Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ghostwriter by Lissa Bryan

Newly single, unemployed, and with her savings dwindling to an all-time low, Sara thinks things are finally looking up when she lands a job ghostwriting a popular politician’s biography, and rents the affordable island home of her favorite author, Seth Fortner, who mysteriously disappeared in 1925. Strange things begin to happen as objects break, go missing, and terrifying visions appear, making Sara wonder if Seth ever left, or if she is slowly losing her mind.

She gets no answers from his family who closely guards the secret of his disappearance. Through an old trunk of letters Sara discovers in the attic of her seaside cottage, Sara unravels the mystery and becomes caught up in a tale of greed, lost love, and the horrors of WWI. Will she be the one to break the “Fortner Curse” by helping Seth conquer his demons, and heal both of their hearts in the process?

Where to Buy

An enchanting story of an improbable love between two people born nearly a century apart. While there doesn't always seem to be a lot of action going on, still there is something about it that keeps drawing you onward and turning the pages. Probably it is the way the author makes her characters come alive on the page, but also it's the emotions that the characters and their trials and tribulations evoke that work to hold you riveted to the page.

Sara is just coming off of a long-term relationship with a man who tried to control her and turn her into his idea of the ideal woman. He never really succeeded though, for Sara is far to independent at heart to let anyone rule her for long. She also had long experience in dealing with difficult and controlling people from growing up with her mother who was very much the same, and worse even. She'd learned how to defy her mother and do the things she wanted to do despite her, one of which was stealing time to read, particularly to read books by her favorite author, Seth Fortner. When she's given the chance to live in the house where he had lived, she is ecstatic. She hopes that living there will both provide inspiration for her own writing, and enable her to learn more about her idol. Her chance to to the latter comes when she finds a bunch of his old letters in a trunk that was hidden away in the attic.

Seth has been dead for 80-some years at the beginning of this story, but he remains on the island as a troubled spirit. He isn't happy about Sara coming to live in his house, and initially tries to scare her off, much like how he had scared off previous renters on the property. He is unable to run her off, however, and when she finds his letters, and actually weeps for the troubled life he had at home and the horrors that he experienced while serving in WWI, he slowly begins to warm up to her. At first he only appears to her in her dreams, but eventually he begins appearing to her while she's awake as well, and so begins a tender and heartwarming romance.

I found this to be a thoroughly enchanting story with very vivid and realistic characters. Even Seth, though he was a ghost, was a believable character, perhaps because we mostly get to know him through the letters he wrote to his wife from France where he served as an ambulance driver during the war. They show him to have been a very exuberant young man who'd had the courage to stand up to his rather autocratic father, even when it meant being disowned and the rest of his family being forbidden to speak with him. We see how very much in love with his wife he was and his optimism for their future, and we also get to see how his experiences in the war changed him and ultimately turned him into the man that continues to haunt the island where he died. In short, showing us his letters turned him into a very real character with hopes, dreams, and heartaches, and the glimpses of him that we get in Sara's dreams help to foster the notion that he is still very "alive" despite the fact that he died several decades before.

The romance here falls largely into what is often termed "sweet romance", in that their courtship is very innocent and chaste for the most part. While there are a few love scenes toward the end, they're not very graphic and it is always the emotional and intellectual connection that Sara and Seth form that is important, not the few physical manifestations of their love that are shown. Normally I prefer more heat than this in the romance novels I read, particularly paranormal romances, but for this story the low intensity heat worked quite well. Seth was still a proper gentleman of the early 1900s after all, and the way he insisted on courting Sara in the manner he would have in his day was quite charming.

This story will stay with you after you read it. I found myself still thinking about it 2 or 3 days later, and to me that's one of the hallmarks of a great book. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who's a fan of ghost stories, of paranormal romance, or even of contemporary or historical romance perhaps, for there are definitely elements of all romance genres represented here. I might have rated this higher, but there were several minor issues - mainly things I felt were probably factual errors though I didn't take the time to verify whether they were or not - that I noted throughout the book while reading it. Nothing that seriously detracts from it in any way, but enough that for me it falls short of a perfect rating, coming in at 4½ stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the author through the Goodreads PNR NaUBA group Author/Reader Exchange in return for an honest review.

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