Jennifer Crusie is one of my fave authors for romantic comedies with a core of reality. Maybe This Time (St. Martin's Press, 352p, Isbn-0312303785) is a bit different as in there is a strong ghostly element to the story and there are 2 children who are central to the storyline, in addition to the protagonists. And in her own inimitable style, Crusie crafts a spooky tale that's certain to hold readers spellbound.
Ever since divorcing her husband North Archer, Andie Miller has been drifting from place to place, job to job, almost as if running from life. Even her new fiance is unable to settle her down. When Andie goes to North for closure, he sets her an intriguing challenge - to take care of 2 problematic children whose guardianship has fallen to him. They live in a haunted house, behave most erratically and have driven off multiple nannies in hysterics, and things are just starting to get worse.
Telling herself she's going for the sake of the poor orphaned children, Andie arrives to find two very scared kids and a house just about to burst from secrets, both corporeal and incorporeal. To add to the gloomy mess there is a Mrs.Danvers-style sinister housekeeper who takes an instant hatred to Andie and Andie's there-are-no-ghosts and children-come-first attitude and does her best to hamper Andie's plans to take the children back to live with North. For some unknown reason, the children seem to be in this pact as well and kick up a fuss at the mere mention of leaving the house, even though they know they are in constant danger from the ghostly residents of the house.
Before long, Andie begins to realize there may be something valid in their fears after all. That only fortifies her intention to get the children out of the crazed house. Not unsurprisingly, this draws down the wrath of the house on Andie. Is Exorcism the only way left for Andie? How the whole spooky mess gets resolved makes for one ideal, spine-chilling read.
My thoughts - I loved it. The romance element is strong and stands its ground well with the developing familial relationship between Andie and the children. The kids are the most humane part of this story and just stole my heart with their bravery in the face of terrifying danger. So did Andie who, in her own way, is a typical Crusie heroine - plucky, sexy, funny and refreshingly unexpected. North is not that defined, as his presence is most restricted to the beginning and end of the story. But when he does walk into the story, he just takes over. The jealous fiance, a disbelieving scientist, a ticked-off medium, an ambitious TV reporter are just some of the many crazy corporeal characters in the story who add to the chaos, humor and general mayhem. I won't even mention the ghostly inmates, except to say - whoa!
Crusie manages to expertly corral the resulting menagerie of lost souls, tangled hearts and thwarted ambitions to form a story that's as tender as it is scary.
Disclosure - This book was received for review/feature consideration. ----------------------------------------
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