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Three American girls living in London rent a large old house overlooking Hampstead Heath. Unknown to them, the house was originally part of the country house of Sir Jerome Kennington, the seventh Earl of Arden -- murdered on his wedding night by a group of masked men who broke into his house and abducted his bride, Lady Alicia Mannerly. That was in 1811, and now Sir Jerome's specter lives on in the house that remains from the original Arden Manor after a fire destroyed most of the manor house in 1925. Eternally 28 years old, Jerome is a prisoner of the house until he discovers the identity of his murderers and the fate of his beloved bride. This is a next to impossible task, since Jerome cannot leave the house.
In the fall of 1988 television newscaster Dierdre Hall goes to London from New York to work for a newly-installed cable network. With her is Natalie Ladd, a 'fantasy' artist who is being featured in November of that year at the Camden Arts Festival. When they arrive, their friend Charlotte Lewis, who has already been living in London for a year and a half, has rented them the house in Hampstead. Charlotte is a well-known fashion photographer who is trying to make a name for herself photographing street life in London.
For over a hundred years, Jerome has been waiting for someone to come to the house (first Arden Manor, then the remaining structures) who will be able to see and hear him; the three Americans are the ones. Jerome enlists them to discover the outcome of his story and free his soul. This involves the women in research into the history of Hampstead and London, and with the descendant of Jerome and Alicia. They eventually discover the identity of Jerome's murderer and Alicia's kidnapper.
The women are assisted by a Russian filmmaker working for the BBC, a Socialist singer/songwriter who happens to be Sir Jerome's descendant, and a Norwegian Research Biologist (who also provide the romantic interests). By the end of the film they have discovered the surprising secret of the story of Jerome and Alicia, a secret that directly affects the lives of Dierdre and Robin Herald, the singer.
They have also discovered a common cause in the fight against animal experimentation; one that Paul Harkness, the biologist, first brings to their attention and in which Jerome is instrumental in assisting them to liberate the laboratory animals from an experimental laboratory at the University of London, where Paul works.
Lost Myths Ink
Jerome stared at Dierdre, who had exclaimed in horror at his mention of Charles Brent. "What ails you, lady?"
"Charles Brent ó the name of the man who married Lady Alicia after your death!"
"Are you certain?" Jerome seemed thunderstruck.
"Absolutely. I remember the name, and they had only one child ó a son."
"I suppose I should have realized, but he seemed so ineffectual ...he was her most ardent suitor until I arrived in London."
"Go on with the story," Charlotte urged. "Maybe thereíll be some more clues."
Jerome shook his head. "It all seems very clear, now. Though I would swear Brent was not one of the men who came to my house ó they were rough and strong, obviously hired bully-lads. Brent was a weak, posturing fool!" He hit his fist into his palm, as if he was wishing it was
Charles Brentís head he was smashing. He took a deep breath, and continued his story. "I didnít
see Alicia for about a week after the ball. "Then, one day in Hyde Park ..."
It was a mild spring day in Hyde Park. Men and women walked in pairs or groups; the women wore wide-brimmed straw bonnets, and brightly colored muslin dresses with matching parasols. Lord Jerome and his friend Richard were riding across the grass, and Jerome felt better about his world when he was able to view it from this vantage point. With such beauty in his sight, it was difficult to remember the pledge he had made to himself, the cause he was to fight. Jerome had decided a direction for his life, now that he heíd left His Majestyís Service ó once he
straightened out his estates and found competent managers (high on his list was bettering the living conditions of his tenants) he would take his seat in Parliament, and see what he could achieve in the way of reform. The reforms he had in his mind had to do with the poor of London, and the way they were forced to live ó surely something must be done. But where to start? That was difficult to decide, because every time he made a foray into Seven Dials or Wapping he seemed to come across yet another hideous injustice. When he attempted to talk to Richard about his plans, his friend refused to listen. He insisted that Jerome would come to his senses, once he began to take his estates in hand ó that was what their class of people was meant to do. Richard wasnít interested in the poor or their problems ó he was simply grateful he didnít have them himself. Jerome didnít blame him for this ó he knew most of their acquaintances were of the same mind. But he wished he could find a woman who would share his vision, who could
help him with the quest. He knew it was a hopeless task, if his aim was to marry this helpmate. Women of his class thought Ďgood worksí meant giving out bibles and soup; it would never occur to them that there should be sweeping changes and reforms in the social strata. If it did occur, it
would be a frightening thought to be pushed to the back of the mind ó gentlewomen in England in the first part of the nineteenth century had no time for radical thinking.
