Thursday, November 02, 2006

Title: The Dancing Floor
Author: Barbara Michaels
Published: 1997, HarperCollins
Category: Mystery/ Romantic Suspense
Rating: 7/10

I'm having trouble deciding on the category for this. What are the Barbara Michaels books? Sort of gothic suspense. Romantic suspense. Mystery. They don't fit neatly into any genre I can come up with. Anyway, I've read a few of this author's Amelia Peabody mysteries, written under the pseudonym Elizabeth Peters, and liked them, so I decided to give this a try.

Heather Tradescant is traveling through England touring gardens. She had planned to go on the trip with her father, but on his death, she decided to make the trip alone. The action begins when Heather arrives at Troyton House, whose garden she particularly wanted to see because an ancestor of hers was the gardener who designed it. But the new owners, eccentric millionaire Frank Karim and his son Jordan, don't permit visitors. She goes looking for a back way in and finds a spooky maze. As she rushes out of the maze frightened, she comes upon Frank and Jordan. Frank takes a liking to her and has the odd idea that a descendent of the original landscape architect is just the person to help him restore the gardens, so he persuades her to stay on for a while to help.

I do like Michaels/Peters style of writing. It's very neat and clean and straightforward, if that makes sense. And her sarcastic sense of humor is funny to me. Her characters are like normal people. With lots of flaws. Sometimes irritable and not very nice. Once when Jordan is trying to discuss something with Heather he says, "You see, you're the only one I can talk to. You do seem to have the rudiments of a logical mind."

But I have to say I didn't love this. The mystery seemed a bit tepid. Not quite as gripping as I would have liked. I was horrible and read the last page first (I hardly ever do this, but I was trying to figure out whether there was any romance involved). And as I was getting near to the end, I kept asking myself, how is she going to get there from here?! The romance was a little abrupt. Again, if I hadn't known who Heather was going to end up with, I wouldn't have guessed at all. I would have liked to see a little more development there.

But I'm not giving up on Michaels. I'm going to try another, because though this particular story didn't do much for me, I think that others of hers will work better for me.


jmc said...

The romance development in the Michaels' books tends to be a little...abrupt. Yeah, abrupt, that's the word. There's a HEA, sort of, but not much time is spent getting to it, just -BAM!- there it is. But I still love her Stitches in Time, despite this.

Rosario said...

LOL, yeah, I have HUGE trouble filling in my Reads spreadsheet when I read a Barbara Michaels. I often end up going with Fiction, just to avoid a headache.

Anyway, like you, I liked this one, but didn't love it. She has much, much better books, especially her paranormals.

BTW, one thing I always did love about The Dancing Floor is how Heather reads romance novels, and she even surprises Jordan with some of the things she's learned from them! :-)

nath said...

I think I've borrowed this one at the library, but never got around to read it, because it seems so blah... might give it another chance tho... thanx for the review!

Jennie said...

jmc--I like a little more to my HEA usually! But maybe if I can just wrap my head around the idea that these aren't romance, I can enjoy them as mysteries. I'll give Stitches in Time a try.

Rosario--Yes, I loved that about Heather! And when she's first at Troyton and she has no books with her and she has to go looking around for one because she can't NOT have a book to read. Sounds familiar. :p

Nath--You should give Michaels another go. Though this might not be the best one to start with... :)