Monday, January 26, 2009

House of Whispers, or “When Did the Fears go South?”

This is the second book in the Fear Street Sagas. A. M. And I have decided to blog these out of order, since we have very few of them, and there is no context building between them. As far as I can tell, they’re old-timey Fear Streets, focusing on the Fear family throughout history. Should be fun, right?

On the cover is our lovely heroine, Southern Belle Amy Pierce. She is wearing a modest but attractive dress appropriate to the period this book is done in ... just kidding. That thing is awful, hey? And I bet you could find very similar styled dresses nowadays, in malls across the land, and probably some junior high school grads. Blech, cover artist. Interesting, though, the inscription of this book is: “R. L. Stine would like to thank Wendy Haley for her contributions and efforts on this manuscript.” !!?? I haven’t seen such an obviously ghostwritten Fear Street before. It does make me wonder how many Fear Streets are in fact ghostwritten. Is R. L. just a cheesy-horror-book genius? The answer, my friends, is of course yes.

Anyways, let’s turn to the Deep South during the Civil War. The year is 1863, and Amy is fleeing to New Orleans to sit out the war in safety with her second cousin, Angelica Fear and her husband Simon. Wait ... the Fears lived in New Orleans?


So, I just went back to re-acquaint myself with the Fears from an invaluable source (A. M.’s blogs of the Original Saga series) and indeed, the Fears lived in New Orleans. Angelica is in fact from the south. I tell ya, you learn something every day. At this point in time, the Fears have been married for about 20 years. So they’ve had lots of years to get up to all kinds of creepy evil stuff.

Simon is actually absent during this book, doing his war work, which involves selling supplies to the highest bidder. The man clearly has no morals! So young little Amy Pierce is hanging out with Angie (I imagine Angelica fear to look exactly like Angelina Jolie, so she’ll just be Angie in this), along with the children. Their eldest is Julia, then spoiled Hannah, then the 3 little boys who are too unimportant to be given names (by me). Hannah is the lovely child that her parents prefer, Julia is disliked because she is ugly. Things won’t go well for Julia in the long run (no really, trust me).

Amy comes into the Fear mansion to find the staff chilly and frightened. Julia is creepy and awkward, constantly standing around in the way, silently. Amy takes pity and befriends her, giving her a good luck bracelet. After being given a pretty present like that, Julia gives Amy a warning: that people die awful deaths in the house. She tells Amy that there are shadow people that creep the halls late at night, and she once saw a servant devoured by the shadows, eating bones and drinking blood. You should probably take that lucky bracelet back, Amy.

Amy’s first morning there, Ang takes her to the library and reads her tarot cards. But of course – black magic people have no other interests than things that have to do with the occult. Amy feels some odd power, knowing that she could read the cards too. Her hands begin to shuffle the cards of their own accord, and the cards begin to literally FLY around her. Her natural reaction is a big Southern wtf, but Ang is unsurprised. She admits some Pierces are “uniquely talented” and wanted to see if the cards spoke to her. She wants Amy to learn, but Amy will have none of her unique talent, running outside.

She meets the children playing hide and seek, and joins in. While she’s searching through the massive grounds, Amy hears someone screaming in a neighbouring yard. She runs to help and sees an older woman, trying to get away from a water moccasin (which I had to look up, is a snake.) Amy, entreprising girl that she is, takes a hoe to it and chops it in half. Neighbour lady falls over herself to thank her, as does her son, who comes out. The son is apparently blindingly handsome, goes by the name of David Hathaway. He’s dark, and chiselled, and HAS AN EYEPATCH. Clearly he belongs on the cover of a romance novel somewhere. I imagine he has long flowing locks as well. Just as Amy falls head over heels for neighbour boy, Ang comes running and bustles Amy away.

Amy makes friends with her maid, Nellie, and they girly gush about how cute David is. Ang bustles in once again, deciding that Amy needs a makeover so that she can go to the ball – how very fairy godmother of her. On an aside, Ang tells Amy that David is a stone-hearted killer. Amy does not take this to heart, as she goes over to his place the very next day to have tea with his mother, Mrs. Hathaway. David joins them very reluctantly, and Amy realizes he’s just embarrassed about his patch. She blurts out that she thinks it’s hot, and they all get along awesomely.

Amy leaves David’s place all twitter-painted, only to see Nellie falling out of the 3rd story window. Nellie actually survives, but her face has been scraped off. Oh, ick. Faceless mess tells Amy to be careful of ... then dies. So she’s unsure of who’s the danger, although dark-magic second cousin might be a very good place to start.

Amy goes through some traumatic shock, then 5 minutes later goes upstairs to change out of her blood-soaked clothes. As she walks upstairs, she feels compelled to keep on going up, to the room that Nellie fell from. Here she finds the tarot cards, and impulsively reads them, pulling up the Death card three times. Whatever could this mean?

One week later. All is well in New Orleans, and Amy is attending the Harvest Ball with Ang. Amy sees David dancing with pretty girls and is pretty cut up. It doesn’t help that Ang and this other woman, Chantal, are being completely catty to her as she is a back-water hick (although the book never did specify where Amy comes from). Things turn around for her because David comes over and snubs Chantal, asking Amy to dance. Delight! He then speaks to another woman. Despair! Reading about Amy’s emotions is very like being at a high school dance, and as a result very boring. Until the room catches fire, as does the girl David’s talking to. Her face melts off like candle wax, and she dies. Amy nearly doesn’t make it, as the burning wooden banquet falls on her, but she is thrust out of the way by David, who is both tender and angry at her. Swoon!

