The Phantom of the Bathtub

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780505526526
  • Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2006
  • Pages: 369
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt



Phantom of the Bathtub



By Eugenia Riley


Dorchester Publishing


Copyright © 2006

Eugenia Riley

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-505-52652-2



Chapter One


"Mr. Cornelius?"

Arriving before her in a cloud of mingled sweat and pomade, he
extended a plump hand. "Welcome to Savannah, Miss Viveca."

She briefly shook his damp, fleshy hand and found herself
staring into a round face with a thin black mustache and
strangely shifty dark eyes. Although disquieted, she murmured
back, "Thank you, Mr. Cornelius."

He mopped his brow with a handkerchief. "I regret my
tardiness, but unhappily, dear Mother had another sinking
spell."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear of it." Viveca inclined her head
toward Emmett. "My man, Emmett Taylor."

With a cursory nod toward Emmett, Cornelius inquired, "Have
you met your neighbor, Maxwell Beecher, as yet?"

Viveca glanced toward the west, where their brooding neighbor
still stood watching them. "Oh, you mean the scowling man on
the veranda? No, we only just arrived."

Cornelius chuckled. "Well, I don't doubt Max is a bit peeved
at the moment, as he wanted to buy this place himself."

"Indeed?" Viveca smiled triumphantly at Emmett.

Cornelius grimly shook his head. "Yes, Max wanted to steal it
out from under me for a pittance, then raze the entire
property. Can you imagine?"

Emmett raised an eyebrow at his mistress in a clear, I told
you so
.

"Why he even had the gall to call the place a damnable
eyesore," Cornelius continued.

Viveca watched a frayed curtain flap at a broken windowpane.
"Did he? Whyever would he say that?"

At Viveca's acerbic tone, Cornelius quickly stumbled on.
"At-er-any rate, I knew old Miss Grace wouldn't want me to
sell Hangman's House to just anyone-but to a lovely lady such
as yourself who will better appreciate this property's
undeniable virtues."

"Hangman's House?" Viveca repeated, wide-eyed; she had stopped
hearing him as soon as he'd uttered her home's "cozy" pet
name. "You never told me my home is called Hangman's House.
Did a hangman live here?"

"Only briefly," he assured her cavalierly. "I believe there
used to be an old jail annex at the back of your property."

"A jail, as well?"

"Actually, more like a death house."

"What?"

"You know, where the condemned await their fate."

Viveca's mouth fell open.

Visibly discomfited, Cornelius cupped a hand around his mouth
and pivoted toward the house next door. "Oh, Maxwell!" he
bellowed. "Care to come meet your new neighbor?"

Maxwell Beecher stared a moment longer, then turned and
reentered his house, slamming the French doors.

"Why, I never!" Viveca gasped. "What a rude, contemptible
man."

Cornelius sighed. "Max is quite proud, but then he hails from
noble lineage. The Beecher Shipping Agency is quite an
institution in Savannah, not to mention, the half dozen or so
banks Max's family owns here in the Low Country. Max's
forebears built one of our original warehouses along Factor's
Walk. And actually, as the sole heir to an impressive
enterprise, he's considered quite a catch," he added
meaningfully.

"Well, I wouldn't catch him in a snake trap," Viveca asserted.

Emmett grinned, and Cornelius guffawed nervously. "At any
rate, Max cannot stand being bested, and you definitely beat
the pants off him with this deal, miss."

"I beg your pardon?" Viveca inquired archly.

Cornelius flushed deeply at his own faux pas. "Figuratively
speaking, of course."

"Well, I should hope so," replied Viveca primly.

"Besides, your offer was so much better than his."

Viveca glared.

"You mean you fleeced Miss Viveca like a lamb to the
slaughter," Emmett drawled.

Cornelius sucked in an outraged breath. "I must say, miss,
that your manservant here doesn't seem to know his place.
Such an uppity attitude won't go over well in this town."

Now Viveca stared daggers at Cornelius. "Yes, Emmett doesn't
know his place-and that's precisely how I like him. As for
the community, I'm quite confident the backwater of Savannah
will adjust."

Clearly chastised, Cornelius cleared his throat. "Well, isn't
she a beaut?" he asked with a sweeping gesture toward the
house.

"I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Cornelius kicked a discarded tin can out of their pathway.
"Shall we have a look?"

Viveca dreaded taking her next step. Indeed, she moved
forward only to cringe at the sight of a scrawny black cat
scurrying out of a basement window and skittering across their
path, surely a less-than-fortuitous portent of their future
here. "Heavenly days!" she declared, her hand flying to her
breast.

Emmett crossed himself.

"You aren't superstitious, are you?" Cornelius inquired.

"Certainly not!"

"Well, Mrs. Fulton, the previous owner, was. Some even claim
Grace died of fright."

Viveca's hand crept to the tight, high collar of her blouse.
"You don't mean the house is-"

"Haunted? Just silly rumors, of course."

"Oh, yes, of course, whyever would the house be haunted?"
Viveca mocked back. "Only a hangman's house, next to the
Hanging Oak on Hangman's Square, with an enormous cemetery and
the specter of an old jail both conveniently adjacent. No
reason to shudder in the least."

