For years, the Ghost of Hammerswold castle has appeared to his descendants to advise them about whom to marry to ensure their family’s future security. The current heir, Lord Jared Faverill, is on the path to dissipation, destruction and an early grave. After he has a fit of apoplexy, his grandparents are desperate to get him wed and reformed. What better method can there be than to hold a Halloween house party, populated by eligible blondes, to tempt the ghost to appear and make his choice?
Miss Juliette Berceau, a poor relation and the only brunette guest, does not believe in ghosts. Therefore, she finds herself in a pickle when multiple apparitions begin appearing. Worse, the Ghost of Hammerswold guides the unappealing Lord Faverill towards her. Faverill believes in the ghost, you see, and he is difficult to deter.
In the meantime, the attractive Mark Camden–another poor relation, who helps his grandfather run the Hammerswold estate–is increasingly attracted to Juliette. She reciprocates, but Mark has sworn to do nothing that might get in the way of Jared’s marriage and the prosperity of the Hammerswolds.
As the spectral appearances increase, Juliette and Mark are left with niggling questions. Is Juliette really unwilling to marry for wealth and prestige, or would she say yes to Jared if the ghost chooses her? Is Juliette behind the ghost’s appearances, or are they the handiwork of a jealous competitor? Surely, the spectre can’t be real, no matter how gothic the Hammerswold estate is!
June Calvin’s My Lord Ghost is a pleasant combination of Regency romance and Gothic tropes. At first, I created a special category for it, “Gothic Parody,” because it treats the supernatural elements of the story so lightly. However, as the tensions and the stakes rise, so does the sense of mystery about the existence and identity of the Ghost of Hammerswold.
Juliette and Mark are both typical Regency heroes of the “poor relation” type. The only way that Calvin departs from this theme (and it is a significant departure) is in allowing the possibility of protagonists with equally poor economic prospects to form an attachment.
The romance elements of My Lord Ghost are fair. Although I found Mark and Julie’s banter amusing, the hero gradually retreats from center stage so that he can clear a path for Jared’s suit. Unfortunately, this plot-device detracts from the development of their relationship. Suddenly, the reader is trapped inside the characters’ heads. Since both tend to obsess over the same questions, they start to grow tiresome. Calvin’s book shifts towards “tell” and away from “show.”
Mark and Julie’s physical relationship–though chaste–is more exciting. Although Calvin’s book is fairly tame, there are several sensual scenes that are arresting.
As for secondary characters, Calvin has allowed most to fade into the background. Julie’s cousin and her suitor are bland and the other aspirants to Faverill’s hand blend together. Their mothers might as well not be present. There is little development of the relationships between Julie, her governess, and her cousin.
On the other hand, the unctuous and appropriately-named Lord Faverill is memorable. So are his worried grandparents, the Earl and Countess (nicknamed NiNi), who have their own complicated history. The Ghost–or is it?–is intriguing in his various scenes.
Calvin’s Gothic setting is vivid and draw in the reader. I could imagine the towers, carvings, paintings, nooks, and crannies of Hammerswold. After a few books that disappointed in this arena, I was glad Calvin’s world was absorbing.
I’d dub My Lord Ghost a decent read that is elevated by Calvin’s genre-mixing and the resulting mystery. It could have been improved by punching up the danger and darker elements, building more tension. However, I suspect that if Calvin had done so, her book would have slipped too far out of the “Regency romance” genre to make it to publication without managing to become a true Gothic novel.
As it is, I would call My Lord Ghost an average Regency novel, but possibly of interest to readers who are looking for a plot-line that diverges from the genre’s pattern-card.