4 out of 4 stars
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Eden is devastated when her mother died as she was her only known family. After finding out shortly afterward that a large, two-story house and property in Two Rivers, Texas, has been willed to her, she is mystified. Subsequently, she journeys there to find out why. Not long after arriving at the house, Eden starts seeing and hearing unusual things but stubbornly refuses to allow it to frighten her off.
Eden meets Nub and Miss Alma upon arrival. Miss Alma is an elderly, black woman who has been told she can live in the house for the rest of her life. She took care of the previous mistress and knows the history but has promised not to divulge the secrets. Soon afterward, Eden meets Afton, a young, white woman who has been hired to help take care of the house.
Eden searches for information that will tell her where she came from and why the house belongs to her. Her property is on the edge of the Big Thicket, a wild area where the “bottom landers” dwell. These are poor people who live off the land and hate the “towners,” the people living in town. There are members of both groups who are very dangerous, including Afton’s father. Eden keeps getting warned to stay out of the Big Thicket as it is hazardous. However, she doesn’t consistently do as she is advised and has to be rescued by J.D. soon after arriving.
The House on Camp Ruby Road by Twyla Ellis is the first of a series entitled Ghosts of the Big Thicket. These are standalone novels set in the Big Thicket of deep East Texas, which is where the author grew up. This book takes place in 1963 and is a combination of a mystery, thriller, romance, and ghost story. It deals with prejudice toward people of another color and between the rich and poor as well. The novel captured my attention on the first page of the prologue and held it until the last page of the epilogue. The tale was riveting, moving quickly from one fascinating scene to the next, and this was my favorite aspect of the story. The author’s writing style is easy to understand and is descriptive without being overly verbose.
The reader encounters a wide assortment of interesting characters in the story. These are just a few of them: strong-willed Eden, who is determined to fight discrimination, which often gets her into trouble; smart and affectionate, but frustrated Wynn (Eden’s boyfriend); strong and protective J.D.; self-centered, vindictive, and beautiful Paige (J.D.’s girlfriend); mysterious Nub, a “bottom lander” feared by both his people and the townspeople; warm-hearted and likable Miss Alma; sweet, shy, and physically abused Afton; as well as sadistic and controlling Carl Donner (Afton’s father).
Unfortunately, I wanted the romance to be developed a little more, and this was my least favorite aspect of the story. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to disclose a spoiler. However, when the couple who were supposed to be in love were apart, they didn’t seem to long for or even think of the other individual as people enamored ordinarily do. This made it a little hard for me to believe they were in love. Because there were so many other pleasing things in the book, it did not bother me enough to justify lowering the overall rating.
I thoroughly enjoyed this captivating story, and since there were just a few minor errors, The House on Camp Ruby Road achieves a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Readers who like mysteries, thrillers, and romance novels, with some paranormal events thrown in, should appreciate this tale. Other than a few kisses, no sex scenes were encountered in the book, and there was only one borderline profanity. However, violence and murder were seen in the novel, so readers sensitive to that, including children, might need to look elsewhere.
The House on Camp Ruby Road
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