Jerome was too deeply in thought to see the high-perch phaeton coming towards them down a path. This vehicle, painted rose-pink and lavender, was unusual in more than itsí design ó it was driven by a woman. The high-perch phaeton was such an unsteady, fickle equipage, designed for speed rather than safety, that it was unusual to see a woman driving one. This woman, a beautiful dark-blonde in her mid-forties, was obviously experiencing no difficulties
with the management of her vehicle, even on the crowded paths of the park. Seated beside her was the girl who had so taken Jeromeís fancy at the ball. Dressed in a green carriage dress and striped pelisse, with an Italian straw hat adorned by green ribbons on her head, the girl looked even more delicate and angelic in the mid-day sun than she had in the artificial light of the ballroom.
As Richard stopped his horse beside the phaeton, Jerome was jerked back to reality. The first thing he saw when he focused his eyes, was the girl, smiling over at him from beneath the broad brim of her hat. Blinking in the strong sunlight, Jerome stared at her as if he didnít believe she was sitting a few feet away from him.
The older blond woman spoke to Richard. "Richard! I didnít know you were back in London."
His friendís drawl was more pronounced than when the two of them were alone; Jerome knew it was just one of Richardís fashionable affectations. He was amused by his closest friendís frivolity, and knew it was a good foil for his own seriousness, which he was afraid would become ponderous if he wasnít careful. "The war was becoming a bore. Iíd like to introduce you to my friend, Lord Jerome Kennington ó the Earl of Arden. Jerome; this is Lady Sarah Mannerly."
"Iím very pleased to meet you, Lord Kennington."
Jerome bowed to her as much as he was able from horseback. She continued, "This is my niece, Alicia."
Jerome bent further in the saddle and took Aliciaís hand, raising it to his mouth. He kissed it lingeringly, and she didnít snatch it away, but smiled again. "Iím very pleased to meet you, Lady Alicia." He looked up in embarrassment and met Sarahís laughing eyes. "And you, Lady Sarah."
"Donít overwhelm me with your enthusiasm, pray," she retorted drily. Jerome could see she was attempting to keep from laughing aloud.
"I saw you at the Duchess of Rutlandís ball. You were in Hussar uniform ó have you sold out?" Aliciaís voice was low and soft, and reminded Jerome of piano music.
"Invalided out, dear lady. I took a musket ball in the thigh. I believe Iím well enough to go back, but the surgeon feels otherwise."
"Donít be in a hurry to leave London and deprive us of your company, Lord Kennington." Alicia smiled at him again, tilting her head so the brim of her hat shaded her eyes.
Sarah turned and stared at her niece in amazement, as if unable to believe it was Alicia who had spoken.
Jerome grinned at her in turn. "Thank you, Lady Alicia. Leaving London would be very difficult while you are in it, I assure you. Will I see you at Lady Hardwickís musicale?"
It was Sarah who spoke, the humor evident in her voice. "We will be there, Sir Jerome. Though I wonder how safe it will be, with you as one of the guests. You are a rogue,
Jerome laughed delightedly, and bowed to Sarah in mock gallantry. "And you would know one well, my dear Lady Sarah, having broken the hearts of so many. Your reputation precedes you."
Sarah laughed also. "But youíre a charming rogue. Good day, gentlemen." She started up the horses, and the phaeton moved away down the path, leaving them sitting alone.
"What a wonderful girl Lady Alicia is," Jerome said, watching the phaeton tool away at a spanking pace.
"Watch yourself," Richard cautioned. "Sheís got no dowry. Lady Sarah sponsored her comeout, but with a father like herís, you can be certain sheís going to jump at any offer."
Jerome frowned. "Does it seem to you that Iím in any need of dowry money? And if that girl jumps at just any offer, it would be a tremendous waste." He spurred his horse so it jumped, and rode away across the grass without a backward glance.
Richard watched him for a moment, shrugged, and followed after at a more decorous pace.
