Vivian in Red – Historical Fiction and a Ghost Story/ posted in: Reading Vivian In Red by Kristina Riggle
on September 13th 2016
Genres: 20th Century, Historical Fiction, Occult & Supernatural
Published by Polis Books
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
“Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.
The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor— failed journalist and family misfit. Tapped to write her grandfather’s definitive biography, Eleanor must dig into Milo’s colorful past to discover the real story behind Milo’s greatest song Love Me, I Guess, and the mysterious woman who inspired an amazing life.”
In 1999 Milo is the recently widowed patriarch of a high achieving family. He lives surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He still goes into his production company even though his son is the running the place now. The business isn’t doing as well as it used to and his son wants to do a revival of the last musical Milo wrote, The High Hat, along with commissioning a biography of Milo as a tie-in. Milo is opposed to both.
He’s leaving the office after telling his son that when he sees a woman he knew in the 1930s. She looks exactly like she did then. She looks at him and he collapses. When he wakes up he is unable to speak or use his right hand. Robbed of ways to communicate, he has to figure out why Vivian Adair is haunting him without looking so confused that his family insists on a nursing home.
Now that Milo can’t voice his objections, the plans for the revival go ahead. His granddaughter Eleanor is chosen to write the biography. She is the only person who seems to understand that Milo is still lucid and aware and she doesn’t talk past him. In her interviews with the son of his writing partner she hears the name Vivian and starts to investigate why that family thinks that this Vivian ruined everything.
I loved Milo and Eleanor!
Milo’s mind is fast, as fits a lyricist, and he has a great sense of humor that comes through even when he is locked inside himself. Eleanor has always been seen as the family misfit because she is quiet and she isn’t ambitious. The rest of the family feels like they need to manage her life for her since she isn’t doing it up to their standards on her own. She feels bad about being handed a book deal that is both a charity project for her and something that she knows her grandfather doesn’t want. Now she’s gone and uncovered a scandal so everyone will be mad at her.
The author writes both time periods well. There are little details from each era that anchor the writing firmly in that time. Some of the social attitudes of the characters are jarring to modern thinking but seem accurate for the time and the place.
I stayed up past my bedtime to find out more about Vivian role in Milo’s past. The mystery was well done with no easy easy to guess answers.
I would recommend this to any historical fiction fans even if you aren’t a fan of ghost stories. The ghost aspect is just a way to get Milo to start focusing on this aspect of his past. It isn’t written as a scary or horror-type story. Ghost Vivian mostly just makes sarcastic comments that only Milo can hear.