A Ghost Among Us, Debora Hill's first novel featuring Regency-era ghost Sir Jerome Kennington, defies easy genre categorization. It is several stories rolled together in a single narrative parcel: the romantic misadventures of three young American women sharing an old country house in the London suburb of Hampstead; a daring animal rescue from an experimental research lab; and a
centuries-old murder mystery and love story.
been a little bit hard on Californian Natalie Merchant (no, not the lead singer
of 10,000 Maniacs) here in the late 1980s. Her novelist husband finally hit it big, after years of her
putting her painting on hold to support his writing, but he's given her over for
a much younger woman. After tedious legal battles to win her share of his
advance money, she is more than ready for a change. Her friend Charlotte, a
fashion photographer living in England, tells her that their friend Dierdre, an
independently wealthy TV-show talk show host, is moving to London to start a new
show. Natalie doesn't even look back - there's nothing now to keep her from
joining her girlfriends across the Atlantic.
Charlotte finds a rambling old country house for the three of them to share
in the London suburb of Hampstead. The catch? It's already inhabited by the
ghost of Jerome Kennington, a long-dead member of the Regency entitled class.
Murdered on his wedding night, Jerome has been trapped in the house by his own
driving need to know what happened, both to him and his young bride.
Jerome's existence barely puts a dent in the composure of the three women,
who are soon also occupied with new men in their lives, and with the many ups
and downs modern love can lay at their doorstep - disagreements about money,
religion, politics, and careers. But when Charlotte's boyfriend Paul, a
Norwegian native working as a research biologist at the University of London,
liberates a litter of kittens from an experimental lab on campus, the American
women and their paramours (the other two are a rock singer and a Russian
filmmaker) find that a larger cause is more important than their quibbles.
A Ghost Among Us is a little chick-lit, a little Regency romance, a little murder mystery, a little social commentary; but it is in the 1811 world of Sir Jerome Kennington where author Debora Hill really finds her footing. For readers who don't need a pre-defined niche to fit their book choices into, and who are willing to take a few narrative skips, hops, and surprises, this breezy debut serves up a sampler platter of good girlfriend times.