Friday, October 13, 2006

Title: The Shadowy Horses
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Published: 1999, Jove
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 9/10

This author caught my eye on Rosario's blog because she compares her books to Barbara Michaels (who I've never read, but I've read her Elizabeth Peters books and liked them) and Mary Stewart, who is the GODDESS of the classic, old-fashioned romantic suspense novel and one of my favorite authors of all time. And it's set on an archaeological dig and I love archaeology, so I was completely sold on getting this book.

Verity Grey is a curator and archaeological artifacts supervisor. She is hired to work on a site in Scotland which the head archaeologist, Peter Quinnell, believes to be where the mysterious 9th Roman legion met their demise. This would be a find of some importance, so Verity is of course very interested. But when she arrives there, she finds out that Peter is basing his hypothesis on the fact that a psychic 10-year-old sees the ghost of a Roman legion pacing the fields there. At first Verity doesn't believe it--but soon she starts seeing things she can't explain.

This is every archaeologist's dream! To be able to communicate with an inhabitant of the site you're excavating? To know the name of the person who wore the artifact you uncover, to know exactly what happened to that person and how they felt? AWESOME! Figuring out the stories of the real, everyday people who lived in the past is what always interested me most about archaeology and this book really captures that. And all the archaeological details were handled well and were so interesting (to me, anyway!).

It did feel a lot like a Mary Stewart book (not quite as good, but close which is saying a lot as I love ALL Stewart books). Mary Stewart never did any ghost stories, but the tone of the writing I thought very similar. There's a slightly old-fashioned feeling to it, and I mean that in a good way. The ghost story was just a little creepy without being too scary. The love story is subtle but so sweet. Kearsley is of the implied sex scene school of writers. You know, they go into the bedroom together and they look into each other's eyes and smile and the chapter ends. Then the next day they feel just fabulous. *wink, wink*

There were a couple of tiny rough bits in this (like the part with Fabia at the end I thought was way abrupt and odd), but I can easily overlook them because I so liked the story and characters. It makes me sad that this book has gone out of print because it's really lovely.

My library has one Kearsley book still in circulation, Season of Storms, so I've requested that. I'm going to have to try to find used copies of her other books.

I also picked up a Barbara Michaels book to try. Does anyone know if her books have any romance in them? Or are they straight ghost stories/mysteries?


Rosario said...

Oh, hey, that's great! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I agree with everything you say. Even with what you thought were the rough bits, but like you, I found it easy to not let them bother me.

And what did you think of the language? One of the things I liked best about this one was how Kearsley wrote the speech of the Scottish characters. She didn't go overboard with the phonetic rendering of the accents, and yet I could hear their accent in my head. All in the way they built their sentences, I guess.

Season of Storms is very good, and you'll probably won't have much trouble getting Named of the Dragon. Mariana and The Splendour Falls are more HTF, though, and her earliest books, Undertow and The Gemini Game, impossible to get (unless you're willing to pay about $100 each, that is). BTW, she's just had another book out as Emma Cole... more of an old-fashioned thriller, from what I've heard.

As for Barbara Michaels, yes, she usually has some kind of romantic thread in her books. They tend to be on the subtle side, but very nice. Which book did you get?

Jennie said...

I did like the accents in this. You're right, they are very well done and she obviously must have done a lot of research, because the author is Canadian, I think? I got quite swoony over David's brogue--Scottish men are fine! ;)

The Michaels book I got is The Dancing Floor. It appears to be about a haunted garden and a girl named Heather. And I'm awful and just read the last page and there is some romance. YAY!

Kristie (J) said...

I tried reading this one - specially when the book store clerk told me she was a local girl (along with Kelly Armstrong - we are just awash here with good authors) but I just couldn't really get into it. I didn't dislike it, it just didn't hold my interest all that much.

Rosario said...

Oh, yes, I remember that one, and it's good. Not my favourite of hers, but good, anyway.

jmc said...

I thought The Dancing Floor was okay -- I liked the idea of a mystery set around a hedge maze. My favorite Michaels' books are Stitches in Time and Shattered Silk.