Jilly: Haunting Love Stories

books-that-go-bump-in-the-nightDo you enjoy ghost stories?

I don’t like sad or scary fiction, and since ghosts are a consequence of death and are usually associated with violence, unhappiness, revenge, terrible secrets and unfinished business, they’re not a natural choice for me.

Despite the caveat above, every October I get caught up in the atmosphere of approaching darkness, and ubiquitous Halloween/All Souls/Samhain imagery.

Yesterday I was looking for something seasonal but not too scary to read, and thinking that unlike vampires, demons or shifters, ghosts don’t really lend themselves to romantic fiction. A furred, fanged or soulless hero is one thing, but an incorporeal one?

I asked Mr. Google, and to my surprise, I discovered that Goodreads has a 95-book list called Ghostly Romance.

I spent a happy hour or so investigating. Inevitably most (though not all) of the heroes and heroines are flesh and blood, but the stories themselves sound satisfyingly spectral. I am pleased to share my selections below 😮

The Haunting of Maddy Clare – Simone St James
This sounds like a proper, spine-chilling old-fashioned romantic suspense with ghosts. It’s probably at the limit of my spooky tolerance, but I’ve been curious about this book since it won two RITAs, including the one for best first book. Here’s the first bit of the cover blurb:

In 1920s England, a young woman of limited means and even less experience confronts the ghost of a mysterious serving maid…

Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis–rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts–has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is said to haunt the barn where she committed suicide.

If Walls Could Talk (Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries) – Juliet Blackwell
I’ve read and enjoyed cosy mysteries by Juliet Blackwell already, (thanks, Jennifer P!), and I’m currently wrestling with some annoying home renovation challenges, so this one appealed to me immediately:

Melanie Turner has made quite a name for herself remodeling historic houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. But now her reputation may be on the line.

At her newest project, a run-down Pacific Heights mansion, Mel is visited by the ghost of a colleague who recently met a bad end with power tools. Mel hopes that by nailing the killer, she can rid herself of the ghostly presence of the murdered man-and not end up a construction casualty herself…

MacGowan’s Ghost – Cindy Miles
The first review I read on Amazon included a sentence that had me reaching for my Kindle: This is a fun paranormal romance starring a likable heroine, a Grinch of a male lead, and a fine cast of ghosts who play matchmaker along with his son. It sounds like my kind of story any time of year, and I’m excited to report there are other, similar-sounding titles by the same author. If it’s half as fun as it sounds, I’m probably heading for a binge-read of Cindy Miles books. Here’s the first bit of blurb:

Gabe MacGowan, a sexy, brooding, guilt-ridden widower and father to mischievous seven-year old Jake, is the proprietor of Odin’s Thumb Inn and Pub in a misty Scottish seaside village. He decides to sell the inn and move, not only to give his son a more stable environment, but to escape the ghosts who haunt him, in particular his dead wife.

Gabe hires Allie Morgan, an easy-going and fun-loving American, to oust the spirits who are chasing away potential buyers. Odin’s Thumb is bustling with frightened tourists, quirky residents of the village, and dodgy yet lovable apparitions—including the ghost of a sea captain who fancies Allie.

The Ghost and the Goth – Stacey Kade
Quite a number of the books on the list are Young Adult. This one sounds like a ghostly YA version of my favorite SEP: Ain’t She Sweet? I love the title, and the reviews make it sound snarky and funny and smart. Here’s the blurb:

After a close encounter with a bus, Alona Dare goes from homecoming queen to Queen of the Dead. She’s stuck as a ghost in the land of the living with no sign of the big, bright light to take her to a better place. To make matters worse, the only person who might be able to help her is Will Killian, a total loser outcast.

More than anything, Will wishes he didn’t have the rare ability to communicate with the dead, especially the former mean girl of Groundsboro High. He’s not filling out any volunteer forms to help her cross to the other side, though it would bring him some welcome peace and quiet.

So that’s my TBR plan for Halloween 2016.

Your thoughts, comments and suggestions (all treats, no tricks, please 😉 ) are invited. Friendly ghosts and happy endings would be particularly welcome!

8 thoughts on “Jilly: Haunting Love Stories

  1. There’s another one on the Goodreads list by Stacy McKitrick, who is treasurer of my RWA chapter. Thinking I’ll look into that one!