Lady Hardwickís house in Mayfair was sumptuous and over decorated, and the drawing-room where she was holding her musicale was crowded and hot. The singer, a noted soprano, was a heavy woman dressed in an unfortunate shade of purple ó a dress that would have been suited to a younger, smaller lady. Her voice was indisputably fine, but somewhat overpowering in a drawing room. Sarah and Alicia were both there, seated together on a small loveseat. They made a lovely picture together ó though they were not mother and daughter they could easily have
been so, and they captured the attention of every male in the room between them. Alicia was dressed as befitted a first season debutante in a simple gown of white muslin, decorated with pale-blue satin ribbons and clusters of tiny flowers. Sarahís dress was a darker shade of the same
blue, whether by design or happenstance unknown, and they wore matching silk shawls of white embroidered in blue.
With them that evening was Aliciaís cousin, Charles Brent. He was dressed just as unfortunately as he had been the night of the Duchess of Rutlandís ball; this time in a coat of
emerald green satin, and a waistcoat of tapestry that seemed to contain every color of the spectrum, and some that had been invented especially for it. He was standing behind
the loveseat on which Sarah and Alicia sat, leaning over the upholstered back with his elbows resting on the satin. Alicia was sitting forward on the divan, as if she didnít want to
be too near to him. Attention was focused on the doorway of the salon as Jerome and Richard entered, both attired in the same severe evening wear they wore at the ball. They were a remarkably striking pair; Jerome dark and Richard fair, like two Jacks from a deck of cards. They were by any yardstick the most elegant men in the room, and the eyes of the ladies followed them as they made their way around the back of the chairs that had been set in the middle, over
to Lady Sarahís loveseat. Young women began to discuss them behind their fans, and attempted to draw their attention while remaining inconspicuous.
As the two men approached, Charles Brentís eyes narrowed in annoyance, and he moved slightly closer to Alicia.
Richard bent down to kiss Sarahís hand as he arrived in front of her. The soprano had thankfully retired for a short intermission, and been replaced by a small orchestra that
played at a level which allowed conversation. "Greetings, Lady Sarah," was Richardís first sally. "I see youíre holding up under the duress of the Ďmusicí."
Lady Sarah chuckled. "Wretch! And I see that you and Lord Kennington have managed to arrive when it is nearly over."
"The only thing Lady Hardwick knows how to do well is give a supper," Jerome replied, "As evidenced by her embonpoint. We have that to look forward to, at any rate."
Charles was standing stiffly behind the sofa, regarding Jerome and Richard with disapproval and disfavor. "Do you consider it good ton to disparage your hostess while you are accepting her hospitality?" His voice was nasal, and had a whining quality to it, as if he had been too indulged
as a child and now expected everyone to do the same. It also held a note of perpetual annoyance and disappointment, evidence of the fact that no one ever did so. "I assure you, I do not."
Jerome straightened from his lingering kiss on Aliciaís gloved hand. He slowly lifted his quizzing glass on itsí silk rope and raised it to his eye. Without a word, his gaze raked Charles up and down. This too was slow, and almost painful in itsí duration. Sarah and Alicia sat on the edge of the loveseat in anticipation, and Richard was attempting not to grin and spoil the whole scene.
"Have we met?" Jeromeís voice held a note of incredulity. "No, I believe we have not. I feel certain I would have remembered that . . .waistcoat." He dropped the quizzing glass, thereby signalling that he was no longer aware of the existence of Charles.
"My dear Lady Alicia," he continued, "It is quite stifling in this room. Would you care for some refreshment? I saw the servants laying out quite a sumptuous spread as we were coming into the room; surely they wonít mind if we are somewhat precipitate in our enjoyment of some lemonade."
"Thank you, yes." Alicia sounded relieved to be able to escape from the room. She rose gracefully from the loveseat, and Jerome tucked her arm through his. They strolled slowly across the back of the room, towards a double-doorway. Through the lintel they discovered they
werenít the only guests to abandon the music for the refreshments.
Charles Brent was furious. He knew he couldnít compete with Jerome in any way ó the man was an Earl, for Godís sake! It didnít occur to Charles that if Jerome had been nothing but Captain Jerome Kennington of the Fourth Hussar Brigade, he still would have won any contest between them with yards to spare. Charles knew it was Sarahís fault that Alicia was slipping out of his grasp; why had the damned woman insisted her niece be given a season in town, when Charles was ready to marry her upon the death of her father? Because Sarah despised him, that was why;
and was hoping Alicia would attract other offers. But Charles couldnít believe Jerome had marriage in mind when he showed interest in Alicia ó wealthy earls didnít marry the penniless daughters of unlucky gamblers. He decided he should make his claim to Alicia known, just in case there
was a chance Jerome was attempting to cut him out.