Cornelius stared at Viveca as if she'd lost her mind.

"All we need now are a few black spiders and cobwebs," she
muttered.

Indeed, Viveca batted at those pesky cobwebs as they climbed
the squeaky steps to the main story. Staring at the front
door with its chipped paint and crazed, oval glass panel, the
rocker with its seemingly perpetual source of motion, she felt
even more uneasy, as if some unbidden force were warning her
not to proceed.

Unbidden? Hadn't she just seen a black cat?

Nonetheless, Viveca bucked up her courage and marched forward.
Next to the door, she firmly stilled the creaking porch
rocker with the tip of her leather slipper. But the instant
she let up, the rocker began to slide to and fro again ...

***

"My kingdom," Viveca managed.

Standing on a moth-eaten Persian runner in the wide,
dilapidated central hallway of her new "home," she glanced
aghast from the parlor on her left, with its frayed furniture
and tattered wallpaper, to the dining room on her right, with
its scarred Queen Anne table and rickety side chairs. The
pungent odors of rot and mildew permeated the air, and dust
motes hung in slanted beams of sunshine.

Cornelius cleared his throat. "The place could use a bit of
spit and polish, eh, Miss Stanhope?"

"Spit and polish?" she repeated in amazement.

"Looks like you could spit it down in a good breeze," Emmett
added drolly.

Cornelius glowered at Emmett. "The house does come fully
furnished, including linens."

"How lovely." Near the front door, Viveca examined a length
of moth-eaten lace curtain, sending a spiral of dust showering
down upon herself. "Just lovely," she repeated, between
violent sneezes.

Cornelius squirmed from foot to foot, then harkened visibly as
a skinny black woman, dressed in a blue cottonade blouse and a
matching skirt, skidded into the hallway. Of medium height,
with her fuzzy hair bound with a red silk bandu, she appeared
to be about thirty years old. She grinned at Viveca in a
flash of a gold front tooth.

"Mistress Stanhope?" she asked excitedly, in a Jamaican
accented voice. "You be Mistress Stanhope? I be Winnie, your
housekeeper."

At first Viveca was too astounded to reply, staring at the
bizarre creature with her sharp features, strongly arched
brows, and dark eyes gleaming as if with some hidden
fanaticism. Thankfully, Emmett intervened, saying stoutly,
"Miss Stanhope already has a man, thank you."

She waved off Emmett with a cackle. "Ah, what good is a mon,
eh, mistress? Dey just gobbles food likky-likky, drink de rum
and smoke ganja. You need a female to attend you, nuh true?"

Perturbed by the woman's presumptuous attitude and heavy
Jamaican patois, Viveca turned to Cornelius. "Who is this
woman?"

His gaze shifted away from her. "Er-Winnie was Mrs. Fulton's
housekeeper. After Grace died, I paid her and-er-the others-"

"What others?"

"Er-a small stipend to keep the place running."

"They runnin' it straight to ruin, all right," pronounced
Emmett.

"Oh, hush, you useless mon!" Winnie scolded him. Turning to
Viveca, she simpered, "You see, ma'am, after Mistress Grace
died, we got no place to go, me and Miguel and Ruvi-"

"You and Miguel and-"

"Dey only be t'ree of us," Winnie pleaded, as if she were
being eminently reasonable.

"Three!" Viveca turned to Cornelius. "Mr. Cornelius, I was
barely able to purchase this, er-this-"

"Pigsty?" Emmett supplied for her.

Viveca shot Emmett a withering look. "And I cannot possibly
afford to engage additional servants."

With a glance at Winnie's stricken face, Cornelius replied,
"Well, perhaps you and the others can work something out."

"But there's nothing to work out. I-"

Cornelius pulled out a document from his breast pocket.
"Here's your deed, Miss Viveca, signed, sealed and delivered.
Hangman's House is yours."

Hangman's House, indeed! Taking the document, Viveca
restrained a shiver. "Mr. Cornelius, I wish you had warned me
about this place, and its condition, which is so much worse
than I was led to expect."

Cornelius blinked rapidly. "Madam, I hate to contradict you,
but the truth is, you got a steal. Now I must be going. As I
mentioned, Mother was sinking when I left her."

"Yes, we wouldn't want you to develop a reputation for
abandoning sinking vessels," Viveca shot back.

As Emmett snorted, Cornelius frowned. "Besides, this house
may be graying and dilapidated, but it's structurally sound.
Good day, miss."

With as much dignity as he could summon, Cornelius turned and
strode for the door, only to yelp as a floorboard buckled
beneath him. He launched into an undignified little sidestep,
then half his leg crashed through the floorboards into the
crawlspace.

Winnie gasped; Viveca crossed her arms over her chest. "Just
what were you saying about this house being structurally
sound
?"

Cornelius glanced back at her in helpless embarrassment;
Emmett stepped forward, grimly offering the trapped man his
hand. With Emmett's help and amid much grunting and groaning,
Cornelius managed to retrieve himself from the floorboards.
After brushing off his trousers, he plopped on his hat in a
vain attempt to hide a red face.

