I have a thing for haunted places. It is ridiculous because I’m a huge scaredy cat, but I just can’t seem to resist the “romance” of a haunting. I plotted and planned and eventually talked my mom into making a college visit to the University of Arkansas my junior year of high school, but not because I wanted to go there (I love the Razorbacks, but I was not going to college with the same . . . people I detested in high school). Nope. My trip was completely about talking my mom into making a side trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where I planned to bully her into visiting the closest and most notoriously haunted hotel I could find – The Crescent Hotel. This place claims to be the most haunted hotel in America, and it is gorgeous!
See? I’d haunt that place, too. After a lovely brunch ($$), I managed to get a few moments alone and found myself roaming the hallways. It was the middle of the day in a full hotel, and I still found myself in empty corridor after empty corridor. I was disoriented and I kept feeling like someone was following me. By the time I finally found a hotel staff member to get me back to the main floor, I was convinced that something just wasn’t right in this place. I didn’t see a ghost, but I saw enough to know I didn’t want to. All this is to say that when I saw the premise for Hotel Ruby, it took me back immediately to that memory. I pictured this glorious old hotel set in a somewhat isolated place, and a chill ripped down my spine. This book isn’t going to give you nightmares, but if you are looking for a ghost story where the setting is as key as the characters, I think you will enjoy this light little horror read.
Stay Tonight. Stay Forever.
When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.
Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite.
Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.
The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…
Welcome to the Ruby.
The Hotel Ruby initially looks like a luxurious haven for Audrey and her family, a place where they can slow down and reconnect, but it quickly becomes apparent that Audrey’s family might have stumbled upon a fancy pants version of the Hotel California. I’m not ruining anything by telling you this – it is pretty clear from the tag line on the cover. You will probably quickly guess what you think is going on in this book, and you might even be right. This isn’t a book that gains suspense because you don’t know what is happening – it is engrossing because you need to know if you guessed correctly.
As far as the plot goes, the big focus should be on the issues Audrey and her family are dealing with in the wake of devastating grief, but that focus is frequently interrupted by the feelings Audrey develops towards the guests and staff she encounters. Some of them she wants to kiss, and some of them she wants to strangle, but it is this flirtation and animosity that makes the bulk of the story. This might frustrate some readers, but the details are really where you start to get a picture of what the hotel is really all about.
Audrey is a decent narrator, and she had a nice shade of gray to her character, meaning she acted like a real teenager, but I only had a minimal connection to her. I felt the same way about the secondary characters – they were interesting and I liked them fine, but I just didn’t really get invested in their fates. I don’t think that was an issue for me because the mystery was what I was after in this particular book.
Overall, this is an engaging read, and I think my high school students will enjoy it, especially fans of the Maura Dyer books or those who enjoy Katie Alender’s ghost stories. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.
I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.