I was only a few pages into Finding Ruby when I couldn’t decide if I felt sorry for the protagonist’s situation or if I hated her for allowing herself to be in that situation.
At first glance, Eleanor “Nell” Montague appears ditsy, frazzled and weak as she arrives late to her own grandmother’s funeral.
My sympathy swelled as she rushes back to work, concocting scenarios to account for her time so as not to arouse the ire later of her live-in boyfriend, Gary. He doesn’t need much provocation to lay hands on her.
Nell annoyed me as I read her thoughts on all the punches, smacks and beatings she’d endured because of some transgression Gary believed she’d committed.
Why didn’t she leave? Why didn’t she pick up a baseball bat and swing for the bleachers?
Nell’s life is that of a typical abuse victim. Isolated from friends and coworkers, and with the death of her beloved grandmother, she has no more family.
Her mother died years ago and she assumes her father is also deceased… but she isn’t sure since he abandoned the family when she was a small child.
But there is nothing typical about Nell.
As I learned more about Nell, I didn’t feel she was so much stuck in her situation as she was waiting for something.
I have no idea what—and I don’t believe Nell knew either at that point—but it’s obvious she wishes she was more like her alter-ego, Ruby.
Her father, Will, used to tell her “stories” about the fierce, confident young girl, and Ruby came alive in Nell’s fantasies. Ruby wouldn’t put up with Gary’s crap. Ruby would stand up for herself at work. Ruby would marry a wonderful man and have beautiful children. But it’s all pure fantasy because Ruby disappeared decades ago.
Nell’s wait comes to an abrupt end when she’s handed the keys to a new life… and ghosts of the past.
Fear becomes Nell’s constant companion because she’s afraid she’ll give in and return to Gary simply because he’s all she has left. She loves him but she isn’t in love with him, he’s just the only constant in her life, even if he is a bastard. However her bigger fear is now Ruby, who haunts her days as well as her nights.
Nell sees and hears her and believes she suffered from one too many of Gary’s attacks. But then Emily, another missing young girl, appears to Nell. First, as a captive in a cellar, then standing behind Nell in a crowd.
Maxine, a local nurse and quirky psychic unsure of her own abilities, may be the key to saving Nell’s sanity.
But Nell also wonders if she needs saving from the mysterious Mr. Austin who’s been stalking her since her grandmother’s funeral. He claims to be looking for her father, but Nell is sure his connection runs deeper, she just doesn’t know how deep, or if there’s any truth to the rumors of Will Montague being involved in Ruby’s disappearance.
Nell Montague is not some badass, take-no-prisoners heroine. She’s afraid or anxious during much of this story.
However, as she comes to realize the answers are within her and only she can save herself—and possibly two missing girls—she shows a sense of determination and quiet strength as her past and present collide in the wake of repressed memories and haunting evil.
And I am cheering her own!
Finding Ruby is engaging fiction with spot-on character development, but it’s the plot twists straight out of left field that turn this read into page-turning suspense as you try to figure out who’s alive, who’s dead, who’s innocent, who’s guilty, and who’s just sad.
Issues are resolved by the story’s end but… that ending! Here’s hoping I haven’t seen the last of Nell Montague.
Readers who enjoy mystery and suspense… and a dash of the supernatural will enjoy this solid read. Those with emotional triggers should be aware that while not graphic or gratuitous, there are scenes of domestic violence and sexual assault as part of the story line.
On Halloween night thirteen year old Ruby disappears in the company of a masked figure. She is never seen again. The only witness is Nell Montague who is just seven years old.
Twenty three years later, Nell is trapped in an abusive relationship and still suffering from vivid nightmares of what she saw. When tragedy strikes she escapes and attempts to put her past behind her. Then thirteen year old Emily disappears.
Haunted by increasingly disturbing visions and helped by a reluctant psychic, Nell must unravel the mystery of what really happened that night because to save Emily she must first find Ruby. But to do so she will question everything she thought she knew about her own childhood and soon discovers that nightmares don’t always end when you wake up.
Born and raised at Porton Down in Wiltshire, and currently works for the NHS in Salisbury, J A Higgins has always been fascinated by crime, history and the unexplained. Finding Ruby is the first in the Nell Montague mystery series which will examine how horrors from the past are still very relevant today.
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