I have become a vastly big fan of Anna Campbell’s writing. Her characters are so full of life that I often find they tend to stick like glue even long after I’ve finished reading all about them. I can’t offer any deep hypothesis but I’d be inclined to deduce that those invisible threads that allow a reader to be bound and connected to a text are the contributing factor. Author magic exists and happens when a story and its characters impact greatly on the reader.
I was fortunate enough to get into my clutches “The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance,” which showcases a bevy of extremely talented authors.
Blessedly thrilled I sank my teeth into Campbell’s latest (novellete) paranormal story “The Chinese Bed.” Yes you read that correctly – paranormal.
My curiosity was piqued to maximum as to what a Chinese bed had to do with ghosts. Naturally a romance writer’s imagination can go stark raking mad with the word bed following any other word.
I must admit that I had every confidence that Campbell would deliver and she did.
WARNING MAJOR SPOILER
The year is 1818 and Josiah Aston is a ghost but he has no recollection as to how he has come to be one. He spies on a young couple that are smitten, Calista and Miles. The couple are to be wed on the following day but Miles being a man that is intensely enamored, wants to quench his lust with his bride to be. His bride to be is reluctant as the house is brimming with guests.
Finishing their little interlude of stolen kisses they agree to meet at midnight in the very same room, they leave the room. The room contains a very ornate Chinese Bed, which is no ordinary bed. It carries a curse and is haunted by its original owner, who in spirit seeks nothing but vengeance.
Josiah however is a little perplexed at a great many things, the enormity being what happened to his bride Isabelle and why can’t he remember? He sets about to investigate and finds his ghost bride in her room. But she is afraid of him because something horrible transpired on their wedding day.
The hour approaches to midnight and Calista quietly makes her way back to the bedroom to meet Miles. They share unbound intimacy and fall asleep on the Chinese bed. Calista wakes to a pair of menacing red dots that are wreaking havoc in her mind. She succumbs to the voice and the doubts that plague her and follows the instructions of menacing spirit. But as fate should have it, Miles is awoken and rushes to see what has taken hold of his beloved.
Josiah and Isabelle bear witness to all that is unfolding, the menacing spirit trying to convince Calista take her own life. Miles talks to her and persists in winning her over with his belief in their love and relationship. Calista comes out of her trans like state and believes Miles. The menacing spirit is rendered to oblivion.
Having witnessed all Josiah and Isabelle are once again united. It becomes clear to Isabelle that Josiah did not harm her but rather the evil spirit was what caused her demise.
Calista and Miles spy the two ghosts but only momentarily, they disappear to a much happier ending.
One of the strengths that I admired in this story, was the mystery that the bed carried between the living and the spirits. It’s what hooks a reader to read on, what is this bed, what does it do, how has it come to be cursed?
The other strength in this story was shown through Miles. Miles is the perfect example of determination, he won’t lose what he believes in and what he believes is that he and Calista belong together. Quite simply he loves her even though she has doubts. “Trust yourself. Trust me. Trust our love.” Miles voice cracked with emotion. “For God’s sake, Calista, don’t throw away what we have because you’re frightened.” (Campbell 2012)
I found the bed to be symbolic of how a marriage will progress into the future, the fear of the unknown, fear of whether a marriage will last and stand the test of time. Primarily it is symbolic of the doubts that may plague a woman or man before they wed. In some customs the marriage bed is dressed up and celebrated with money, flowers and dance. So the symbolism of the bed I felt was quite a pinnacle in the story. Even though in the end it has to be destroyed.
The character’s themselves are fitting to the story, given that it is a short story and we can only expect small cameo appearances. It is a complicated task to get the readers to connect with a character within a small time frame. It is why the actions and reactions of character in short story are crucial. The reader needs to be familiar with the character quickly. There isn’t time to build it over lengthy pages. Campbell succeeds in giving all the ingredients necessary.
Clearly, it was a very entertaining and delightful short story by Anna Campbell. I really do feel that if Campbell ever tires of writing those dashing and devilish rakes, then she would not suffer in turning her hand to something other – paranormal.
A plethora of Authors in this Anthology and I for one am enjoying them and savoring them one at a time.
Campbell, A. et al (2012). The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance, Constable & Robinson Ltd, London.