|June Calvin tells readers that The Ruby Ghost, a follow-up to My Lady Ghost will be her last Regency, at least for a while. I hope she returns to the genre soon – stories like this are too few and far between lately.
Miss Penelope Jones, daughter of a Welsh vicar, is looking for a new job. She doesn’t want to be a financial burden to her family, and her last position as a companion ended some time ago. Penny is near-destitute when she applies to the Marquess of Silverthorne for a position as a governess. But the man waiting to interview her at the Silverthorne’s town house is James Betterton, the Marquess’s cousin. Penny and James have met at several social events where she was chaperoning her previous charge. James, a known rake, tried to flirt with Penny. Penny has had previous experience with an employer trying to force his attentions on her, and she rebuffed James at every turn.
Penny sees a painting of Silverthorne Castle on the wall of the townhouse, and it is identical to an image that’s been haunting her dreams for some time. She faints. When she comes to, she explains this to James and he immediately insists they travel to Silverthorne Castle. His sister-in-law has been having the same kind of disturbing dreams, and it’s affecting her health. Penny reluctantly agrees, and they set off for Silverthorne in the company of the Marquess’s secretary and a disagreeable poor relation, elderly Aunt Agatha. This termagant spends the entire journey complaining and criticizing the Marquess, behavior that doesn’t stop once they reach Silverthorne.
It’s soon established that the ghostly figures in Penny’s dreams are Silverthorne ancestors, and they are determined to place a fabulous ruby necklace in Penny’s hands. Since the necklace can only be handled by the true descendant of Lady Winifred, the family concludes that Penny must be the heiress. This changes matters considerably. Meanwhile, Penny does a fine job of acting as governess to the Marquess’s little boy, and Aunt Agatha snipes to anyone who’ll listen that Penny is no more than a cheap impostor. James is falling in love with Penny, too, and finding that those wild oats he sowed as a young man are coming back to haunt him now.
There was a lot going on in this story, and for the most part, it was quite cohesive. The mystery of the ruby necklace was an interesting twist, and the romance between James and Penny is portrayed in a somewhat unusual fashion: he finds himself immensely attracted to her, but she’ll have little to do with hum, sure that their class differences and his rakish ways will eventually drive them apart. James has a lot of convincing to do.
The suspense plot involves more treasure, as yet unfound, and a villain who is also trying to get his hands on it. It’s glaringly obvious who this villain is, and the fact that the family remains clueless was an irritant. Between this and Aunt Agatha screeching away in the background like the literary equivalent of nails on a blackboard, my enjoyment tended to wane as the climax approached. James and Penny don’t exactly cover themselves in glory in the smarts department, either. But the story kept me reading, the main characters were nice people, and the romance took some work – it wasn’t a case of “instant lust.”
The Ruby Ghost is an entertaining Regency with a few twists thrown in, and an enjoyable way to spend a winter afternoon. I hope June Calvin returns soon.