It is Wendy the Super Amazing Super Incredible Super Sensational Librarian’s TBR Challenge and this month and the topic is historical romance. I would like to ponder – just briefly – if a contemporary set book has a ghost from the World War 2 era in it, does it qualify as a historical even though there are barely any flashback scenes? I will answer my own question here and say no but then again, if a book has a ghost in it, I am already needing to stretch my As-if-O-Meter (well….not really as I love ghost stories), so I am asking that this incredibly tenuous link with barely-a-hint-of-historical novel is applied to Lisa Kleypas (historical novelist extraordinaire)’s Dream Lake which is one of her few contemporary set books.
I very nearly claimed Kleypas bankruptcy last month. I had read Marrying Winterborn and though it was okay, it certainly didn’t thrill me enough to merit spending time with another 300+ page book. Time is of essence and there are many books to be read! I have read only 4 of her novels over the years and though there is a lot of Kleypas love not only in the interwebs but also at my library where, despite having many of her titles, it is a rare day for there to be more than 2 on the shelf at any one time, to me, she is a “yeah-she’s-kinda-allright” read. She is an author that I would not binge read. Yet here I was, reading her twice in a row. And why? Let’s just say that I love a good ghost story so how could I go past a ghost romance!
First, the blurb:
by Lisa Kleypas
They say that opposites attract. But what happens when one has been devastated by betrayal and the other is so jaded that his heart is made of stone? Enter the world of Friday Harbor, an enchanting town in the Pacific Northwest where things are not quite as they seem and where true love might just have a ghost of a chance….
Alex Nolan is as bitter and cynical as they come. One of the three Nolan brothers who call Friday Harbor home, he’s nothing like Sam or Mark. They actually believe in love; they think the risk of pain is worth the chance of happiness. But Alex battles his demons with the help of a whiskey bottle, and he lives in his own private hell. And then a ghost shows up. Only Alex can see him, Has Alex finally crossed over the threshold to insanity?
Zoë Hoffman is as gentle and romantic as they come. When she meets the startling gorgeous Alex Nolan, all her instincts tell her to run. Even Alex tells her to run. But something in him calls to Zoë, and she forces him to take a look at his life with a clear eye and to open his mind to the possibility that love isn’t for the foolish.
The ghost has been existing in the half-light of this world for decades. He doesn’t know who he is, or why he is stuck in the Nolans’ Victorian house. All he knows is that he loved a girl once. And Alex and Zoë hold the key to unlocking a mystery that keeps him trapped here.
Zoë and Alex are oil and water, fire and ice, sunshine and shadow. But sometimes it takes only a glimmer of light to chase away the dark, and sometimes love can reach beyond time, space, and reason to take hold of hearts that yearn for it…
So Alex is a hard hero to redeem. He’s surly, he’s rude, he’s a drunk verging on becoming an alcoholic. He’s in the process of getting a divorce yet continues to have cold, hard, angry convenience fucks with his-ex wife. Alex goes to help his brother with a house he is restoring one day and finds himself saddled with a ghost who realises that Alex is the only human that can hear and see him. Enter Zoe who is sweet, shy and has also gone through a divorce due to her BFF husband realising he was actually gay. Zoe hires Alex to convert her grandmother’s home to make it habitable for old-age care. The two of them constantly come into contact as he is repairing her home. Alex has had a difficult life growing up as the youngest child of 2 alcoholic parents so he keeps himself detached but he just can’t detach from Zoe eventually realising that he loves her (when it is nearly too late and he has a deus ex machina moment which could have been perfect if…. [MAJOR BLACK MOMENT IN THE BOOK SPOILER ALERT]
….there was an ambulance involved when there is an accident that has Zoe bawling and Alex dead….but there wasn’t and they all walked away from the scene. Now I could do a reader whinge and say “How believable is that?!” however my As-if-O-meter has totally embraced the awesome ghost that has partnered Alex everywhere for the past many months so I just add it as another notch on my believability scale and enjoy the love declaration instead.
The romance story was relatively simple as the ghost arc is really where this novel’s complexity lies and this was beautiful woven through this story. The obstacles were all on Alex’s side with his struggles with alcohol, with going dry and his slow realisation of what it is to love. Zoe felt like a prop – a lovely one, a lovely character who does have some growth in that she finally takes a risk on loving. I absolutely loved the description of her sublime cooking and the magic it had on Alex’s soul. Alex’s ghost is pretty cool. The ghost at first is grateful to have someone to communicate with but when he realises it is ungrateful-and-hell-bent-on-self-destruction Alex, the ghost becomes snarky and rather bitter. Having lived for decades in a limbo, to see a living human being waste his time and self is frustrating. The relationship between Alex and the ghost, their sharp dialogue, their love/hate life/death and all in between just sparks up an otherwise yeah-okay romance. The ghost element was believable in this story (I cannot read most paranormal books as it crosses my As-If-O-Meter) and the ghost too ends up having a schmaltzy ending (but of course and it was to be expected and it was very well orchestrated but well it still overstepped this romance reader’s schmaltz line). The ghost’s own closure and escape from limbo – though sweet – faded into the background for me in light of the friendship between Alex who drags himself out of his pending alcoholism and the ghost who finally comes to terms with his own errant ways when he was alive.
I do love ghost stories.
I sneakread this book which I took off Rachel Bailey’s shelves when I should have been working on my PhD while I was hiding out and using her home as a study cave. Shhhhhhhh! Nobody tell her!