Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TBR Challenge 2009

Title, Author, Publisher: The Ruby Ghost, June Calvin; Signet, January 2006

Genre: Traditional Regency

Series: Not Applicable


Miss Penelope Jones desperately needs a paying job because: a) she sent nearly all of her money to her brother at university and b) she is the oldest of eleven siblings and her parents can’t afford to have her come home. Unfortunately, Miss Jones has a problem: she was let off of her former position without a reference because the husband was mad she denied him sex. She has one last interview this morning. If she isn’t offered the job she has just enough money to buy a ticket at the coaching inn to Wales & her family. Miss Jones has been subject to nightmares ever since she was a child, so she’s tired and cranky when the interview goes badly. It doesn’t help that she makes judgements about her employer without actually knowing him, cannot hold her tongue and speak a civil word to her hoped for employer and then faints in his home upon seeing a painting of a castle identical to the one in her dreams.

James Betterton, Lord Silverthorne, is intrigued by Miss Jones and her claims of recurrent longstanding nightmares about the castle in his painting. He remembers her from the Season: prim and proper and good at her duties, refusing to dance at parties in order to better keep an eye on her charges, now obviously too thin and dressed in tattered clothes. What is she going on about with these claims of recurring bad dreams? Is she a schemer or is she telling the truth? Eventually, against the better judgement of Bartholomew the secretary and finally getting Miss Jones to cave in against her common sense, Lord Silverthorne gets them all to Thorne Hall. He hopes to solve the following riddles: is Miss Jones a fraud or does she really have the same dreams as Lady Silverthorne and will James ever convince Penny he’s not as bad as his reputation implies? Throw in missing relatives, precocious four year olds, meddlesome ghosts, preternatural events within Thorne Hall and you’ve pretty much got the gist of it.


I picked this one out of my TBR pile to read for Keishon’s 2009 TBR Challenge over at Keishon’s blog, Avid Reader. This month’s challenge is supposed to be to pull out a category, ie: HQN romance, and review it. However, I don’t read HQN categories because they’re just too short and I rarely read contemporaries anyway. I do love traditional regencies, that almost extinct breed, and so I pulled one out for this month’s challenge. I don’t remember buying it, so I can’t say what got my attention. I like ghosts and traditional regencies, so I guess I must’ve hoped the combination would pay off. I do wish Ms. Calvin had been better able to balance the paranormal/ghost aspects with the traditional regency rules and structure. Among the other problems, this book came across as traditional regency lite, paranormal/ghost heavy. Ms. Calvin's website describes this as "a romp" but I surely didn't find it so.

I’ve never read a June Calvin book before; unfortunately, I’m unsure if I’d do so again in a short format. There are too many plot threads in this little book. The format is too short for so many complicated weavings. I found Penelope Jones presented as a woman who will nearly starve herself to death for her family, yet one who also jeopardizes her chance at employment by making snap judgements about people based on rumors. She’s also shortsighted enough not to see that her own shortcoming, ie: making snap judgements, is reflected in the older Thorne family hangers on and retainers. I felt she was cold and lacked chemistry with James. James on the other hand is a pretty good guy: a little wild in the past, helpful, devoted to his family, loves children, loyal to those he believes in. Yet we are to believe James and Penelope managed to fall in love without having private speech with each other except about the ghosts and/or other family members.

Historical paranormals aren’t very common, particularly in the short and structured traditional regency format. If I were to come across more of these in the bookstore or UBS I’m likely to try them.

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