Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Texas Gothic, by Rosemary Clement-Moore

The title of Rosemary Clement-Moore's new novel Texas Gothic is misleading: there are no gloomy mansions or dark family secrets, and Clement-Moore's heroines have never been fragile*. It would have been far more accurate to call the book Supernaturally-Gifted Nancy Drew and the Case of the McCulloch Ranch Ghost... but we can accept—grudgingly—that doesn't really roll off the tongue.

When Amy Goodnight agrees to spend her last summer before college house-sitting at her Aunt Hyacinth's herb farm, she doesn't expect everything to be normal. Life is never normal for the Goodnights, a family of witches and psychics, but Amy has a lot of practice at keeping other people from noticing her quirkier relatives—like her older sister Phin, a science major who's spending the summer at the herb farm measuring the physical aspects of paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately, there are two things distracting Amy from her self-appointed role as the family's protector: her cranky (but hot) neighbor Ben McCulloch, and the Mad Monk of McCulloch Ranch, a legendary ghost who seems all-too-interested in the Goodnight sisters.

It's tough to pick our favorite aspect of this novel. Amy and Ben's prickly romance, Phin's endearing weirdness, and the organically-incorporated magical elements were all great, but we particularly enjoyed the book's many tongue-in-cheek tributes to Nancy Drew:
Emery cut in impatiently, “For crying out loud. Who do you think you are? Nancy Drew?”

“Hey,” I snapped, because no one sniped at my sister but me, and Mark echoed with a stern “Chill, dude.”

Phin was unperturbed. “Those books were highly unrealistic. Do you have any idea how much brain damage a person would have if she were hit on the head and drugged with chloroform that often?”
We have no reason to suppose there will be a sequel to Texas Gothic, much less an effort to turn the Goodnight family's adventures into a Nancy Drew-style series, but we totally enjoyed this supernaturally-tinged take on the girl sleuth genre, and—once again—were left eagerly anticipating Ms. Clement-Moore's next book.

*To be fair, the book is set in Texas.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.

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