Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Three Desperate Women, Two Ghosts and One Angel, or What I’m Reading for Halloween

Last year I reread three of my favorite ghostly romances to celebrate Halloween. Since I rule out horror completely and generally avoid anything too scary, this year I’m rereading three mysteries from keeper shelves—the stories of two helpful ghosts, a substitute guardian angel, and three women who need the aid they can give.

 Aunt Dimity’s Ghost (1992) by Nancy Atherton

Life looks bleak for Lori Shepherd. Her divorce and her mother’s death leave her feeling lonely and isolated. Unable to find steady employment, she is dependent upon poorly paid temp work to survive, which she is barely managing. A burglar delivers a knockout punch, vandalizing her meager possessions including Reginald, the stuffed pink rabbit who has been her most cherished companion since childhood.

Lori is reeling when she receives a letter from the law firm of Willis and Willis requesting her to come in to discuss a matter of interest. The matter turns out to be a request from Dimity Westwood, a woman Lori had known only as Aunt Dimity, the fictional English heroine of the stories Lori’s mother had told the child Lori. Lori is astounded to discover that Dimity had been her mother’s best friend since the two met as young women during World War II. Dimity has recently died and she has left Lori $10,000 and a job, to prepare the Aunt Dimity stories for publication. Lori will have the use of Aunt Dimity’s cottage in small English village of Finch and the assistance of the younger Willis, Bill, while she fulfills Dimity’s request.

Once she and Bill arrive in England, Lori discovers that she also has the assistance of Aunt Dimity herself, or at least her spirit, who communicates with Lori via messages written in a blue journal. Thanks not only to the stories but also to the voluminous correspondence Lori’s mother and Aunt Dimity maintained over decades, Lori learns bits of her mother’s history that she’s never known. She also discovers the tragedy in Dimity’s past, and as she and Bill work together to ensure that Dimity at last gets her HEA, the two young Americans fall in love with Finch and with one another.

The Aunt Dimity series has been one of my favorite mystery series since I first read this debut book twenty years ago. I’ve read all seventeen books and the eighteenth is on my 2013 book calendar, but this one and the one that followed two years later, Aunt Dimity and the Duke, remain my favorites. Aunt Dimity is a delightful ghost. I can’t imagine a better companion for Halloween, and there’s the added benefit of two love stories.

 Angel at Troublesome Creek (1999) by Mignon F. Ballard

Life is not treating Mary George Murphy well. He fiancé dumped her for an aerobics instructor, she lost her job, and her Aunt Caroline, who raised her, dies under suspicious circumstances.  Mary George is such a failure that even her suicide attempts prove unsuccessful. They do succeed in Mary George receiving the help of Augusta Goodnight, a substitute guardian angel who is sent because Mary George’s guardian angel is enjoying a little R & R.

Augusta can’t give Mary George the answers she needs about Aunt Caroline’s death. She’s a guardian, not a clairvoyant. But she can help Mary George focus on the problem and face life rather than flee from it. Augusta, who was last on earth in the 1940s, appears rather intermittently, but with her love of chocolate and swing music and the strawberry aroma that surrounds her, she is a distinctive presence. 

  Ghost at Work (2008) by Carolyn G. Hart

Bailey Ruth and Raeburn and her beloved Bobby Mac exchanged their terrestrial address in Adelaide, Oklahoma, for a celestial one after their cabin cruiser sank in a storm. Bailey Ruth loves her angelic life, but she feels compelled to be of help to humans. That compulsion leads her to volunteer at the Department of Good Intentions. She has visions of an assignment in Paris. Instead, Wiggins, the angel in charge of the department sends her to Adelaide, her former hometown, with  a list of rules for proper angelic behavior, most of which Bailey Ruth breaks within a few hours of her arrival on earth. She’s there to help solve the murder of local creep and businessman Daryl Murdoch.

Kathleen Abbott, wife of the minister of Bailey Ruth’s old church, stands a good chance of becoming the leading suspect if she can’t manage to move the body. Kathleen is hardly more comfortable with Bailey Ruth than she is with the corpse, but she’s desperate enough to accept the angel’s help. Bailey Ruth manages to create as many tangles as she untangles, bemuse a cop, bond with Kathleen’s young daughter, and marvel over the advances in technology since she departed the earth, all while ensuring that justice prevails.

I adore Bailey Ruth. With her love of fashionable clothes, her appetite for good food, and her heart that’s in the right place even when she makes the wrong moves, she’s my kind of angel. This cozy mystery manages to be both hilarious and heartwarming. There’s even a touch of sweet romance between Kathleen and her husband.

All three series have Christmas books too: Aunt Dimity’s Christmas (1999), Aunt Dimity #5; Hark! The Herald Angels Screamed (2008), Augusta Goodnight #7; Merry, Merry Ghost (2009), Bailey Ruth #2. So, I’ll be revisiting them to celebrate another holiday soon.

What’s your favorite Halloween read? Do you prefer the scary stuff, or do you vote with me for the funny and heartwarming.



Susan in AZ said...

Clare Delacroix wrote a 3-book series about Fallen Angels that I loved. Perhaps these could be next year's Halloween stories.

PJ Ausdenmore said...

As much as I enjoy Halloween (it's my second favorite holiday), I can't think of any Halloween type stories that I've read. Like you, I steer clear of the scary ones!

irisheyes said...

I'm not into scary stories either. And any ghost or stories with magic in them were stumbled across merely by accident.

I can't think of anything I like less than being scared. So, I think I would vote for the cute stories versus the scary ones. I've loved the Nora Roberts books with a little magic thrown in and I love Lisa Kleypas' recent Friday Harbor series with bits of magic here and there.

quantum said...

I don't seek out ghost stories but am often pleasantly surprised when I come across one. I don't mind the scary stuff, and rather liked the ghost in Nora Roberts garden trilogy, particularly the way that she was protective towards children.

On the whole though, I find fact is usually stranger than fiction where the paranormal is concerned. I suspect that anyone who has studied non-local quantum mechanics, David Bohm's holographic world view and Pribham's ideas on the brain as a hologram, would probably agree with me! LOL

I think that the Christmas adventures of Aunt Dimity may be more my scene. Though thinking about it, Santa Claus is a pretty ghostly kind of character. But children love him and when the kids are happy so are the parents and grand parents. *smile*

Janga said...

I'll have to take a look at those, Susan. Thanks for stopping by.

Janga said...

PJ, I'm glad I have company in my avoidance of the truly scary. LOL

I bet you'd like my Halloween reads.

Janga said...

Irish, I love the touches of magical realism in the Friday Harbor books. I'm also a huge fan of Sarah Addison Allen's books. Kleypas has mentioned Allen as an influence on the FH books.Have you tried them?

Janga said...

Q, Atherton's Finch is one of my favorite fictional small towns, and Aunt Dimity's Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas reads.

You're right about Nora. She was using paranormal elements way before the current trend.