I've become a bit blah about my local library. It's woefully small, and if I want something 99% of the time I have to request it in from another locale and then it's in demand so I can only have it for a week. So when perusing the shelves on Thursday begging them to show me something I would like and would not make me cringe with frustration I saw, glowing down on me; A Jude Deveraux Book! I love Jude Deveraux! She wrote The Duchess which was wonderful (When I was in high school, or early college, but I do remember thinking it was wild, weird and had Egyptians and Olde English Titled people in it but I remembered title and author of that one so it must've impressed) So I saw, shining down remember, Someone To Love and I even remembered seeing it on Amazon and folks raved about it*! I'm sure I did.
The Story is about American, Jace Montgomery, who is still grieving the suicide of his fiancee (Where's the fucking accent grave?) these three years. He was blamed for pushing her into a marriage she really didn't want, but he knew she did love him and he loved her and we are left wondering; Hero or Dickhead? But we carry on. One day Jace is rifling through his library when he finds a book with a letter in it, with a picture of an English Estate and an invitation to meet on a certain date, the date before Stacy, the Fiancee, died as it turns out. So Jace makes inquiries into the estate, Priory House. It's for sale - can he rent it? No. Can he come stay in it? No. Ok...can he buy it? Suuuure, Will cost you £4 million, but it does have a ghost in it, that ok? Sure, I'm American and I ain't afraid of no ghost.
Jace decides this ghost thing will play in his favor. While he investigates Stacy's suicide, he'll pretend to be a writer who's researching the ghost. That's a great cover! (Except his first foray into the village he doesn't have so much as a pen to take notes on his hand with. Ever hear of an interviewer who has to run across the street and buy pens, notebooks and order laptop, fax and assorted doohickeys to make one's job plausible?? It's 2002 FFS! A dictaphone man! Pocket recorder! You could've picked one up at Heathrow.)
It's not long before the lady Ghost makes herself known to Jace. Where previously only wee kids could see her (And yet it seems it's the men in the house who get freaked by her and run away. There can be no discrepancies in a Deveraux!) Jace gets to see her quite a bit. And talk to her too. And she shares dreams with him, like portals into her past. He kind of likes her. She's not stuck up, she's rather *cough* feisty.
So Jace, the Prince of Subtle, begins his forays into town and meets the locals. Now, poor man must have "English are Wankers" on his t-shirt become a lot of folks are rather rude to him. They come and bully him with these out-of-nowhere prissy-fits. Huffy much, village types? I can see this of Scottish folks, but the English? They get in a piss-fizzle about nothing? It was stereotyping, and that's never good. (There were a few "English" errors, like saying soda instead of fizzy juice and candy wrappers instead of sweet wrappers.) I was beginning to wonder if Poor Jude had a bad experience at the hand of some local eccentric who played hot and cold with her and she decided to use them in a story - but made them a whole village.) but he does eventually find the local constable who has a few ideas that the suicide in the village a few years back was really a murder.
So after 100 pages we finally get to meet our Heroine; no the ghost wasn't the heroine! Which I was really relived bout because I don't think the dead and the living should be having romantic relations. (I had been worried that "Despondant man falls in love with wronged spirit and they find a love than transcends time and the laws of physics." was going to occur because I find that a bit icky. I've seen The Entity and it scared the crap out of me and ruined the idea of Living and Ghost "doing it", forever. Ghost and Mrs. Muir never shagged, and he waited until she passed away and they went into the light together. It was great. Oh shit, did I just ruin the ending for everyone? Who cares, go watch it.) So Hooray for a real - Living! - Heroine.
She's Feisty (stop it) and Spunky (cut it out) and quick witted (Oh Dear God, please. No more.) and a vile, nasty and mean journalist who just printed a whole paranoid bunch o'lies in the local newspaper about Jace and how he's going to use his American Ways and Wiles to turn Priory house into a Ghost Center and pervert the legends and annoy its townsfolk. Tour buses in your flowerbeds, Annoying tourists and Anarchy In The Village!
Jace confronts her, he's not going to take this laying down! No, he's going to sit. And have Tea. and think, gee she's kind of nice...would she like to come have dinner with me in my big house? Or maybe watch me pull dead ivy vines from the gazebo with my shirt off while my muscled torso is
So, anyways, they have great dialogue and rapport and the mystery of the Dead Fiancee and The Ghosts (There are a few by now) get better and lots of questions are there to be answered. Answers which seem to come: From nowhere. I don't like sudden information. I like information given early in a blase way that becomes critical later on to the point that I have to back track to double check and then think "Ahhh. Damned clever! You ingenious Writer, you." but this was pull shit out their butts kind of answers. I know it's not a long novel, perhaps it was originally planned on being a longer novel but the publishers just wanted a 250 pager, so most of the good stuff was left out in editing leaving a fleshless skeleton. Jude can get forgiveness. On it goes; easy turns, follow the trail, get an answer. Fine. Ok. I get that is isn't supposed to be a challenging novel but an easy read. A Saturday afternoon bit of escapism. A one-star crossword that leaves you feeling a bit smug for getting all the answers quickly and you did it in pen.
But my friends, something shocking happens in the last two pages. Something that should never happen. Something so awful, icky, squicky and "Oh Dear Lord, No!" that I get that tight feeling in my stomach and pinched, pale look on my face. (No it wasn't gas, I assure you) Those last few paragraphs made me think; Who are these people? I thought I knew you! But No, apparently not! OH, and it gets worse...it continues on into an epilogue. And epilogue that made my skin crawl and the cream in my coffee sour. I'll just say: Foursomes with ghosts? I give it a big: Hell No!! (Highlight the space for spoiler.)
I don't know what Jude was trying to do with this, and why it was published "as is" is confusing. Banking on the name? Come on. Was this supposed to be a Mystery come Paranormal come Romance? Too many comes. (Oh here's that dreadful feeling again) Overstretched and underachieved.
* I doubled checked this and no, it wasn't.