I must confess, I have only read Coulter's FBI thrillers before now. But I came across this collection of novellas and I was intrigued. A mix of historical fiction (set in the mid nineteenth century), mystery, and fantasy elements, the stories follow Grayson Sherbrooke and his growing "family" as they investigate unusual occurrences. Sherbrooke has his son Pip (a precocious almost five-year-old), and they become close friends with their neighbors - a beautiful widow named Miranda, her daughter P.C. (a very self-possessed eight-year-old), and their stable boy Barnaby. Sherbrooke comes from a well-known family, but is not in line to inherit a title. He writes gothic adventure stories featuring a character named Thomas Straithmore who has generally "smashed the evil hard" by the end of each book. When it seems that some sort of ghost or poltergeist has begun causing trouble at the home of her great grandfather, P.C. has Barnaby help her reach out to Sherbrooke for help.
The novellas each feature a different supernatural foe in a different location. It may be at a neighbor's home, the ancestral seat of the Sherbrooke family where his aunt and uncle live, or even the manor house of an old schoolmate. There are ghosts, witches, kelpies, and plenty of curses and enchantments to overcome. Although his earlier novels were purely fiction, Sherbrooke begins to incorporate some of the real-life action into his books as he continues to be pulled into these mysteries. At least he can keep his editor and fans happy with tales of bewitched parties, visits to the past to see Camelot, and spirits that try to control the living.
The ensemble cast really makes the stories entertaining. Pip is so convinced that his father can accomplish anything and has an amazing vocabulary for his age (but his father is a writer after all). P.C. will not allow anyone to know her real name and only plans to "speak it aloud and horrify [her] great-great-grandchildren because they'll doubtless deserve it." She is also determined that she will marry Barnaby when they are old enough and works hard to correct his speech and manners. Miranda is a spirited woman who has been left a widow with this energetic daughter to raise. Together they create a found family that readers can admire and cheer on through their escapades.
Fans of Randall Garrett's stories about Lord Darcy and his magical investigations may find another hero to admire in the Grayson Sherbrooke stories. I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.