So I haven’t written or posted anything in a while and there are a few reasons for that, most of which seem foolish when I think about them, so I won’t outline and post them. But one of the larger reasons is that I couldn’t decide what I wanted to read next and I did want to take on a series so that I could be kept occupied for a while. Anyway, I’ve got it narrowed down to two series (coin flip) and in the in-between, I picked a book of the shelf to keep my amused for two days.
My ‘random’ book was Maybe This Time by Jennifer Cruise. Now, I love to read Jennifer Cruise; my favorite book is Bet Me, followed closely by Faking It and Agnes and the Hitman, which I have reviewed. Agnes was a collaboration with Bob Mayer and I think that Maybe This Time might be her first solo book in a while, but I’m not positive.
For starters, the title alone sparks music in my head. Whenever I think about the book, the chorus from a Casting Crowns song start to play:
“So maybe this time, I’ll speak the words of life, with your fire in my eyes. But that old familiar fear is tearing at my words. What am I so afraid of? ‘Cause here I go again… Talking ‘bout the rain and mullin’ over things that won’t live past today. And as I dance around the truth, time is not his friend, this might be my last chance to tell him that you love him, ‘cause here I go again…”
I know the song doesn’t have anything to do with the plot of the book, but it always pops into my head. And then I start humming a different Casting Crowns song that has a lot more meaning in my life and now I am getting so far off topic that I shall have to sprint to find the original trail.
Anyway, Maybe This Time has the supernatural elements that Wild Ride had, except that it is ghosts instead of demons and there are less of them. And it has some familiar tricks in it; the romantic leads were married ten years to the start of the book, divorced and are gravitating towards each other again. But this book also involves children, which is not a common element from Cruise; at least, not children that aren’t biologically the main characters. These children are orphans.
But Maybe This Time has a large-ish cast of characters, from Andie and North (the main characters) to their families (Andie’s mother Flo, and North’s family, his mother Lydia and brother Sullivan), a television reporter and her cameraman, a paranormal scientist who doesn’t believe in ghosts, a medium, a creepy housekeeper, two orphans who have brought all these characters on and three ghosts.
But my favorite thing, and this is so minimal that it makes me laugh, is that Cruise brings in two other characters for cameos: Gabe McKenna, a detective from her book Fast Women and Simon, a Brit of questionable morals from Faking It. Having these two show up amid the chaos made me laugh.
Okay, back to the plot. Andie has gone to North to return his alimony checks and ask him to step out of her life so that she can get engaged to a new man and move on. But North asks her to do one thing for him, go down to this old manor in southern Ohio and take care of two children that are now his wards. He has sent other nannies, but they have all quit and he is running out of options.
Andie goes down and the children are strange. The older brother, Carter, is so disciplined for an eight-year-old that it’s almost frightening. He is very protective of his younger sister, doesn’t talk a great deal, and is obsessed with comics and drawing, something that Andie uses to her advantage. Alice, the younger sister, is wild and out of control. She screams when things don’t go her way and won’t try anything new unless there is something in it for her. Andie wins her over by making new things part of Alice’s routine. And these two children have other guardians: two ghosts from the 1800s and their recently dead Aunt May, who was only nineteen when she tumbled over the edge of a railing in the old house.
But the two ghosts are so old that they have lost their humanity. One, Peter, is fixated on Carter; Peter also believes that he owns the manor. The other ghost, whom Alice calls Miss J, has lost a baby and she clings to Alice and attacks anyone who tries to take Alice from the manor. And May feels that she died too early and that she didn’t get to experience any life and can possess the people who live in the manor. She’s still nineteen and in that ‘me’ phase.
But Andie slowly wins over the children by focusing on them and trying to get the house fixed up. She buys Carter comics, books and art supplies and Alice love sequins and butterflies. Andie starts baking with them and she and Alice dance and sing in the kitchen.
It gets trickier when other people start showing up at the manor. Ghosts feed off of energy, strong energy. Andie and the children have been very calm and monotonous in their routine, but with the arrival of others… it’s a feeding frenzy for the ghosts. The television reporter is full of energy- greed and lust, which works for the ghosts. As people continue to show up, all three of the ghosts find the ability to possess people and Peter tries to possess Carter and successfully possesses North. May possesses Andie and the reporter, trying to use their bodies for sex.
Ghosts generally stick around because some part of them remains in the earthly world, such as a lock of hair. The best way to prevent ghosts is to burn the body. But all these ghosts still have anchors. Peter and Miss J have locks of hair stored in heirlooms and the hair ties them to the house. May also has a lock of hair remaining and she uses it to stay in the earthly realm instead of moving on.
Eventually, the ghosts are dealt with and the group can leave the manor and return to Columbus, but when they get there, there are still a few more surprises. Like, Uncle Merrill never really left the law firm. So normal is just a context for Andie, North, Carter and Alice.