Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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Disclosure: I obtained this collection when it was offered free on Amazon. I do not know any of the authors, nor have I ever had any communication with any of them about these books or any other matter. I am an author of historical and contemporary romances, including gothic romances.
This is a collection of four separate novels by four authors. When it showed up as a freebie in my email notices on 25 January 2018, I went ahead and downloaded it. It is still free as of 26 January, if anyone is interested.
The first novel is The Haunting of Saxton Mansion. I had in fact "purchased" this as a freebie a few months ago, but hadn't read more than the first page or so. Later, when checking the reviews on Amazon, I learned that this was one of those teaser books, where the first half is free, but the ending is in the second half that isn't free. Since I hadn't been immediately captivated by the opening, I didn't go back to read any further.
I'm assuming, therefore, that the boxed set contains the whole thing. The Table of Contents lists Book 0, Book 1, and Book 2.
The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 0
The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 1
The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 2
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 7-10). Kindle Edition.
I began reading Book 0, which is a very different opening from what I had read from the first freebie. Whether it is a prequel or backstory, I don't know yet. I may never find out, because I may not be able to force myself through it.
The scene is set as December 22, 1982, in Cypress Creek, Florida.
I don't mind a haunting from the recent past. In fact, I find it intriguing, because it seems there has always been a preponderance of ghosts from past centuries when it's just as likely that unhappy, restless spirits might be active from more recent times. So the near-contemporary timeframe didn't bother me.
The opening text is visual description of the scene. Full moon, clouds, and so on.
Wispy clouds streaked the evening sky, illuminated by the glow of a full moon. Palm trees in a slumbering town swayed in the slight breeze. On the corner of a sparsely populated back street sat a grand, two-story Victorian home. An iron gate over six feet tall surrounded the premises.
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 28-30). Kindle Edition.
Four sentences into the book and I stopped, dead. Four sentences.
The clouds and the moon, okay. Overview of the whole town, hm, okay. Zoom into house on the corner, hmmmm, less okay but passable.
Iron gate surrounding the premises? NO.
A fence surrounds a property, but a gate doesn't.
Disbelief is no longer suspended.
Freshly cut St. Augustine grass encompassed the massive front lawn where the old Saxton manor rested atop a small hill, shrouded by thick, looming tree branches in a neighboring forest.
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 30-31). Kindle Edition.
The grass doesn't "encompass" the lawn. Lawns aren't usually described as "massive." How is there a small hill on a corner city lot? If the forest is neighboring, how are its branches shrouding the house?
I'm barely onto Page 2, and my eyes are spinning in their sockets.
This is bad writing. It's poor word choices mixed with bad cinematography. And it doesn't stop.
Past the gated entrance was a long driveway that ran past the courtyard to the garage. The house itself had been constructed in 1970 and was one of the oldest homes in Cypress Creek. Its history was shrouded in secrecy.
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 32-33). Kindle Edition.
What courtyard? Does this author know what a courtyard is? I have my doubts.
And, a house built in 1970 is not Victorian. While it might be Victorian style, or Queen Anne Style, or whatever style that evokes the Victorian era, it's way too new to be true Victorian.
Maybe today's readers don't care. Maybe they're so accustomed to inaccuracies and otherwise bad writing that they can't tell the difference. Maybe they don't know the difference between a gate and a fence. Maybe they think "Victorian" is a synonym for "big and looks old." I don't know. As we here on BookLikes learned from our buddy reads Ammie, Come Home and Jamaica Inn, even traditionally published books can be loaded with errors.
Is that an excuse for the kind of crap that shows up in books like The Haunting of Saxton Manor? Because, hoo boy, it gets worse.
The action takes place a mere 12 years after the house was built, yet its history is "shrouded in secrecy." Um, no. The description of the setting is clichés upon clichés, but without substance. This is bad writing.
A decorated Christmas tree shined through a front window with its colorful reds, blues, and greens. The Saxton family living inside had much to celebrate during the coming holidays, unaware that outside their home, someone was watching.
Gerald Saxton’s black BMW drove through the automatic gate and up the driveway. He parked near the courtyard and got out, carrying two full paper grocery bags in each arm. Dressed in his creased gray suit, he walked up the three concrete steps onto the front porch with its wooden railing and thin white columns that ran up to the roof.
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 33-38). Kindle Edition.
The lights of the Christmas tree shone (not shined) through the window, not the tree itself. And the family probably lived inside the house, not inside the tree.
Gerald drove the car; it didn't drive itself. Why did he park "near the courtyard" and not in the garage? Does the writer stop to think how impossible it would be to carry two full paper grocery bags in one arm and then grab two more with the other arm and then, with both arms full, open the car door and maneuver past the steering wheel to exit the vehicle?
Why is his suit creased? Does the author mean the suit is wrinkled, as though Gerald slept in it? Or does the author mean the suit is neatly pressed, with sharp creases in the trousers? Does the author know what words even mean?
Potted plants lined the top railing. A porch swing, held by chains from above, creaked with the wind. It was a cool sixty-eight degrees that evening, hardly winter, but quite normal for the south Florida neighborhood.
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 38-40). Kindle Edition.
If the columns described in the previous paragraph rose all the way to the roof of the two-story home, it's unlikely the swing would have been on chains that long. And the temperature would have been "quite normal" for all of south Florida that time of the year, not just the local neighborhood. Though this lucky paragraph didn't have any major errors, it's still an example of what happens when a writer doesn't pay attention to details.
Fresh aqua paint covered the home’s wooden exterior; its steep roofline was a dark gray. Much of the house had undergone renovations some five years prior. The roof arched in the center, and there were two windows on the second floor that resembled eyes, with an even higher single attic window centered above. With its unique architecture, expansive courtyard, and adjacent tennis court, the Saxton estate was like no other home in Cypress Creek.
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 40-43). Kindle Edition.
The house is only twelve years old, yet it had undergone renovations at the age of seven? Why? And what does the author mean by "The roof arched in the center"? And we still don't know about this "courtyard."
I'll give you a break, dear reader, and not quote every single line for a while. Gerald enters the house and greets his wife, Annette, who is wearing a silk purple bathrobe.
Usage dictates that the bathrobe should be purple silk, not silk purple.
1 / SIZE : How big ? Large, small, tiny, enormous
2 / AGE : How old ? New, young, old, ancient
3 / SHAPE : What shape ? Square, round, rectangular, flat
4 / COLOUR : What colour ? Blue, pink, yellow, crimson
5 / ORIGIN : Where from ? English, American, Chinese,French
6 / MATERIAL: What it is made of ? Plastic, cardboard, glass, wooden
7 / PURPOSE : What it is used for ? Racing car, frying pan, rocking chair
Though we -- as both readers and writers -- don't normally think in terms of these rules for ordering adjectives, "silk purple" just doesn't read as comfortably on our mental ears as "purple silk." Is it possible the author of this book is not well read?
At any rate, Gerald greets Annette and takes the groceries into the kitchen.
Gerald set the bags onto the kitchen counter and sighed. “Another long night at the office. What can I say?” He pulled a bottle of red wine from one the bags, proudly displaying the Dom Perignon label.
Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 54-56). Kindle Edition.
I can't leave a review on Amazon because I'm also a writer, and we're only allowed to write positive reviews, not negative or critical ones.
How many asinine mistakes is a reader supposed to put up with before DNFing and zero-starring a piece of garbage? How many "mulligans" does a lazy, incompetent writer get? This book (or at least the original first part of it) has 256 ratings on Amazon, with an average of 4.2 stars. What the ever living fuck?