There's a basic background story for the Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries Series. Each of the books easily stands on their own because the author makes sure that, in one way or another, she includes needed basic information.
But for my review of the entire series, I thought it would be best to pull out that background and the main characters, so that each will be familiar as I write...
I lived in a gorgeous antebellum house. Not too large. Certainly not too small. The white columns out front were tasteful, even though they had chipped in places. The porch was welcoming, if a little weathered. Over the years, my family had sold the estate around the house, piece by piece, so that the sprawling peach orchard and even the grand front drive had given way to tidy bungalows lining the long road to the main house.
Grandma had said it made gossip travel even faster, the way they built houses so close together these days. I always told her that the good citizens of Sugarland, Tennessee, needed no help. Still, I loved the place. And I absolutely despised letting it go. "Anyone home?" my best friend, Lauralee, called from the front of the house. "Verity, are you in here?" She added a few knocks on the front door, out of politeness rather than practicality, since the door already stood open.
We'd endured a stifling hot afternoon, and I couldn't afford to run the air-conditioning. I needed any breeze I could get. "In the back parlor," I called. "Mourning," I added, since there was nothing left in the once-stately room, save for a cooler filled with ice, my tea jug, and a lopsided futon I inherited from a roommate back at Ole Miss. The pink-papered walls and elegant wood accents appeared so strange without rugs and furniture, like a queen stripped of her jewels.
The estate sale was yesterday and the place had been picked clean. The vultures.
"I'm sorry." Lauralee's voice echoed in the empty room. She let her purse and a cloth grocery sack slip from her shoulder to the floor; then she wrapped an arm around me and squeezed, the curled end of her ponytail tickling my cheek.
I gazed up at the ugly black hole where the crystal chandelier had hung for more than one hundred years. "Thanks." I'd come to terms with this. I really had. I turned and looked her straight in the baby blues. "I'd live in a paper bag if it meant I didn't have to marry that bastard."
My friend drew back and tucked a lock of my hair behind my ear. "Seems like he's trying to make you good on your word." "True. But I'm not done yet." I refused to even entertain the thought. This past May, I'd scandalized the town when I jilted the most eligible bachelor in three counties— at the altar, no less. It was a disaster. Two old ladies fainted straight out of the pew reserved for the Southern Heritage Club. Then Beau's own mother collapsed, taking down a lovely hydrangea arrangement. I secretly wondered if Mrs. Leland Herworth Wydell III didn't want to be upstaged, even at her own son's ultimate humiliation.
Truth was, he'd brought it upon himself. But I suppose it was quite shocking if you didn't know the details. I hadn't told a lot of people. I'd wanted to spare my sister.
Lauralee chewed on her lip as she surveyed what little remained in my home. "Tell me you at least made some decent money yesterday."
"I did." I'd sold everything I could lay my hands on and kept only the absolute necessities, namely my futon, my grandmother's pearl wedding ring, and the quilts she'd made for me. It had hurt like a physical pain. I'd had to remind myself that it was only furniture, clothes. Stuff. I still had my health. And my friends. Not to mention my family.
I brought a hand to my throat, where I used to wear my grandmother's cross from when she was about my age. The delicate gold and silver filigree antique now belonged to my not-quite-mother-in-law. "I still owe more than twenty thousand dollars." I gazed across the once-grand, now empty back parlor turned family room. I tried to ignore the hollow place in my stomach. Tomorrow, my ancestral home would go on the market. I let out a ragged sigh.
"It's dumb, but I keep hoping for a miracle." A hidden treasure in the attic. Gold under the stairs. Stranger things had happened, right? All I knew was that I couldn't lose this house. I just couldn't.
Lauralee wrapped an arm around my shoulder and gave me a squeeze. "You'll make it. You always do," she said, in a way that made me think she actually believed it. She took in the fourteen-foot ceilings, the crown moldings. "With the money you have left over from the sale, you can make a fresh go of things."
A new start. I certainly needed something to change. And yet… "I can't believe it's all gone." What had taken more than a century to accumulate had become fractured history in the space of a day. "Except for that," I said, pointing to a god-awful vase on the mantel.