That night, Amy sneaks out of the mansion to meet David by the koi pond. He tells her not to trust anyone – even him. Then he kisses her hard. Double swoon. This reads like a harlequin. They arrange to meet at the pond in two nights, which Amy can barely wait for. When the time arrives, though, David stands her up, which is reprehensible behaviour. The reflection of the pond starts showing Amy a vision, of Chantal being drowned by David, under the surface. Scary, sure, but only a reflection, right?

Well, the next day, as the children are playing near the pond, they find Chantal’s corpse. Fish have eaten out her eyes. Ick again. Amy now suspects David is a vicious murderer, even though Chantal’s corpse was found on Fear property. She goes to read the cards at night, and she’s given a vision that Mrs. Hathaway will be drowned, tonight. Btw, why do the cards give her visions? Why couldn’t she get all this stuff by actually reading the tarot cards? Anyhoo, Amy rushes off to Mrs. Hathaway, to find her sleepwalking, but it’s David that rescues his mother.

Amy realizes that he could never be a vicious murderer, he’s only suffering from post traumatic stress disorder from seeing all his friends killed at war. She runs in and explains everything (my second cousin is magic?) David wants to keep her safe, to take her away that night, but Amy wants to do things the proper way, and won’t leave with him unless her parents give permission. Seriously, propriety must have been a bitch back in the day. She goes back to the Fear house, but only after David tells her he loves her.

While seriously in danger, Amy’s all floating on a cloud, until she finds a half-destroyed letter sent by her mother to her. Not cool. She wants to run back to David to let him know, and to send word to her parents, but she sees Ang is already outside, talking to David. She calls up some huge beast with shiny eyes to guard the gate between their houses, so Amy can’t get to him. I hate it when parents do that!

She slips the letter to David the next morning, because apparently giant beast thing is gone. He runs off to find her parents, and Amy acts like nothing’s wrong, helps Ang decorate the house for an All Hallow’s Eve. What were Halloween parties like back in 1863? I’m thinking there weren’t many paper skeletons or plastic pumpkins full of candy. Amy’s dancing around, until she realizes everyone in the house is gone except for her. And why would Angie send all the servants away the night of a party? Well, it’s not that kind of party. Amy reads the cards, and all of them now are Death.

Amy tries to flee, but Angie catches up to her, working her voodoo. She brings up a column of black smoke – Julia’s shadow people. The smoke is full of the faces of Ang’s victims, tortured and bloodied for eternity. She is enveloped in it, and they claw at her as she hears Ang’s perfect tinkling laugh. Amy gets mad, using her own power she’s come into, killing the shadow people. She flees the Fear house then, and crashes into David. Rescued! Only her knight in shining armour starts carrying her back into the Fear mansion, in a zombie-like trance.

Amy tries to get through to zombie David with love, and he hesitates. Ang is keeping him around as a husband for Hannah, and pretty little Amy is getting in the way. Ang orders him to kill Amy, and he pulls his revolver ... on Angie, shooting her. David and Amy run through the woods, which become alive and try to stop them. Everything calms down once they reach the Hathaway garden. They grab momma Hathaway and get the hell out of New Orleans, propriety be damned, apparently. The vow never to speak the name Fear again.

Yay, happy ending! This totally was a harlequin romance, but with less bodice-ripping passion. More’s the pity. There should definitely be a harlequin horror series, if there is not one already. Somebody should get on that. I haven’t read a lot of these sagas, but the cheese level has definitely been ramped up. Like, a lot. I love it. I give House of Whispers 7 out of 12 southern belles, for the love story that actually turns out nicely.


Chad Walters said...

A water moccasin, wow. I wouldn't expect such a level of accuracy for something as trivial as native wildlife. Kudos, Wendy Haley!

M.H Stine said...

hi this book wow it's been awhile i havent heard of this book 4 about 3 yrs but that's me im in high school so idk when this book came out probably when i was very little..... ohhhh may i recimend the book "High Tide" by R.L Stine? yes it's a Fear Street Book it's SO good u will never believe who the killer is and no it's not the dude! anyway i just readit it's good

Chad Walters said...

I don't know if you saw it on the other Fear Street blog, but you can find quality scans of most Fear Street covers here:

Anonymous said...

Aww. More Fear Streets should be like this. The modern-day characters have little sense of romance.

L. K. Stine said...

Thanks for the tip, Chad, that looks nice and easy!

Chad Walters said...

You're welcome!

LAK said...

Why wasn't there a model with an eye patch on the cover? Coupled with a prom dress wearing girl, that would have been a great horror-romance novel cover.

And there is no 'horror' series by harlequin per say. There are some darker series' that deal with the occult and magic and stuff, but nothing scary. (i.e Silhouette Nocturne, Silhouette Shadows)
(I am ashamed to know this.)

L. K. Stine said...

Thanks for the info, LAK. Perhaps I will make a career move towards writing cheesy horror romance novels ;)