"Your friend should be told, Sir Richard, that Alicia and I have an understanding." Charles realized he sounded pretentious and whiny at once, but that was the best he could do. He always sounded as if he was whining.
Richard surveyed him with definite loathing. He sat beside Sarah on the loveseat and addressed her, ignoring Charles. "Lady Sarah, who is this fellow? Surely not a connection
Charles flushed angrily, but Sarah waved him back with an imperious hand. "My nephew, alas. A more addlepated numbwit Iíve yet to come across. Donít talk such fustian, Charlie ó you know Alicia would sooner become an Ape-leader than leg-shackled to you."
Red-faced, Charles turned and stalked away in a fury.
"Fond of him, are you?" Laughter was trembling in Richardís voice.
Sarah snorted in a remarkably unladylike manner. "Every family has itsí dirty dishes, I suppose. Charlieís one of mine. Tell me all about the war, Sir Richard."
"Anything but that, Sarah. Take me at my word itís a crashing bore."
In the refreshment room, Jeromeís limp was still pronounced as he traversed the table for delicacies to bring to Alicia.
ďThis is Lord Jerome Kennington, Nat. Heís a ghost.Ē
Book Review.com by Heather Froeschl
Never before have I encountered a ghost I like so much as Sir Jerome Kennington. We should all be so lucky to have a spirit so full of life in our homes.
Three women rent a house in Hampstead that comes furnished with antiques and its own resident earth bound spirit. What follows is a wonderful story of the three living together, as only women can, sharing and supporting each other through career challenges, men troubles and decisions of what to wear.
Deirdre Hall is a television show host who falls for a guest rock star. Charlotte Lewis is a photographer who wants desperately to capture the essence of the souls in London, and Natalie Ladd is a painter who ends up wowing the crowds at a gallery showing. In between the inspiring lives these ladies lead, they find the time to make love with their boyfriends, liberate a lab full of test animals and help sort out the mystery that has their ghost remaining on the earthly plain.
Jerome was murdered, and he needs to discover why and by whose hand. There is an evolution here of this lost soul. At first he can only be seen by the three women, the first in 200 years to do so. Then he discovers that others can see him as well. He was trapped in the house that at one time was part of his own estate, but as time goes by, with the women to help him, he finds he is able to travel about. Jerome shares with the girls, his understanding of life and death and reincarnation: shocking one of the boyfriends.
And then there is Deidre∆s boyfriend, the rock star, who looks exactly like Jerome. Though he is not a Kennington, it is possible that he is a descendant and turns out to be a clue to a piece of the puzzle.
The author has succeeded in bringing a group of friends to life for the reader, even the character who has been dead for so long. Attention to detail is given at just the right moments. The research that was involved, in portraying Jerome∆s story from the 1800∆s, was obviously enjoyed by the author, as the details of the period are wonderfully vibrant.
I savored this book to the very end, which turns out to not be the end after all. The second novel, Jerome∆s Quest, I am told will be available shortly. I look forward to it with much anticipation.
Curled Up With a Good Book
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.
Love's 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.
Romance Junkies by Brooke Wills
Charlotte Lewis is a fashion photographer living in London. When she learns her good friend, Dierdre Hall, is moving to London from New York to host a new talk show, Charlotte invites her to move in with her. Of course, her flat is much too small, and new living accommodations are in order. Within a few days, Charlotte has found a wonderful, large townhouse that surprisingly offers a reasonable monthly rent! But it is still too big for just two, so Charlotte decides to invite Natalie Ladd, a fantasy painter living in California to come and join them. Natalie is definitely ready for a change as her ugly, drawn-out divorce has just become finalized.
For almost two hundred years, Sir Jerome Kennington, former Earl of Arden, has been imprisoned in the townhouse. The same house where he was murdered on his wedding night. The crime happened so fast he has no idea who murdered him, or what happened to his beloved bride. He cannot move on until these questions are answered. And until the arrival of the three girls, no one has been able to see him or help him. Now there is hope: all three girls and their lovers are more than willing to help Jerome solve the mysteries and set him free.
Debora Eliza Beth Hill has written a delightful novel that is both creative and enchanting. Using flashbacks, there is actually a short historical written right into this full-length contemporary romance. Her characters are friendly and real. While reading, you feel as if you are sitting right along with them in their kitchen or living room as they have their discussions and drink their tea while eating biscuits. A GHOST AMONG US is an entertaining and wonderful story that will leave you smiling after you turn the last page.
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