With the kickoff off the new website and lineup, the BadGirlz are also introducing a new feature: What We’re Reading Wednesdays! Just to be perfectly clear, we don’t solicit books, and these posts are not reviews. If a BadGirl reads a good book that needs sharing, then we share. We’ll cover romances, women’s fiction, and literary works—whatever strikes our fancy. Just like you, we are a diverse group of readers.
A few months ago, I was reading the RWR (Romance Writer’s Report—a publication put out by the Romance Writers of America). In each issue, they interview a successful, current romance author. This particular interview was with Simone St. James.
Now, I’ve professed my
obsession adoration for gothic romance writer Mary Stewart a few times now in blogs. (here and here) Her books are on my keeper shelf, and I reread them on a regular basis. Stewart’s writing heyday was in the 1950s and 60s. Her heroines were strong-willed yet fallible, adventurous yet inexperienced. In short, relatable. Her books stand the test of time, and I encourage you to read all of them. Now.
So, it’s not shocking that Ms. St. James hooked me as soon as she mentioned one of her influences was Mary Stewart. Plus, Ms. St. James’ first book, The Haunting of Maddy Clare won two Rita Awards—basically an Oscar for published romances. I spent a lovely weekend with my head down reading The Haunting of Maddy Clare and her second book An Inquiry Into Love and Death.
Here’s a short blurb from Amazon for each: (And, aren’t the covers gorgeous?)
“Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah’s task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy’s ghost is real, she’s angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair’s assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?”
“Oxford student Jillian Leigh works day and night to keep up with her studies—so to leave at the beginning of the term is next to impossible. But after her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, she must drive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings. Almost immediately, unsettling incidents—a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own—escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house. Is it Walking John, the two-hundred-year-old ghost who haunts Blood Moon Bay? And who beside the ghost is roaming the local woods at night? The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken, a former RAF pilot with mysteries of his own, leaves Jillian with more questions than answers—and with the added complication of a powerful, mutual attraction. Even as she suspects someone will do anything to hide the truth, she begins to discover spine-chilling secrets that lie deep within Rothewell…and at the very heart of who she is.”
These books differ somewhat from traditional gothic tales in that they feature the real thing—ghosts. There’s no Scooby Doo-type unveiling at the end blaming flesh and blood, old Doc Hinkins. These are ghost stories. Creepy and chilling and scary. The ghosts aren’t Hollywood creations designed to give you nightmares. They are the ghosts of people who walked the earth, people with tragedies they can’t let go of, seeking closure and solace. They are…empathetic. But, still pretty dang creepy.
Both books are both written in 1st person (like any good gothic tale), and the heroines of both were appealing as were their love interests. The books tied together very loosely, but there was no character crossover.
If someone locked me in a room with an angry ghost and made me pick which book I enjoyed more…I would give a slight edge to An Inquiry Into Love and Death. I can’t really say why…whether it was the heroine or the hero or the ghost(s). That being said I really loved them both. They had the dark feel of a classic gothic, but with a tad more sex thrown in and real, (un)live ghosts.
With the weather turning chillier, it’s the perfect time to grab a copy and curl up one blustery afternoon in front of a fire with Ms. St. James’ ghosts. You won’t be sorry.