E.J. Russell’s Stumptown Spirits is a stand-alone title, but also part of the Legend Trippingcollection. The collection includes Stumptown Spirits and Wolf’s Clothing,to be released later this year.
This is a paranormal romance with urban fantasy elements. Riley Morrel, an academic folklorist, is working as a production assistant on a third-rate paranormal investigation show. He took the job after being brow beaten by the show’s unit production manager, his best friend Julie. She has good reasons for getting Riley the job, as he had fallen to pieces following his break-up with boyfriend, Logan Connor. Logan supposedly cheated on Riley, then left him without giving any reason – disappearing, without any further contact. These events caused Riley to give up on his doctorate, grants and career.
Logan has a secret that he kept from Riley, and intends to keep doing so even after they meet one night at the hostelry in Portland where Logan bartends – Stumptown Spirits. Riley and Logan, we are led to believe, have the kind of relationship where sex overcomes resolve and common sense. It is necessary to believe this fact to get the most out of this story, but unfortunately, I didn’t. Logan wavers between a determined able bartender – who is willing to die, in a few days, in the place of his friend – to a groping sexual aggressor every time he sees Riley. I didn’t accept it and neither did Riley most of the time.
I was looking forward to the ghost story and the secrets and tale stemming from that, but it was a relatively small part of the book. However, the main reason I did not enjoy Stumptown Spirits, as much as I could have is because it is based on one of my least favourite tropes in romance – ‘I’ll make them hate me then they will get over me quickly, I love them too much to let them be hurt by my death.’ I’m sure there is a shorter description of this trope, but basically, Logan has sex with Riley then is horrible to him, and pushes him away, then has sex…you get the idea. Meanwhile, Riley determines to discover Logan’s connection with the ghost story his TV show is filming about and the shenanigans continue.
This should have been a funny, spooky, sexy, and light-hearted novel, but it fell flat for me. The writing was a little pedestrian, and uninspiring: …Logan settled into the hard chair. Maybe the discomfort would keep his mind off the fact that Riley was bare yards away. Nope. Nope. Nope. Thinking about Riley and bare in the same sentence was a recipe for disaster…
Plus, the character types have been overused – nerdy, skinny, brainy man overcomes all in a couple of days, despite the butch hunk failing after seven years of research. Drunken, self-important idiot, star presenter of TV show; shouty boss who seems totally distanced from everything, and spunky female friend who knows what’s best for her gay best friend.
It isn’t a bad novel, it is just average, and been done many times before.