Heat Factor: Steamy
Character Chemistry: Opposites attract in the best way
Plot: Scandalous Widow wants to renovate haunted house, hires ghost hunter to de-hauntify
Overall: This Gothic Romantic Comedy was wonderful. I was utterly captivated.
I would not blame loyal readers of The Smut Report if they found themselves double-checking the byline for this review right about now. Did Holly really just write that she was “utterly captivated”? Yes. Yes, I did. That is how awesome this book was.
Readers, you also read correctly that I am calling this a Gothic Romantic Comedy. Because it is both a Gothic Romance with a scary haunted house and a melancholy mystery and a tragic backstory for our heroine and also an excellent Romantic Comedy where the heroine and heroine build their connection through banter and gentle ribbing. Avid fans of Gothic romances should note, however, that while the ghost story provides the central impetus to the plot, it ultimately plays a pretty small role in the story as a whole. If I had to pick just one category, I would lean more towards comedy.
Let’s start with the Gothic side of the equation. Spoiler alert: the ghost is real. And is both legitimately frightening and also really sad. Alva, our practical widow who needs work to start on this house like, yesterday, is not amused. Especially since her dead ex-husband was really terrible, and if ghosts are real, well… that means that maybe she won’t ever be free of him.
Enter Sam, inventor extraordinaire, who Alva hires to get handle her ghost problem. Sam is a genius who can’t tie his own shoes. Well, he can, and then he gets distracted by calculating how long it takes to lace up his boots, and maybe he should invent a boot-lacing machine. Here’s a description of Sam getting dressed, so you can get a sense of him:
Socks were under the bed, undershirt on the bottom-left bedpost, and, most confusingly, shirts were in a nearly folded pile in the armoire.
But lest you think Sam is incompetent on all practical levels, let me set you straight. He is also extremely good at people when he wants to be. He’s the kind of guy that people take care of, which is quite convenient since he can’t be bothered to do things like feed himself. He is wonderful to read about because he is kind and thoughtful and pays attention when it’s important and is not emotionally stupid.
I bet he gives great hugs.
I love him on the page, but he would drive me absolutely insane if he were my real life partner. Note: I know this guy in real life. He literally once had a guy give him the shirt off his back because he complimented it. And not like a friend; a random guy working in the sandwich shop where we were eating lunch. True story, I saw it happen. He then left said shirt, his sleeping bag, his cell phone, and his passport at my apartment.
Alva and Sam have sparkling chemistry. They tease each other, but not in a biting way. Rather, their light-hearted banter shows the ways in which they complement each other. And – bonus! – it’s frequently quite witty. For example:
He smiled wider. “Are you worried Zeus will descend Mount Olympus and smite us for our effrontery?”
“Something like that.”
“Wouldn’t that be a red-letter day for science,” he said.
Alva rolled her eyes, the tightness in her stomach easing. “You have a unique and frequently disturbing outlook on life.”
“Oh, come now. The discovery Zeus is not a mythical figure but does in fact exist? Think of the questions that could be answered. For example, what does it feel like to have your daughter born from your own skull?”
“Is Hera as horrible as the stories make her out to be, or is it classic scandalmongering?”
Notice also that the banter puts Alva at ease. Sam quickly realizes that being extra ridiculous brings out the best in them both, that sometimes Alva needs help battling her demons, and that a well-timed distraction can work wonders. This scandalous widow is carrying a LOT of baggage, which is the primary obstacle between her and a happily ever after with Sam. (Well, that and the ghost.) Her path to finding love and trust and self-worth shapes the novel, and her growth is truly satisfying to read.
I could go on and on, because I really cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed this book, but I’ll leave with this: Diana Biller, please tell me you have a sequel in the works about Sam’s sister. Her two favorite things are French fashions and causing explosions! I cannot wait to read more about her.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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