My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart

My Brother MichaelMy Brother Michael
by Mary Stewart
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: May 26, 1959
Genre: fiction, gothic romance, romance
Project: halloween bingo

Camilla Haven is on holiday alone, and wishes for some excitement. She had been sitting quietly in a crowded Athens cafe writing to her friend Elizabeth in England, "Nothing ever happens tome..."

Then, without warning, a stranger approached, thrust a set of car keys at her and pointed to a huge black touring car parked at the curb. "The car for Delphi, mademoiselle... A matter of life and death," he whispered and disappeared.

From that moment Camilla her life suddenly begins to take off when she sets out on a mysterious car journey to Delphi in the company of a charming but quietly determined Englishman named Simon Lester. Simon told Camilla he had come to the ancient Greek ruins to "appease the shadeā€¯ of his brother Michael, killed some fourteen years earlier on Parnassus. From a curious letter Michael had written, Simon believed his brother had stumbled upon something of great importance hidden in the craggy reaches of the mountainside. And then Simon and Camilla learned that they were not alone in their search...

The ride was Camilla's first mistake... or perhaps she unintentionally had invoked the gods. She finds herself in the midst of an exciting, intriguing, yet dangerous adventure. An extraordinary train of events turned on a nightmare of intrigue and terror beyond her wildest daydreams.

I am a fan of old-school gothic romance/romantic suspense, sometimes in spite of myself. I’ve read a ton of Phyllis Whitney, a fair amount of Victoria Holt, and several of Barbara Michaels gothic romance reissues. I grew up on these books – I remember pulling the paperbacks off of my mom’s bookshelves, with their luridly appealing covers featuring young women in diaphanous gowns running from brooding mansions backlit by moonlight, and reading them deep into the night.

And then there is Mary Stewart. Somehow, Mary Stewart always seems just a tiny bit upscale, compared to the other practitioners of mid-century romantic suspense. I don’t recall reading so many of her novels, although I do remember picking up and reading her Arthurian trilogy around the time that it was published.

A few years ago Hodder & Stoughten reissued her entire back catalog for kindle. I had been keeping my eye out for them for a few years – The Crystal Cave and the other Arthurian books came out on kindle briefly, but there must have been confusion about the rights, because they disappeared, although not until after I had bought them for my kindle library. However, in around 2017, the rest of her romantic suspense catalog showed up in the U.S. kindle store for between $1.99 and $3.99 a book. I bought the whole caboodle, much like I did when Georgette Heyer’s regency romances went on sale, and I’ve been reading them ever since.

This one was a middling Stewart for me. I think my favorite is still The Moonspinners, and book which I have not reviewed here, but will at some point, when I indulge in a reread. My Brother Michael is also set in Greece – Delphi, to be specific.

It follows the Mary Stewart formula, which involves a young, somewhat ingenuous young woman who is travelling abroad alone. She becomes embroiled in some sort of local intrigue, also involving a love interest of a similar age. The settings are always very beautiful and are a very important part of the story, and there is always some sort of mystery to solve, which puts our young heroine in peril. This one hearkens back to some old WWII secrets from the Greek resistance.

Even with the formula, these books are so much fun to read. Mary Stewart is an accomplished writer and I always enjoy her books.

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