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Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Crusie’

At one point in Jennifer Crusie’s new novel Maybe This Time, Andie is on the phone with her fiance Will, a good guy who is nevertheless the wrong guy for her because the right guy is always going to be her ex, attorney North Archer. But Andie has yet to figure that out as she tries to convince Will she can’t talk now because she’s really, really busy.

” ‘Look, my plate’s a little full today.’ I’ve got a TV reporter, a ghost expert, a wack-job housekeeper, two disturbed children, homicidal ghosts, and a seance this afternoon. ‘I have to go.’ ”

I have to admit that I would never have thought of pairing contemporary romance superstar Crusie with long-dead literary lion Henry James, but her spin on the classic The Turn of the Screw is wicked fun. James might be turning over in his grave, but he and literary purists should know that Crusie, who has advanced degrees in literature, feminist theory and writing, loves the original story and and used to teach it before she became a best-selling author. She knows her way around a Gothic, and her homage to James also includes references to Poe, Du Maurier and other great haunted-house tale-tellers.

But she puts her own stamp on the proceedings from the very beginning by subbing smart, snarky Andi Miller for James’ nameless, nervous governess. Andi, as a last favor to North, chained to his desk at the family firm (why she left him 10 years ago), agrees to look after his distant, orphaned cousins, who have already been through three nannies at their creepy old mansion in back-of-beyond southern Ohio. 

Andi arrives like a breath of fresh air at the dusty, cheerless house being run by Mrs. Crumb, a Mrs. Danvers/Dickensian creature who spikes the tea and neglects her odd young charges, Carter and Alice.  Winning their trust won’t be easy, but Andi immediately calls North to order cable TV, computers, a handyman and a cleaning service.  She discovers that solemn, serious Carter likes to draw and that Alice likes to decorate, especially with sparkles.

Crusie’s tale sparkles, too, as three ghosts make their presence known, and interested bystanders arrive on the scene — a scheming, toothy TV reporter; a medium with attitude and a spirit guide named Harold; North’s brother Southie and mother Lydia; Andi’s mother Flo; a psychic researcher; Will the fiance; and, eventually, North. 

The narrative may appear a bit crowded, but Crusie’s colorful characters are convincing, even, especially, the ghosts. One dances, one hovers, and the third threatens in a terrifying manner. These ghosts just don’t want to have fun. But readers will.

Open Book: I bought the e-book version of Jennifer Crusie’s Maybe This Time because I love a good ghost story, including James’ The Turn of the Screw. If you like your ghost stories with grins, check out Carolyn Hart’s Bailey Ruth novels (the third, Ghost at Work, was just published) and Nancy Atherton’s long-running Aunt Dimity series.

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