>> Tuesday, November 01, 2011
TITLE: The Shop of Shades and Secrets
AUTHOR: Colleen Gleason
SETTING: Contemporary US
SERIES: Followed by The Cards Of Life And Death.
When Fiona Murphy inherits a small antiques shop from an old man she met only once, she's filled with surprise, confusion and delight – and a little bit of terror at having a new responsibility in a life she prefers to be free and easy.I can't remember what took me to Colleen Gleason's website, but while there, the one-line description for The Shop of Shades and Secrets caught my eye: "Like Dharma & Greg...with ghosts!" Ohhhh, I thought, and clicked right over to amazon, where I found that a) it was only 86p (must have been on sale, it's now £2.90), and b) the longer description also included: "If you love Dharma & Greg or miss finding new novels by Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, and Antoinette Stockenberg...". I do, I do, I miss all those authors!!, I thought. Click, bought!
As she takes over ownership of the quaint shop, odd things begin to happen. Lights come on and off by themselves, even when they are unplugged...and there is a chilly breeze accompanied by the scent of roses even when the windows are closed.
H. Gideon Nath, III, is the stiff and oh-so-proper attorney who helps settle Fiona's inheritance, and despite her quirkiness and fascination with all things New Age, he finds himself attracted to her against his better judgment.
After she finds an unpleasant surprise in one of the shop's closets, scares off an intruder in the store, and uses her skill at palmistry to read Gideon's future--of which she appears to play a part--Fiona begins to realize that her free and easy life is about to change...whether she wants it to or not.
And I'm very happy I did. I'm not going to summarise the plot. There's no point, the one I quote above is exactly right (not a huge surprise, since this is a self-published book, so I expect it was written by the author herself, not a marketing department!)
What I am going to say, is that the story delivered exactly what I was looking for, a type of book you don't see at all these days. It's a bit like a cozy mystery in setting and feel, but with a subtle ghost story delivering some nice chills and a strong focus on the romance (and with no fade-to-black on the love scenes, yay!).
Much as I liked the mystery surrounding the shop and the quite creepy ghost story, I think the romance was my favourite. I just loved Gideon and Fiona relationship. Fiona is a non-annoying free-spirit character. She does her own thing and is confident about who she is, but she doesn't go all judgmental with the much more conservative Gideon. She does encourage the artistic side he keeps hidden, but there's no message here that there's something wrong with someone preferring a bit of structure in their lives.
Gideon is also an interesting character. He grew up with his lawyer grandfather after his own father's life became a complete disaster, due to the man's self-indulgence. His grandfather gave his life structure and security, and he has grown up into someone who distrusts anything that feels like self-indulgence. He is a talented artist himself, but he keeps this part of his life hidden, and refuses to indulge in it indiscriminately. But again, like Fiona, he's not an overly judgmental person. He soon realises Fiona is no flake, and respects her. He tells himself he disapproves of her, but in reality, he loves the more quirky side of her, and what's really going on is that he fears being with Fiona might crack his strict discipline. I loved seeing him thaw and understanding that it's not all or nothing in life.
The only thing that keeps this book from a keeper grade is that there's a development near the end that I didn't particularly like, not because of the way people reacted (in fact, everyone involved reacted in ways that made sense for their characters, and I was very happy that Gleason didn't make a particular person a villain), but because it didn't really fit in with the feel and tone of the book.
Still, minor annoyance. On the whole, this was a success, and I'm glad I bought it. There's a related book, about Fiona's brother, and I've now bought that one as well. I really hope these books sell well, and Gleason keeps writing in this genre.
MY GRADE: A B+.