Eternally Yours by Jennifer Malin
(Jove, $5.99, G) ISBN 0-515-13238-1
This is a book for people who don’t really have time to read. Just minutes with its shallow characters, thin plot and inane ghost story will transform yard work and cleaning the garage into appealing entertainment.

Lara Peale, a high school teacher and self-proclaimed artist, has plans for her house. It was in her ex-husband’s family for generations but she bought him out during the divorce. Now that the house belongs entirely to her, she wants to create a proper studio in which to create “her art” and she’s applied to the local historical society for a grant to pay for the work.

Apparently her grant application just said “I want money,” because when Mark Vereker shows up to interview her and inspect the house he is astonished to find she intends to tear down an outside wall and build an addition with floor to ceiling windows and skylights. Mark is appalled. The home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Homes. Doesn’t she know that she’s not permitted to make structural changes?

Lara neither knows nor cares. Her reaction to this news is to have a tantrum over the society’s lack of “vision” in preventing her from ravaging an historic home so she can achieve her full potential as an artiste. It’s her house and she’ll do whatever she wants, with or without their money, nyah, nyah.

Even as he ogles her legs, Mark is horrified by Lara’s lack of taste, exemplified by both her deluded plans for the house and her enthusiasm for the “trite” and “nauseating” poetry of his womanizing ancestor, Geoffrey Vereker.

Unbeknownst to both of them, Geoffrey’s ghost is actually watching all of this, wildly attracted to lovely Lara and furious at Mark for moving in on “his” divorcée.

The author tries to pretend she’s telling a mysterious story involving a mysterious concealed room and a mysterious ghost with a mysterious secret, but all of it just plods between repetitions of the same old argument between Lara and Mark (No you can’t! Yes I can! No you can’t! Yes I can!). This goes on for 200 pages punctuated with an occasional inventory of body parts that I guess is intended to represent sexual tension.

It isn’t interesting, it isn’t romantic, and it’s couched in self-conscious language that is awkward and over-descriptive. “She obviously didn’t realize her effusions were wasted on him, but he wasn’t about to tell her. He had no desire to dally here arguing with her about what constituted worthwhile reading. Her love of trite poetry only convinced him more thoroughly that she must be a bit of a flake.”

This becomes even more tedious when we’re treated to the thoughts of the ghost who, even though he’s been mingling with mortals since his death, mixes modern references with such silly anachronisms as “sleeveless bodice,” “pantaloons,” and “motorized carriage.” Surely he’s heard the word “car” by now? In addition, although he’s non-corporeal and moves through walls, ceilings and people, Geoffrey finds the ability to fix broken hydro wires, pelt Mark and Lara with books, and write an instructive poem for our lovers whenever the author finds it convenient for him to do so.

Ah, yes. The poetry. This is a trap for unwary authors, and Ms. Malin leaps into it head first. You see, it’s bad poetry, and prolonged contact seems to cause brain damage. Lara found this drivel “wonderful” which destroyed any confidence in her own artistic taste and ability. Then, later, Mark revised his opinion about it, as falling in love apparently opened his eyes to the full range of its hidden depths. He had my profound sympathy.

Suddenly, after 200 pages of adolescent squabbling, the characters can no longer resist their mutual lust. “But it just seemed hard to believe, after all the tension between them, that things were going so well now.” Took the words right out of my mouth. But, believe it or not, by the time you get to this point, you’re nearly at the finish line so relief is in sight.

Which makes me realize I can say one good thing about this book. It’s short.

--Judi McKee

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