Shattered Silk

by Barbara Michaels

Excellent re-read. I hadn’t remembered who the bad guys were or why Karen and her friends were being attacked. Nor the reason for the break-ins or what they were looking for. So I was as surprised as Karen when all was made clear. A shocking motive and a real suspenseful action packed scene capped the novel and a satisfactory happy ending for all. The exposure to the world of vintage clothing, particularly the value of Worth couture, has stuck with me over the years. I only wish Barbara M. would have fashioned -no pun intended- a satisfactory justice for Karen’s scummy ex-husband. On to the the 3rd and final of the Georgetown trilogy. **4.5stars out of 5**

November 2, 2017

Ammie, Come Home

by Barbara Michaels

After re-reading Witch, my interest in Barbara Michaels was reignited. I remembered a movie of the week based on Ammie Come Home and watched it on You Tube. I then , of course, had to reread the book. An added attraction for me to jump it to the head of the line in my TBR list was the fact that there are 2 other books featuring Pat and Ruth, the gracious couple in Ammie.

Ammie is much spookier than Witch, which was really more about small town religious prejudices and insularity rather than the paranormal. I enjoyed it very much. The mystery concerning the who and why of the haunting, I of course knew. I remembered most of it, but of course the movie, which is unfortunately titled, The House That Would not Die, stayed true to the plot. The romance of Pat and Ruth had just the right amount of attention, as did the secondary romance of Bruce and Sara. Ruth is a very similar character to Ellen in Witch, but Pat could not be more different than John. He is one of Barbara Michaels’ more delightful and well-drawn heroes.

Most of the book concerns powwows around the dinner table, and research into the history of the house in the days before computers and social media. They actually had to go to the library and pour through old books and documents all day long. I loved the debates and discussions, the tension between the two generations, and conflicting schools of thought. But it was the convivial family atmosphere, relationships among the principals, and the slow unfolding of the mystery that really drew me in. I was right there and part of it. This book was written 50 years ago now, in 1968. Barbara was just coming into her own. I loved being taken back in time to my high school years. The book is soaked in the attitudes, fashions, and concerns of the liberal and intellectual elite. And as such, some might call it dated, or might not be able to relate. But I loved this reminder of how life used to be in certain circles. It was almost like a fairytale! **5 stars out of 5**

October 20, 2017

Stitches in Time

by Barbara Michaels

***Many Spoilers throughout****
While listening to this audio version of an old favorite, I remembered the plot vividly since my first reading which was probably decades ago. Rachel is finishing up her doctoral dissertation when she is drawn in to helping out at a vintage clothing shop – and is perhaps possessed by the spirit of a long-dead woman whose unparalleled skill at quilting conceals a darker history.

I closed Stitches in Time contemplating what I had finished and thought, “That was a great book.” I had remembered it being my least favorite of the so-called Georgetown Trilogy, from my first, and, I think, only read more than 2 decades ago. I remembered being surprised and dismayed at Kara’s personality change and less than blissful marriage with Mark after the seemingly happy ending of Shattered Silk. But upon this reread, I thought it added depth and character development, especially since they seemed to be back in love and in good humor at the end.

I’m a little disconcerted by all the hate for Rachel and Kara in some of the other reviews. Some readers seem to ignore the fact that Rachel is being negatively influenced by the quilt through almost 90% of the book. At first I was confused by what was happening, so smoothly integrated are the times when Rachel is being influenced by the entity from the past. The grip gets stronger and stronger, until we both fear for our heroine, but also fear what she is up to. When all is made clear and resolved, shouldn’t the reader like and be sympathetic to her? She even admits, towards the end, that she has been sulky and immature with her mother,which was a separate issue from the quilt. And Kara. She is very abrasive at the beginning. But I think she senses that something is wrong and is reacting accordingly. I too was disappointed by her attitude towards her husband Mark at the beginning, but all is well at the end, and she comes through with flying colors once Rachel and she confide in each other and become comrades in arms. I loved the development of their relationship and the insights we get into her personality. It made for one of Michael’s most satisfying and fully developed endings. (Sometimes her books end with just a hope and hint for the future and leave one wishing for an epilogue or at least one or two more pages.) I was also amazed and satisfied by the final reveal and the explanation for the whole mystery.