"Perhaps only a termite or two," he muttered, then fled out
the front door.

(Continues...)





Excerpted from Phantom of the Bathtub
by Eugenia Riley
Copyright © 2006 by Eugenia Riley .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2006

    LOVED IT

    I just finished this 369 page novel in less than eight hours. I couldn't put the thing down. The characters are so complex and real and so are the ghosts. Although the title is misleading. I figured the heroine and the male ghost Alex would fall in love. Not what I expected, but i loved it nonetheless.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2006

    Misleading blurb and cover art

    Yikes, this was not what I expected. The blurb on the back and the contemporary, cartoonish cover led me to believe it was a contemporary, paranormal romance. The first page has the date (1896), but after about 10 pages, I actually flipped back to see if I had somehow missed a segue into the present. This author failed miserably at providing a turn-of-the-century atmosphere. It seems as if she merely threw in a few references to carriages and horses in the hopes of making it seem like a historical paranormal romance. It didn't work. The heroine acts and speaks in contemporary ways, yet the hero is almost a throwback to those awful 1970s and '80s romances (when the hero was completely unlikable). It wasn't funny or charming, and I didn't like or care about the main characters. I'm hoping this is not indicative of her other books, and I'll give this author another try -- but I'll be wary.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    In 1896 Savannah, Viveca Stanhope moves into her new home, Hangman's House, an old mansion with a reputation of being haunted by its first owner Alex Fremont. Viveca meets the ghost, but wonders if he might be a pervert as he seems to only appear when she is taking a bath and insisting on joining her in the tub. More troublesome to the new owner then her ghost is the staff that came with the mansion their performance leaves Viveca to wonder if she should fire all of them.----------------- However, the perverted ghost and her incompetent staff are nothing compared to her arrogant neighbor Maxwell Bleecher. He drives her into a temper on the one hand and worse compels her into wanting his kisses. She is not sure if she hates him or loves him or both. However, she must concentrate on one thing at a time starting with helping Alex and his beloved Loreli make it to the next stage, then improving the performance of her servants, and finally confronting her heart about Maxwell.-------------------- Readers obtain two romances for the price of one book as Eugenia Riley primarily focuses on the relationship between the new battling neighbors Viveca and Maxwell, but ably supplemented by the ghostly pairing of Alex and Loreli. These four and an eccentric support cast predominantly the inept servants make for a humorous story line. However, the key to this fun historical is that Ms. Riley insures her audience not believes in ghosts, but also trusts that love is eternal.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2006

    Great Book!

    Though it may be true that humor and supernatural prescences weren't as strong as expected, the writer makes up for it in developing ever surprising scenerios and characters you love to hate! I really enjoyed the book not to mention the lovely Viveca and her scoundral Maxwell. A wonderful read for me!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2006

    Great sf romance

    On Jarved Nine, Captain Kendall ¿Bug¿ Thomas has uncovered a smuggling ring that is stealing artifacts from the ancient alien pyramid in the middle of the Old City. However, she lacks hard evidence as required by her superior Lieutenant Colonel Alex Sullivan so she plans to risk her life to obtain the hard proof.-------------- Peer Captain Wyatt ¿Marsh¿ Montgomery decides that the time is right for him to pursue Kendall, the woman he loves as he has in at least one past life that he knows of which also bugs the hell out of him by her obstinate denial. Kendall tries to avoid Marsh, but he refuses to go away. Instead once he realizes that she is on a dangerous case that lacks official sanctioning, he joins her rejecting her insistence that he stay away. As they work together to prevent the looting of priceless artifacts, Bug soon knows why she has avoided Marsh as she now realizes she loves him. However, they must put their feelings aside because the case must come first. She will then figure out what to do about the swamp man that bugs her.------------------ This sequel to RAVYN¿S FLIGHT is an excellent science fiction romantic detective tale that stands alone though some of the key players from the first novel provide critical support to ETERNAL NIGHTS. The story line insures the audience believes that the planet and its ancient alien presence seem genuine and the previous life scenario plausible though that it somewhat subtracts from the sci fi focus. The pairing is a pleasure as the heroine fails in her efforts to elude the man who desires her but insists on protecting her though she is tough and capable on her own account. Readers will appreciate this strong outer space thriller.---------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2006

    2 stars

    In Atlanta, in 1896, Viveca Stanhope moves into a new home to find it less than ideal. First, it's beside a cemetary used for those executed at the Hanging Oak, which is convenient, since it was once the hangman's home. It's also dilapidated and the servants are both superstitious and have a Rhett Butler (Frankly, my dear, I don't give a -) attitude. While the latter is inexcusable, the former can be explained by the fact that there is a ghost there, who primarily hangs out in the bathtub. Viveca is rather disconcerted, but undaunted. She's also not really searching for romance, but finds herself in the midst of a triangle. The local pastor would be a good catch, especially for a lady wanting to put scandal behind her, but Maxwell Beecher, the pastor's cousin who prefers to sin, is more appealing. He can sympathize with the ghost problem, too. .......... ** Frankly, this book does not live up to expectations. The title promises humor, but there is not much, and the supernatural element is not strong. The characters are colorful, but they don't have much to work with. **

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