Review: Maybe This Time by Jennifer Cruise

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Title: Maybe This Time
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Genre: paranormal fiction, contemporary
Series: N/A
Published: August 2010
Pages: 342
Rating: 5/5

And, last, my review (finally) of the well-done Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie:
Both surprisingly enjoyable and unsettlingly creepy, Maybe This Time is one of the most intelligently told and enjoyable ghost stories I've come across. Do keep in mind I hate being scared, so my exposure to said ghost stories is much more limited than say, my exposure to dystopia/steampunk genre or science fiction. That said, this book earned a 'bravo' from this amateur!
Set in the nineties, Andromeda "Andie" Archer does a favor for her ex-husband the enigmatic North Archer, to go to "the wilds of southern Ohio" to a haunted house and domesticate the two orphaned children living there, as well as rein in the creepy and controlling housekeeper of the North family manor. Of course there's old history ("ghosts" if you'll excuse the horrible pun) from her past relationship with North complicating an already entangled mess.

Andie is likable, capable and above all, warm. She's funny, with a dry wit and little to no tolerance for bullshit. She changes from a very independent woman who is constantly looking for something/somewhere new into a devoted and loving mother-figure for the two tormented children. She changes subtly, and her love for the kids is uncovered and believable with each turning page. She is clearly the heart of the novel, greatly affecting all those characters she comes across in positive and humorous ways.

Alice, the younger child of the pair, is the more obviously affected by the ghosts. One in particular is possessive of her and violent towards any interference any adult tries to exert upon the child. Alice was, either intentionally or unintentionally, the funniest person in the novel. She's often "outraged" in the way only a child can be when they realize they don't always get what they want. She's a very emotional and vulnerable little girl, so it makes sense that she's very attached to her brother Carter, and eventually "her" Andie. 

Carter himself is a cipher most of the novel. He's been through so much anguish and internal pain since the death of his mother, then his father, his aunt and a nanny that he has almost completely withdrawn from verbal communication with the outside besides his sister,  Alice. He's utterly devoted and protective towards her, and I was always curious to know more about the hidden undercurrents going on around him.

The pacing is wonderful and builds like a ghost story should be retold. At first there's hints and vague movements but as it get creepier and the multiple ghosts more malevolent, the pages fly by and the plot races on to a very riveting conclusion. Highly enjoyable. I've read a couple other books by Crusie (Bet Me is a particular guilty, semi-trashy pleasure) but this one takes the cake out of them all. It eclipses her previous work, especially her pure romance novels, and the addition of the supernatural elements to Crusie's writing style works magically. 

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