Ghosts and Roses
I’m going to have to eat my words somewhat here, because when I read another St. John book, Real Women Don’t Wear Size 2, I ranted a bit about the title. But I can’t deny the evidence that one person’s “offensive” is another person’s “catchy.” One of the perks of working with me is the big box of books I bring in every month to my retail job. Of all the books I’ve ever brought in, nothing has been as popular as Real Women Don’t Wear Size 2. Over half the women who work with me read it – women from size 2 to size 20 and everything in between. At one point, I counted four bookmarks in it at one time. When it finally disappeared (probably to be read over again at some co-worker’s home), a colleague who hadn’t finished it yet complained, then sighed with relief when she was able to find someone who told her how it ended. St. John’s Blaze series, The Sexth Sense, has a pretty dorky title as well. But the concept is another winner. Six cousins are mediums in the New Orleans area. Their job is to help ghosts resolve their issues so they can cross over to the other side. Ghosts and Roses is the second in the series, and I enjoyed it enough to seek out the rest of them.
Gage Vicknair is part of the family of mediums, and he’s become accustomed to helping ghosts cross over to the other side. He knows one is waiting for him when he hears it crying, and his assignments are confirmed by special letters that arrive on a silver platter. They’re written by the family matriarch – who happens to be dead. Gage’s current assignment is a little different, however. He’s been distracted for a couple of weeks by really vivid sexual dreams, all centering around a dark-haired woman he doesn’t know. The woman, Makayla Sparks, is having the same erotic dreams, but she’s also in danger.
Makayla grew up in an orphanage where she and her foster sisters were repeatedly abused by an employee. After years of suffering, they stood up to him, testifying in court and putting him behind bars. Each of the girls has a special tattoo of a rose that signifies their strength and dependence on each other. Now it seems that their lives are in danger again. Lillian Bedeau, one of the foster sisters, is stabbed to death. She dies before she can warn the others that their nemesis is out of prison. Naturally, she is a ghost assigned to Gage. Before she can cross over, Gage needs to work with her to save Makayla’s life.
When Gage and Makayla meet, they both realize that they already know each other intimately from their dreams. The connection between them is almost immediate, and Gage knows that this isn’t just another assignment. Nonetheless, they can’t jump right into love-making. There are two other foster sisters whose lives are in danger, and Gage and Makayla can’t really rest until Lillian’s killer is behind bars. Makayla also has some issues to work through, as she really hasn’t been with a man since being raped as a teen. But both Makayla and Gage are able to find strength in each other. Together with both their clans, it seems like they just might carry the day.
I liked a lot of things about this book. The plot itself is a stand-out. The recent proliferation of paranormal storylines in romance is generally a source of frustration for me, mostly because I’m not a vampire or a werewolf fan. I’ve tried a few witch stories, but I often find them silly, and many of the ghost plots I’ve read were a real bust as well. This one had just enough of a paranormal element to feel fun and original – without going completely over the top. Sure, I had to suspend my disbelief, but in this case that was easily managed. The whole premise of the medium/ghost-helping cousins was intriguing.
I really enjoyed the sex scenes as well. One of my objections to Real Women Don’t Wear Size 2 was the seemingly endless mental lusting. In this book, however, the short format is the reader’s friend. There seemed to be just enough of everything – sex, romance, and action. And the mental lusting scenes work much better because they are essentially dreams. Hot dreams. The one drawback I found was that the villain and the action surrounding him did not quite work. There are several times when the characters seem remarkably slow on the uptake, forgetting details that are incredibly important and almost refusing to realize stuff that should have been obvious. And I’ve also decided that it’s my new dream to see the following snippet in a romance novel: “You know, honey, crime fighting is not our area of expertise. Rather than concocting a half-baked plan and putting both of our lives in danger, why don’t we give the police a call?”
Well, I can dream, right?
That niggle aside, I enjoyed Ghosts and Roses. It’s precisely the sort of short and diverting read I hope for when opening a series romance, and I’ll be checking out the rest of the books in the series for sure.