Wednesday, March 23, 2016

REVIEW: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor
Author: Amy M. Reade

Carleigh Warner is hired to restore an old Southern Plantation house near Charleston, SC.  In college, she was friends with the Peppernell's daughter, Evie, so it feels like coming home to be in the house again and to meet all the family members once more. As soon as she starts restoring the home though, Peppernell family members begin dying. Two unexplained deaths, threatening phone calls and vandalism soon have Carleigh thinking something sinister is going on at Peppernell Manor.

This story had great potential, and almost acheived it. I say "almost'' for several reasons.

First of all, the title of the book and summary made it sound like this would be a mystery or ghost story. The ghost of Sarah, a former slave and direct relative of the current house manager, was even mentioned....but never appeared. Sarah's backstory is told at the beginning of the book and the house manager, Phyllis, talks about what the ghost wants and thinks all through the book, but the ghost never materializes. Also, the deaths of two family members warrant almost no investigation or serious questioning by family members. The police are called in, some questions are asked, and then the investigations are seemingly dropped and renovations of the house continue like nothing happened. I think a household with two members dying mysteriously within days of each other would be more disrupted than just a little crying for a day or two. And the police would have been actively investigating for more than a few hours. What at first seemed to be a mystery/ghost story turned into more chick-lit/light fiction, in reality. The spooky angle was never really there. And the murder mystery was never developed. It was like "Oh he's dead in the garage? Someone killed him?  Ok.....let's refinish the floor in the ballroom. It has to be done before Christmas.''

The portrayal of Carleigh's ex-husband as a jealous, controlling, questionable person was weak at best. Carleigh seemed angry that her husband wanted to maintain a relationship with his daughter, and at one point, she even said "Do you promise to stay away from me? And from Lucy as well?''  What? The child is his daughter, after all. Why would he have to stay away from his own daughter? Surely, these characters could have been portrayed as being supportive of their young daughter by getting along for her sake and acting as adults rather than vindictive, jealous, self-centered, immature idiots. The constant negative portrayal of the ex-husband and father in this story really got to be annoying for me. Bad dialog and situations between the parents and melodramatic behavior just verged on the ridiculous.

That said....I did enjoy reading the story. The characters, although not deeply developed, were mostly likable and the plot was engaging enough to keep me reading. I just wish it had actually developed into something more than a weak romance novel. It was interesting to read about how Carleigh was refinishing the different rooms in the house, although very few specifics on renovations of old, historic homes were ever discussed.  And, it did seem ridiculous that she appeared to be doing the work without a crew or assistance of any kind in a very short amount of time. Surely she would have hired at least a worker or two to help her, in addition to the experts mentioned in the story line that assisted with some plaster repair and the woodwork.

This book was just "ok'' for me. The plot is poorly developed, and the characters are undeveloped stereotypes for the most part. Rather disappointing.

My rating: 4/10
Ages 10+

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