Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore (Ember, 2011) reads like something written by Zane Grey after an all-night peyote bender and Veronica Mars marathon. It mashes up tropes from a half-dozen different genres–the plucky girl detective, the hot cowboy, the lost Spanish goldmine, the restless ghost–and gently pokes fun at itself for doing so. In another writer’s hands, the book could have been a disjointed mess, but Clement-Moore’s breezy, self-aware style manages to pull it all together into a mostly enjoyable read.
What’s it about? During the summer between high school and college, Amy Goodnight and her sister, Phin, tend to their aunt’s herb farm in the Hill Country of Texas for a month. Descended from a family of magic users, Amy is the self-appointed gatekeeper of the Goodnight clan, taking it upon herself to explain away the weirdness of her family to a skeptical–and sometimes hostile–world. Despite her best efforts at having a normal summer, Amy becomes tangled up in the strange happenings surrounding the local legend of the ghostly Mad Monk. Her quest to find the truth behind the legend puts her at odds with Ben McCullough, the handsome son of a rancher who wants nothing to do with nonsense like ghosts and magic.
In a way, this is a tough book to review because it’s neither great nor terrible. It’s a perfectly serviceable read, which puts a cast of likeable characters through their paces with a wink and a nod to the formulaic nature of the story. When the villains are unmasked at the end, no one actually says that they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids–but it’s a near miss. I’m not mad at Texas Gothic, though, and I’m interested enough in the world of the Goodnight girls to read the companion novel, Spirit and Dust. Sometimes you just want to read a book without too many surprises, and where nothing very bad happens to anyone.
Emperor Cupcake’s Rating System Explained:
1 Star: This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
2 Stars: Not great, Bob.
3 Stars: The emperor is pleased. You may live.
4 Stars: Ooh, shiny!
5 Stars: *Incoherent, high-pitched fan-girling*