Tag Archives: ghosts

Lost Among the Living

Lost Among the Living

Title:  Lost Among the Living
Author:  Simone St. James
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-451-47619-7

Book Summary:
Although the war is over and her husband did not come home, Jo Manders does not feel closure.  Her husband was shot down in Germany but as no body was ever found, he is listed as missing in action and she cannot truly view herself as a widow.  With no benefits and limited job prospects in 1921 England, Jo is forced to sell her belongings and become a lady’s companion to Dottie Forsyth, Alex’s husband’s wealthy but patronizing aunt.  Jo travels with Dottie through Europe as she meticulously and ruthlessly purchases art.  Although dealing with Dottie is a challenge, Jo finds her days busy and numbing.  When Dottie announces that they will be traveling to the family estate of Wych Elm House in Sussex, Jo is filled with apprehension and sadness as she returns to English soil.

Life at Wych Elm House provides Jo with a very different view of her husband’s family.  She meets Dottie’s husband Robert; whose existence Jo was unaware.  He is both flirty and distant, harsh and unemotional.  Also newly arrived at the house is Dottie’s son Martin, who was injured in the war and still deals with both emotional and physical pain.  There is yet another inhabitant of the house, although Jo is the only one who can see Francis, Dottie’s dead daughter.

Alternating between sanity and madness, Francis had always been a difficult child.  She claimed to be frightened of the creatures who came through the door.  The people of the surrounding estates and towns were afraid of Francis and now claim that her ghost haunts the woods.  She committed suicide by jumping off the roof and a darkness has since spread throughout the house.  Jo finds her belongings moved and leaves appearing inside the house; when she sees Francis, she becomes afraid that the madness has crept into her own psyche.

Soon Jo realizes that Francis is asking for her help and Jo must delve into the family’s secrets.  What she discovers about her own husband shocks her and she questions whether she truly knew him.  Time is running out however as Francis’ ghost becomes more active and Jo fears for her sanity and her life.  She just isn’t sure who she should be afraid of – the dead or the living.

Book Commentary:
This is the fifth book by Simone St. James and they just keep getting better!  Set in the same time period as her previous novels, St. James explores the generation following World War 1.  Those who come home are dealing with physical pain and mental horror, but I find the characters who were left behind equally compelling.  There is a sense of desperation about Jo and the loss of her husband.  Her own background is fraught with sorrow and loss, and I just wanted the poor woman to get a break!  Her strength of character is admirable and there is a sense of compulsion and desperation in her fight for any sense of peace.

St. James also incorporates some fascinating details about how the Sussex coast could have played a part in the war.  This plot detail really brings the story together and gives depth beyond a paranormal romance story.  Even if a reader isn’t into “ghosts,” you can really appreciate the gothic atmosphere and rich details of the plot.

Who might like this book:
I don’t think fans of St. James will be disappointed with the story.  The protagonist is a widow, which is a departure from her previous stories, but the character is very appealing and heartfelt.  Fans of a good suspense story should definitely check out this author.  As I have previously mentioned, I shied away from her books because I am not a fan of horror stories and the back cover plot descriptions turned me off.  This couldn’t be more from the truth; the fast-paced, atmospheric story really kept me engaged and fascinated.

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That Silent Night

thatsilentnight

Title:  That Silent Night (Lady Emily Christmas Story 2)
Author:  Tasha Alexander
Publication Date:  2015
E-Book Format

Book Summary:
It is Christmastime, and Emily and Colin Hargreaves have been enjoying the holiday season at Anglemore Park, their house in the country, with their boys Henry, Richard, and Tom.  Their neighbors at Montagu Manor have been a bit overzealous in their own celebrations and invitations, so to escape yet another evening of charades and carolers, Emily and Colin have returned to their house in London for a brief respite and a bit of holiday shopping.  Enjoying a quiet evening at home, Emily and Colin’s serene time is interrupted when Emily is convinced that she saw a woman standing across the street from their home at the entrance of Hyde Park.  Amidst the snow and freezing temperatures, the young woman seems ill-prepared for the weather.  Emily rushes outside to assist the woman only to have found her vanished with no traces of footprints.  Convinced that the woman was a product of Emily’s over-active imagination and her current reading of sensational fiction, Colin is uninterested in Emily’s claim, despite the repeated re-appearance of the supposed specter.

While in London, Emily and Colin invite their new neighbors the Leighton’s to dine.  Recently returned from their honeymoon, the newlyweds are just settling into their new home but Emily is shocked at the resemblance between Mrs. Leighton and her ghost.  Although Mr. Leighton is quite affable, Mrs. Leighton communicates through stilted conversation and seems tense and uneasy. Emily is slowly able to draw the new bride out into conversation, however there is obviously something troubling the young woman.  When Mrs. Leighton disappears from her home, Colin and Emily aid in the search to find her, and Emily has to wonder if there is a ghost involved.

Book Commentary:
This is the second of the Lady Emily Christmas stories.  The first, Star of the East, was released in October of 2014.  I love these holiday novellas; there are a short treat for the holiday season and stay true to the original series.  This novella in particular provides a great opportunity for readers to get a day-to-day feel of Colin and Emily’s lives.  Their friendly banter and obvious affection help warm this seasonal story.  The plot is well-defined and very fitting of the abbreviated format.

Anne Perry, another of my favorite Victorian authors, has released a short Christmas novel every year for the past twelve years and I look forward to them each year.  Just like the first Christmas Carols of the season, these books mark the start of the holiday season for me.  I sincerely hope this also becomes a tradition for Tasha Alexander.

Who might like this book:
If you like the Tasha Alexander Lady Emily series, you will enjoy this Christmas novella.  Note that this story – along with last year’s Christmas novella Star of the East – is only available in e-book format.