All right! Was not expecting to do a review this month actually because I’m still hovering over my non-existent plot for NaNo…and the last thing I want is the distraction of a book.
A good book.
Said good book is Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto. It is the first of a trilogy YA paranormal romance—actually described more to be a “gothic romance”, but I wouldn’t call it that really. (But I’ll get to that.)
First I felt this book is perfect given the season—what with Halloween two days away. AND I don’t believe I’ve read a ghost romance before. I mean I know I actually liked Just Like Heaven and I’m seriously a stickler about my rom-coms.
Besides the Halloween spirit—haha! Get it, cuz we’re reading about ghosts—Adornetto managed to draw me in and tbh I sometimes felt like Chloe. Sometimes. Like there was a movie reel going on in my head. She definitely captured the setting and mood for her ghostly tale.
And since I’m kinda heading there let’s jump back to why I don’t think this should be categorized as a gothic romance. This will also explain what I liked and disliked about the book.
(WARNING: There might be spoilers. I tend to avoid spoilers, and I believe that I’ve generally done a good job with my other reviews. But just in case, here’s your warning.)
1. Virginal maiden heroine: our heroine is…well, tbh I don’t know if she’s a virgin. But she isn’t “pure” or “naïve”. In fact I loved that Adornetto played at a bit of a role reversal where the hero Alexander, or “Alex” is trapped in his own language bubble/speech bubble. A lot of 21stcentury speech goes over his head and he often doesn’t understand Chloe’s 21stmannerism. So if anything he’s innocent.
Case in point à (Alex looks at a picture on Chloe’s cell with her help. And it’s not the new-fangled technology that fascinates him…or disturbs him. You pick.)
“Good God.” His eyes widened. “Why do you carry images of harlots on your person?” I was glad Sam and Natalie weren’t around to hear that—they’d kick his ghostly butt.
(Sam and Natalie are her friends.)
“They’re my friends,” I told him. “That’s what girls look like in the twenty-first century.”
“But why would you choose to associate with such people?” he persisted.
I didn’t think my message was getting through. “They’re not prostitutes,” I said emphatically. “They’re ordinary middle-class girls living on the West Coast.”
Alex averted his eyes. ‘In that case, I do not approve.”
2. There is no corrupt clergy, stupid servant—or any of the other archetypes listed in the Wikipedia search for Gothic romance elements. (Yup. I did use Wikipedia, but I also have studied a bit of gothic literature in a horror lit. class. So yeah…more like a brush up really.) For instance, we are led to believe Alex has made a sacrifice for Chloe when he disappears from her for good…but I couldn’t help but ask myself while reading from that point on: is it really a sacrifice? At the point where he made this first decision I don’t believe it was; nevertheless, keep reading and I do feel there’s a point where Alex does make a sacrifice. One that is left open-ended BTW because of a—WARNING!!!!—cliffy ending to this first installment.
3. The setting is off a bit. I know I said Adornetto created a hauntingly beautiful image with her foggy, rainy landscape, or book scape. But the thing with gothic romance is that the setting becomes a character of its own. I think the only way I can explain this is to point you all to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. There is beautiful description of the house, and there is evocative narrative of the goings-on—present and past—in the house, yet it didn’t feel like the Grange Hall could stand all on its own.
So I enjoyed Chloe’s snark, I loved Joe, I loved the story with our antagonist Isobel and Alex, and I especially liked the dialogue…sometimes. Sometimes it got super cheesy. And sometimes people did over-the-top, crazy things—like *ahem*jumpinthewayoffallingchandeliers*ahem*. There was also a little bit more male presence than young females, and I guess it’s understandable given the remoteness of the setting. But when Chloe does meet girls her age she isn’t exactly open to them, or caring of their presence. She’s very nonchalant and one-tracked mind when it comes to Alex, and freakishly, freakishly obsessed with him and their oddball love.
I mean the author finds a way to work around the whole ghost thing when intimacy came a callin’ and there’s even a teasing erotic lilt to one scene between Chloe and Alex.
Chloe is also super weak in the beginning—classic damsel in distress. She even calls out for Alex.
But read on. The story actually redeems itself in surprising ways, so don’t let the whole “eff-ghost-romances” thing get in your way.
OR the unappealing cover stop you from picking this one up. Here is an alternative cover–maybe the UK version? Lucky Brits.–to tantalize you.
And at least read it for the ending and the potential book 2, Ghost Hour, holds.
Hint: Alex is back. And the location is sunny California. Not exactly the grey, damp world of Grange Hall.