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Maybe This Time

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

Andie goes back to her ex-husband, North's office to hand him back his uncashed alimony checks -- she never asked for alimony -- and tell him she's engaged.  He hires her to look after two young second cousins of his, off in a country home, Archer House, where they have lived, with their parents, and their aunt, all of whom have died.  There's a housekeeper, but the last three nannies have quit.  The last one was talking of ghosts.  She gives him a month.

His brother Sullivan, alias Southie, shows up because his new girlfriend Kelly is trying to get her break so she can get back in the TV reporting business -- harassing a woman until she threw up on camera was not good for her career -- and thinks that Archer House sounds like just the ticket.

Which explodes into a tale of colored pencils; a ghost expert who doesn't believe in ghosts; North's mother Lydia, a lawyer, and Andie's mother Flo, who runs Tarot cards, joining forces; a mundane explanation that does not explain everything; the need for bananas to be somewhat brown for banana bread; a house that was transported from England to America; graves that were disinterred to burn the bodies, and later sprinkled with salt; a spirit guide who had run a Ponzi scheme while alive; elaborate tales of the Princess Alice for the girl Alice; and lighting fires in the fireplace.

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