RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

B-

Title: The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Author: Simone St. James
Publication Info: Berkley NAL 2012
ISBN: 9780451235688
Genre: Paranormal

Book The Haunting of Maddy Clare This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by Jane. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements and the Best First Book category.

The summary:     

Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide.

Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a deperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason.
 

Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, whereshe came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?

And here is Jane's review:

The Haunting of Maddy Clare is well written and plotted, with a solid idea and a pleasing setting. I’ve enjoyed books like The House at Riverton and The Thirteenth Tale, so I was ready to be drawn in by the Gothic spell.

Still, I found myself continually wanting more.

It certainly could have used more romance: in scope, timing, frequency. Hardly anything but a few looks had taken place between Sarah and Matthew before he magically appeared at her bedside.

Matthew himself: brusque, then warm; haunted, then gentle. Yes, please; I wanted MUCH more of him. His character was introduced late enough in the game that I wondered when Alistair would start doing hero-like things.

I could have used less of a few things, though. Alistair himself, for one; he just seemed like he was in the way of both the love story and the research – even though he led it.

Maddy’s malevolence almost seemed over the top. True, the events that broke her would have warranted it. But from Mrs. Clare’s description, the pervasive evil of her spirit seemed completely at odds with the frightened and standoffish young woman she had been in life.

Other, smaller things kept niggling at me. Matthew used much rougher language than Alistair, using the words “fucking” and “Goddamn” fairly frequently. It felt too harsh for the period, and at the same time not frequent enough for his horrifically filthy mouth to be a character trait. (I’ve seen “Deadwood,” sure, but it felt wrong for this setting, even given Matthew’s service in the Great War.)

And then there was a reference to Norma Shearer – specifically, the idea that Matthew and his fellow soldiers might have thought of her in the trenches. She didn’t have much of a career until 1923 (thank you, Wikipedia), and the story took place in 1922. In England, not the US.

See, if you’re going to include period details like that at all – and that was one of few, other than continual mentions of the war having taken place – you’d better make darn sure that they are accurate. Nerds like me will notice, and it will spoil the rest of the read.

In the end, when the air became thick with the horrors of Maddy’s life, Sarah suddenly seemed to care way too much for the people who perpetrated these awful things. Between the shocking degradation of what had taken place and the depths to which Maddy’s spirit seemed to go, it felt so off-kilter.

And that was the main issue: as the narrator, I needed more from Sarah herself. I found myself forgetting her name every so often, or thinking that she seemed awfully passive when she had more agency than she seemed to admit. I got few hints of her character, other than a sadness about her family life and the idea that she wanted more out of life than a series of temp jobs.

Were it not for Maddy, Sarah might not have gotten far.


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