The Charm Stone
The Charm Stone has some cute ideas – a modern, surfer-girl heroine, a sexy three hundred year old ghost, and a secluded Scottish castle by the sea where they frolic together. It sounds like a lot of fun, and occasionally, it is. Unfortunately, it also suffers from the proverbial sagging middle and secondary characters that are never as engaging as they are supposed to be.
Josie Griffin has lived most of her life as a nomad, following her father, a professional surfer and board designer, wherever his fancy took them. In recent years, she’s landed in South Carolina, where she tests out her father’s boards and does graphic design for them. She’s never had any particular ties to anyone but her father, and she isn’t really interested in a long term relationship right now. Then one day she’s out surfing when she plows into something and hits her head on her board. As she’s nursing the lump on her head, a battered chest washes up on the shore. When she pries it open, she discovers a necklace with an unusual stone, and of course she puts it right on. She decides that perhaps she hit her head harder than she thought, because suddenly she is talking with a very short kilted man named Bagan who is spouting words like “charm,” “Scotland,” and “destiny.”
Josie figures Bagan will disappear when she gets home, but he’s still there as long as she wears the necklace. He tells her that her destiny awaits her on a Scottish island, where she will need to marry the laird of clan MacNeil and bear his heir. Josie has absolutely no intention of going to Scotland, but by strange coincidence her father is a sponsor in a surfing competition over there, and she ends up making the journey. She takes the chest and the charm stone with her, planning to drop it off with the current MacNeil heir and call it a day.
When she meets Connal MacNeil, she discovers that the “current heir” is also the heir that Bagan remembers from 1702. Connal made a deal with the Gods, and they have allowed him to remain on earth until the charm stone returns to him. He’s dead and can do basic ghost tricks (disappearing and reappearing elsewhere) but he seems to be very much a man with all the necessary equipment. He is thrilled to see Josie and quite eager to get down to the business of making that heir and saving his clan from extinction. Josie is somewhat less enthusiastic. She thinks Connal is pretty hot, but she’s not ready to get pregnant or become anyone’s “destiny.” And once she begins to fall for Connal in earnest, she balks at the idea of raising his child alone while he goes on to the great beyond.
I enjoyed many of the basic elements of the plot. Josie was a fun, modern heroine, and I enjoyed her humorous observations – particularly her desire for “hot ghost sex.” The surfing element was interesting as well; I’ve never read another romance where either the hero or the heroine surfed.
Connal’s reaction to Josie was also fun initially. He doesn’t get why anyone would risk life and limb riding on the ocean, and one of his first acts is to try to “save” her. He also can’t understand why anyone would want to collect sea shells when there are a million of them lying around that all look more or less the same, but he’s willing to bring her some because they seem to make her happy.
But while I liked the basic premise of the book, I felt that it began to run aground somewhere around the middle. The biggest problem is just that there isn’t much going on. Connal and Josie are both basically nice people who know where they need to go with their relationship, and the conflict just isn’t sustained very well over the course of the book. Instead, their conversations start to seem repetitive (“I don’t want to get pregnant and have an heir!” “But you have to! It’s our destiny!” Blah blah blah), and the whole plot really stalls out.
Meanwhile, the secondary characters are probably supposed to be holding the reader’s interest, but they just aren’t that compelling. They consist of a collection of older people who want Josie to teach them to surf. They’re all nice enough, but they are only amusing for about five minutes. Josie’s father, “Big Griff,” doesn’t have any depth to him either.
I like the idea of a ghost romance, and this one was resolved in a way that worked for me. Though I liked both the main characters well enough, the “getting there” just wasn’t the intriguing journey I’d hoped for. It might be worth trying if you are a die-hard ghost of Kauffman fan, but otherwise I wouldn’t go out of my way.
|Review Date:||August 24, 2002|