My friend made a face. "I never even noticed that before." It would have been hard to ignore.
"It was in the attic," I explained. "Where it belongs." The green stones that circled the top were sort of pretty, but a crude, hand-painted scene marred the copper exterior and a healthy dent gouged the lower half. The dotty old relic looked completely out of place on an ornate marble mantel with flowers and hummingbirds carved into the corners.
"Yeek." Lauralee crossed the room for a better look. She attempted to lift the monstrosity and then changed her mind. It was heavier than it looked, wider at the top and tapered down to a flared base at the bottom. In fact, it reminded me more of an antique Grecian urn. She turned to me. "Is it a spittoon?"
"I think it's a vase," I said, joining her. "Beau gave it to me. He called it an historic heirloom. Looking back, I think he just needed to get rid of it."
In the beginning of our relationship, Beau had given me heartfelt gifts— a pressed flower from the picnic we took on our first date, a little notebook with one of our private jokes written on the inside cover. Later, it was last-minute gas station flowers. And objects like this.
"It's hideous," Lauralee said. "A true monstrosity," I agreed. Or else he would have let me return it when I gave him back the ring.
"You want it?" I asked, turning the dented side toward her. My friend let out a snort. "Not unless I can thunk your ex over the head with it." I shot her a conspiratorial grin. "You'd do that for me?"
She raised her delicate brows. "Nothing would give me more pleasure," she said in a sweet, Southern tone that would make you think I'd offered mint juleps on the verandah.
"I suppose I could toss it," I said. I still had one trash can left. She waved me off. "Keep it out. It's a focal piece. The only one you have.
Here." She scooted it over toward the pale shadow where my mother's crystal swan used to be. "It'll draw people's eyes to the fireplace instead of that hideous futon."
"Way to remind me that I'm sleeping in the parlor." No way was I going to try dragging a futon up a flight of stairs.
She crossed over to the opposite wall to retrieve her hemp grocery bag from the floor. "Maybe this will help you forget," she said, holding up a bottle of Malbec.
"Mine," I said, on her in an instant. Although I'd have to tell her Beau took the stemware...
Verity, our ghost hunter was was an artist and had her own business, making business logos, etc., but she had lost her prestige when she refused to marry the most eligible bachelor in town... Her picture appears on the front cover of each book!
I'm sure Beau, Beauregard Buford Wydell, was probably an attractive Southern... man... but he sure wasn't a gentleman! He had cheated on his fiancee, including hitting on her own sister... I think I would have told the world why I backed out of the wedding. I, of course, cast him as the villain...at least one of them...
Instead, Beau took advantage of Verity not saying anything, and never cancelled the wedding, went to the church, and allowed everybody to think she had left him standing at the altar... Of course, she had, but nobody knew why! And she was mad enough that she went to the reception and, shall I say, made a big fool of herself!
That might have been fun and a little payback. But Beau's mother was a vicious, spiteful woman who laid the blame directly on the bride...and sued her to pay for the wedding that she'd elaborately created for her son!
Verity was losing everything!
Lucy is Verity's roommate and best friend, fortunately with scent glands removed. She's a wonderful addition to the books and brings a light touch to the situation, especially since she is not willing to make friends with Frankie the German...
Frankie the German is also a main character... you might say he is the one who brings spirit to the stories! Actually, Frankie came to meet Verity by an accident on her part. Beau had brought over and given Verify an old vase, she thought. Nobody would buy it at the estate sale, so Lauralee, Verity's friend suggested she leave it on the mantle during the house sale, mainly to draw their eyes away from a battered old futon...
The problem arose when Verity looked down into the vase and saw how dirty it was. She took it outside and dumped the contents out in the dirt around her rosebush, and then watered it thoroughly...
Merging the remains of Frankie the German with the dirt surrounding the house... Of course, the vase had actually been the funeral urn of an old relative of Beau's family! And now Frankie was grounded, forever to stay on the property of Verity's home... Hate to say, but as of the latest book, they still haven't figured out how to solve that problem...
So, when a man who appears only in black and white appears in Verity's house...well...they are still arguing in each book as well!👻
This is Verity's new love interest...You'll learn more about him as we begin one of the stories...