Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-1013-6
Paranormal Romance, 2007
Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake has a ghost (the hero Deverell Thornton) and time travel, which makes it a different kind of story in a time when we don’t see many stories with such themes anymore, but unfortunately, this book is plagued by serious pacing and logic issues.
Josie Drummond is a paranormal investigator who, after three weeks of futile research, finally locates a ghost in Castle Waite. Alas, her success is due to the ghost deliberately manifesting before her. You see, Amelia Thornton, the owner of Castle Waite, needs money and she hopes that, should Josie manages to demonstrate scientifically that ghosts exist in the castle, she can transform the place into a tourist attraction featuring genuine ghosts and all. Now that Josie has decided to leave – Deverell blocks her equipment from detecting him, you see – he finally decides to show himself so that Josie can help Amelia. At this point, I scratch my head but I’m willing to see where the author will go with this.
Deverell has a grand idea. No, it’s not him helping Amelia rob a bank using his ghostly prowess – he will have Josie go back in time with him to stop a con man from successfully cheating his mother and starting the downward spiral of the Thornton family fortune. At this point, I really have to take a deep breath and try not to ask whether it will be easier to go back in time long enough to invest some money in the start-up company of some upstart named Bill Gates.
Very well, let me play along. But then, I am subjected to the first third or so of the story of Josie learning about the manners and such of 19th century England. This sees the author subjecting me to lectures after lectures of the subject matter. If you are genuinely interested in these matters, you’d be pleased, I suspect, but I find the whole thing more like the result of an author who is unable to contain herself from subjecting her readers to everything and anything she had discovered during the course of her research.
Meanwhile, Deverell glowers and sulks because he’s the ultimate weenie king. Josie, meanwhile, displays little intellectual curiosity about Deverell despite the fact that she is a paranormal investigator. She even stops from asking him questions because she’s worried that she would hurt his feelings! Then again, she also keeps quiet when Deverell happily uses a credit card he has secured under Amelia’s name (don’t ask) to buy coaches, horses, and more – things that Amelia cannot afford – so maybe it is just Josie’s nature to be a silent doormat. This is another instance of an author claiming that her heroine is determined and strong-willed when she shows a different kind of heroine altogether in her story.
And then, after tedious lectures after lectures on the norms and mannerisms of the beautiful people back in those days, the story finally gets moving… only to get so complicated to a point that I worry whether I should start making flow charts or something to keep things straight. It doesn’t help that the characters in this story, including Josie and Deverell, are recognizable clichés.
The author manages to include some wry humor that pokes fun at her own story now and then, and I have to say that the last two chapters are pretty well done from a “here’s something I don’t see authors do very often” technical point of view. However, Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake is bogged down by serious pacing issues, narrative hiccups, and an unnecessarily complicated story line built on very shaky foundation. This is a different kind of story from those in the market at the moment, but I feel that it requires too much work to get into this book with too little pay-off to compensate for the effort.