A word about Adam. Maybe I am forgetting some beloved appealing heroes, but Adam has got to be my favorite love interest in all of Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. Maybe in one of my Top ten of all authors. What a beautifully described and realized character. I always love an unconventional hero, and Adam is the ultimate. And I love how their love story plays out at the conclusion, when we catch up with the 3 couples months later. Very satisfying to see him finally loved and appreciated as he deserves.

Near the climax of the action, Rachel contemplates

“there was no such thing a coincidence or accident. Every event, however random in appearance formed part of a design too vast and too alien to be comprehended by limited human understanding. Events that were, on the surface, unimportant and meaningless-Rachel’s choice of thesis topic, Tony’s decision to respond to a call he should never have answered-these and a dozen other strands in the web led inexorably toward a nexus in time when the invisible hands of the weaver would draw the threads tight and complete the pattern. It had been predestined and foreordained….”

I find this pretty powerful stuff. There is a suggestion that the quilt and it’s maker are still influencing the 3 couples still, only now in a good way. For example, Mark’s loving concern regarding Kara’s pregnancy, causes him to look with suspicion upon Mrs. Grossmuller(from Shattered Silk! Hi, Mrs. Grossmuller!), who uncannily included beautiful vintage baby clothes in her last delivery. Kara wonders if her friends had told Mark about the “quilt business.” Since the normally super-rational and skeptical Mark had said something about the “evil eye”. Several other happy circumstances are discussed, and Kara mentions the hair which was part of forensic evidence to convict Rocky. “Hair again,” Kara murmured. “Ironic these coincidences…”It’s like justice on the family is still being fashioned by the unseen entity. Finally the last line in the novel describing the plot where they laid the quilt to rest: “ Out in the garden purple and golden crocuses and the small blue flowers called “glory-of-the-snow” covered a certain spot like living patchwork.” All is now right with the world. A fitting and lovely conclusion to the Georgetown trilogy and people that live there. **5 out of 5 stars**

August 28, 2017

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor

by Eve Chase

Fourteen months ago, Rita had never been to London. But she’d dreamed of it longingly, the Rita she might be there, far away from Torquay, everything that had happened. And the metropolitan family—just like the Darlings in Peter Pan—who’d embrace her as their own.

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor is an absorbing family drama with decidedly Gothic overtones. A young innocent girl takes on the position of Nanny to a very troubled family and finds herself in an old isolated house in the middle of a dark wood. She is beset with danger and romance while trying to protect and nurture her charges. The story is told by Rita the Nanny, Hera, one of the children, and a 47-year-old woman named Sylvie, whose place in the story is not revealed until about a fifth of the way in and told almost 50 years later, in modern-day. It is when I got the connection of Sylvie to one of the other main characters that the novel started to really take off for me. I could not put it down. There is a revelation or a clue in every chapter as to the secrets and the ties that weave together the dramatis personae from the past to the people we meet in Sylvie’s time. But this is not a romance. The romance just functions as the means to ensure a satisfying and fulfilled life for one of the survivors of the tragedies of the past. Towards the end, so many mysteries are solved and connections revealed that my mind was reeling. Some I saw coming, and some I didn’t. A perfect mix, for me! Just when you think you have all the answers, there is another Piece de Resistance.

In addition to a complex intriguing plot, superb character building, and creation of atmosphere, the writing was excellent despite an over-reliance on similes and metaphors. I have to mention that because, for me, it became intrusive and a distraction. I Would highly recommend this to anyone who loves the old Romantic Suspense novels, especially the great Barbara Michaels. It is deeper, darker, more multilayered, and minus the spooks and the humor, but I think the author has built on her legacy. **5 stars out of 5**

September 17, 2020