Scandalous Spirits is a romp with a ghostly twist and some amusing moments, but is marred by some odd writing quirks and a sometimes-irrational heroine. Millionaire Marcus Van Buren wants to sell the family mansion in a bad way. It’s fallen into ruin and is rumored to be haunted; just thinking about it gives him a killer migraine. He’s finally found a buyer who will only go through with the purchase if Marcus can prove that the place is 100% free of ghostly apparitions. Marcus leaves this mess in the hands of his trusty assistant Rufus, who hires a parapsychologist for $10,000.00, payable only if the place is found free and clear of ghosties.
Daisy Malone, a 27-year-old ghostbuster, is a “sensitive” with the ability to feel painful emotions of the those long dead (and some living folks too). Daisy is a gal with bad timing. She’s just spent her life savings on a boatload of ghostbusting equipment when she learns that her family is on the brink of financial ruin. In order to help out she accepts Marcus’s lavish offer, which under normal conditions she would outright refuse. She endorses the check for Marcus to hold until she gives him his no-ghost statement. Since Daisy knows the place is haunted she’ll have to lie about it and basically sign away her reputation, but she needs the check to bail out her family. I’m no wheeler-dealer, but what a crappy deal! Couldn’t Daisy (aptly nicknamed Daze) consider doing a little negotiation here? Surely talents like hers are few and far between, and in my book, just living in a house with ghosts even for one night is worth $10,000.00.
To make a long setup short, Rufus the playboy wants his buddy Marcus to enjoy life. Marcus has recently fallen into a funk after a very public breakup. When Rufus sees the sexy ghostbuster, he’s sure she’ll be the perfect balm to heal his wounded pal, if only temporarily. Rufus talks Marcus into staying at the mansion while Daisy does her ghostbusting thing and Marcus (who has avoided the mansion his entire life) quickly agrees. It’ll help the sale, he says. It’s so contrived it’s almost painful, this reader says.
A few pages later and Marcus and Daisy are living under the same roof, butting heads and falling deeply in lust, all the while dealing with three fun ghostly siblings who cause trouble at every turn. Daisy’s close-knit family make lengthy appearances and quickly wrap only child Marcus into their lives. Family, and Marcus’ lack thereof, adds a nice layer to the story and grounds the otherwise lightweight plot in reality. Daisy’s younger sisters and the debauched ghosts with their 1920s lingo have some terrific lines that made me grin.
It’s too bad Daisy’s behavior didn’t make me grin nearly as often. Ten years earlier, when Daisy was all of 17, her heart was broken and her reputation destroyed by a selfish rich boy. This incident is her big devastating secret, and is the reason she despises everything Marcus stands for. It’s also her excuse for treating Marcus badly and acting crabby, immature, and inconsistent whenever it suits her needs. Though painful, once finally revealed the secret certainly wasn’t powerful enough for me to forgive her for slapping Marcus twice across the kisser when she jumps to conclusions. Can you imagine if the hero did that? Had she sat down and actually shared her feelings with Marcus (the two don’t even have a real conversation until the book is nearly half over) it would have saved everyone a lot of grief.
There is also a writing quirk that continually threw me out of the story. Anyone else find these analogies a little, well, weird?
|Marcus pondering Daisy’s surprising sexiness (I guess):||“Marcus had expected a cutesy bob hairdo and a long printed dress like a mattress tag ‘illegal to remove’.”||What?|
|Describing a bitter villainess, the author writes:||“A vile woman who held onto grudges like the Coppertone puppy.”||Huh? And, more importantly, why on earth?|
|How to pull readers right out of the mood:||“She tore apart the sides of his shirt scattering buttons like b-b’s across the floor.”||B-b’s, jujubes, frozen bunny poopies, buttons. Heck, they’re all the same, aren’t they?|
|But this one, a bizzarro description of the rundown mansion, is hands-down my favorite oddity:||“Its broken door hung wide open like a beer belly out of a ratty T-shirt.”||Statements like this are sprinkled liberally throughout the story.|
Marcus is a good guy, a likable millionaire with a genuinely painful secret all his own. The author also has a flair for light-hearted quips and familial warmth. Unfortunately, because the romance is yet another of those unmemorable affairs that turns from lust into love in the span of a week, and because Daisy irritated me a few times too many, I can’t rate Scandalous Spirits any higher than a C-.
|Review Date:||March 25, 2002|