A Man Of Many Talents
There’s an awful lot to like here. Sparkling dialogue, a sexy hero with an appealingly self-deprecating sense of humor, and a stand-up heroine who sees the hero for the worthless wastrel that he is (or that she thinks he is, at any rate). A zippy and amusing first half, however, gives way to a second half that never seems to gain any real momentum.
Former governess Miss Abigail Parkinson is stunned to have inherited a moldy estate from a great uncle she barely knew. But her plans to swiftly sell the estate in order to live her fantasy life in a quiet cottage somewhere are derailed when she’s horrified to discover that the estate seems to be burdened with a ghost determined to frighten off any potential buyers. Not a woman to take lightly anyone (or any ghost) in the way of her plans, Abigail decides it’s time to take decisive action.
Due to some monumentally bad luck (at least, as he sees it) Christian Reade, Viscount Moreland has gained some very unwelcome fame in society as a ghostbuster. After successfully dodging all the appeals for help that his fame has brought him (though he suspects more of those appeals have to do with his title and fortune than they do ghost hunting), Christian is persuaded by his grandfather to respond to Miss Parkinson’s request for assistance from England’s most successful ghost hunter. Christian is officially Abigail’s Last Resort.
Not surprisingly, sparks fly from the first moment the prickly ex-governess and the handsome nobleman meet. He thinks she’s a prig. She thinks he’s a spoiled idiot. But Christian (proudly descended from pirates) soon enough starts to imagine The Governess (as he thinks of her) in decidedly un-governesslike situations. And, as readers of stories like these know, he just might get the opportunity to turn his fantasies into a bit of reality as the two work together to investigate the haunting.
Ms. Simmons really outdid herself here in the character of Christian. His dialogue, both real and internal, is often hilarious. In just about every way, he is a sexy, smart hero to die for. Unfortunately, however, Abigail is more of a mystery and harder to like. I have to admit, frankly, that Ms. Simmons did such a great job with Christian that it’s easy for the reader (well, me, to be honest) to lose patience with her. Hey, Abigail, he’s smart, he’s sexy, he’s sweet – what’s your problem? But, Abigail has been the victim of numerous challenges and bad luck in her life and her resistance is understandable, frustrating, mind you, but understandable.
It’s Abigail’s stubborn nature and determination to see things her way that most adversely affects the second half. But adding to the problems are the cast of secondary characters, all of them, of course, suspects in the haunting. Yes, these secondary characters were occasionally amusing, but they were also a bit too recognizable, and I saw the answer to the mystery a mile away.
But, I’ll definitely read Deborah Simmons again, an author I’d not read before this book. Much of A Man of Many Talents sparkled with life and humor and, even if the whole package was less than the sum of its parts, readers looking for a light, funny, and smart story can find it here. The book isn’t perfect by far, but, for me at any rate, the lively first half compensated for the flagging second one and whetted my appetite to try Ms. Simmons again.