 18th-century mansion in the Virginia countryside: Reed seems to know nothing about plants. Not that the trusting and house-obsessed Nicholsons notice; in fact, after a couple of days tramping the grounds with her newest employee, Emily Nicholson takes her husband off on a cross-country rose-hunting trip, conveniently freeing Reed from her watchful presence for the remainder of the book. For Diana, this situation is perfect: in real life a successful young attorney, she's come to the mansion to search for her missing brother (last seen working as a handyman for the estate's previous owner)- -prompted by strange psychic visions that feature danger, murder, and what seems to be a passionate Romeo-and-Juliet-style romance. Left alone in the house with Andy, Emily's dilettante son; Walt, a rugged-but-compassionate contractor; and Mary Jo, overworked housekeeper and ex-battered wife, Reed must sort out whether her increasingly frequent visions are a centuries-old psychic legacy or her brother's attempt to communicate from beyond the grave. Meanwhile, all present must weather such gothic conventions as a secret chamber behind the fireplace, a violent ex-husband lurking about the grounds, the psychological intrusions of Reed's neurasthenic mother and cold-as-nails lawyer father, and of course a heavy dose of ghostly whispers, nudges, and music-box-playing- -before the murderer of Diana's brother is found, the four young people can fall into one another's arms, and the elderly Nicholsons can return to gasp, amazed, at such astonishing goings-on. Silly dialogue and a sketchy plot make this a very undemanding treat—suited for summer-garden reading with a cup of tea at hand. Read full book review >
AMMIE, COME HOME by Barbara Michaels
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 11, 1968

At one point in this door-creaking vehicle one character observes that "The house is really turned on tonight!" And turn on it does, with black evil THINGs in the basement, a WASP dybbuk, feathery calls in the night, moving draperies. Caught up in all the terrestrial racket are widowed Ruth, her niece Sara, middle-aged professor Pat and Sara's fiance, Bruce—all plotting and researching in Ruth's haunted Georgetown, Washington, D.C., house. The fantastic four spend anxious hours there, while first Sara, then Pat and Bruce are possessed—then back to the old drawing board at Pat's untenanted digs to unravel the meaning of the latest sortie of the spirits. Turns out that former 18th-century inhabitants—father, daughter and lover—had accomplished a battle ending in two murders. The dauntless 20th-century pairs finally put all ghosts to rest. Old spirits in old bottles. Read full book review >