    Actuallly one of my all-time favorite romances is a ghost story–Tryst, by Elswyth Thane.

    • I’ve never heard of Elswyth Thane, so just looked up Tryst. The comments on Amazon are lovely – it’s obviously a much-treasured book. Which might explain why there are only a couple of hardback copies, listed for a few hundred dollars each 😦 . The ebook age is far from perfect, but at least we don’t have to grab our favorite authors before they go out of print, or scout high and low for their back catalogue.

      The non-spoilery comments also say the story is cleverly resolved, and now I’m really curious to know how.

  2. I love ghost stories! Especially romantic ones, because there’s a certain unrequited quality to them. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is an old movie that I want to see again; I forget how it ends, but I do remember that lovely, longing feeling. And then, of course, there’s Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s Ghost — which is another one I’d like to revisit. I wonder if it would still hold up?

    My very, very favorite romantic ghost story is Beetlejuice. I think I might watch that one tonight in honor of Halloween!

    (-: It’s funny that my favorites are all movies. Maybe there’s something that’s very visual about a ghost story that I find hard to find between pages (although, I loved reading ghost stories as a kid, too.)

    There was that horrible ghost story about a man who married a woman with a blood-red (or maybe it was black) choker necklace, and she begged him to never ask her to take it off. Of course, he gets obsessed about the thing, and either he takes it off or she does, and her head falls off. (-: I say horrible, but of course I mean horribly good. I don’t know why I love that one so much.

    • I read that story! And if you like that, you might like this:

      It’s an interview David Letterman did with Stephen King and John Mellancamp when the two of them were working on a project called Ghost Brothers. The collaboration started because of a story John Mellancamp tells, and it’s a good one. The story itself starts about 2:30 into the interview, if you just want to go straight to the ghost story angle.

      • Oh! Wow! I love how Stephen King gets so excited about that one gory aspect. I wonder if the ghost is headless. What a great idea for a story though — I’d see it as a romantic love triangle that gets followed into death.

        BTW, last night I watched something on YouTube about The Ghost Brothers — these are three guys who go ghostbusting, and one of the guys had the best comment: “Ghosts are just petty!” Five minutes of The Ghost Brothers on Colbert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg0Hwjb5YtI

        (-: Strange how these coincidences work sometimes! BTW, Ghostbusters is my favorite movie of all time. When I get some free time, I am going to have to check out the Ghost Brothers on YouTube.

  3. I was going to say The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was a movie but also a book, so you could read it if you want to. 🙂 Other movies are the Topper series. The first one is with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett who are surprised to find out that they’ve been in a car accident and were killed, and now they’re ghosts. So for fun they make trouble for a friend of theirs. It’s funny and sweet. There are, I think, three Topper films, of which Cary Grant is only in the first one. But that first one at least is definitely worth watching.

    I had a dream once where I woke up and realized I was dead and also a ghost. I was thrilled. I could be seen only by people who’d known me when I was alive, so for example, I could go for coffee with my friends and I didn’t need any money. I know, it made more sense in my dream. But I think there might be a book in there somewhere. 🙂

    • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir sounds bittersweet, but I love the sound of the Topper films. Off to see if I can track them down just as soon as I’ve finished here. And you reminded me that there was a late 1960’s/early 1970’s British TV series called Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) in the UK, or My Partner The Ghost in the US (resisting the temptation to riff about Brit/US titles here). That was a detective series in which one of the detectives was a ghost, and the producer who came up with the idea was inspired by the Topper films.

      Your dream sounds fun. I’d read that book 🙂

      The John Mellencamp ghost story was a good one. An isolated fishing cabin is a great setting for spooky goings-on. It reminded me of another isolated fishing cabin story, Jez Butterworth’s play The River, which I really enjoyed (more info and the script here https://www.amazon.com/River-Jez-Butterworth/dp/1559364882).

      • I loved the Topper films when I was a kid — they were on the brand new (at the time) Turner cable network. (TBS?). Anyway, so many great films on the channel! I read at least one of the Topper books when I was in my 30s, and was a bit disappointed. I guess I provided a lot more story to the story that was there (-:. One of the great things of reading when you are a kid — you can take the simplest thing and really embellish on it.

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