Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Guest Post: Jeanne and Treadmill Books: Ghostly Romance on the Treadmill

I just finished a new first in series book, Mrs. Morris and the Ghost by Traci Wilton (actually two authors, Traci Hall and Patrice Wilton) which prompted me to give some thought to this sub-genre, the ghostly romance.

I think the first one I ever encountered was The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (which I am sure played no role in the title of the above book, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) To be honest, it was a filmed version:  no, not the movie with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, but the 1968 TV series with Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare which aired in my youth.  For the uninitiated, the plot involves a widow who buys a house haunted by its previous owner, a gruff sea captain who isn’t happy at having his home invaded by the living.  I read the novel years later, and was a bit disappointed to find there were no mischievous children or addled descendant of Captain Gregg (played by Charles Nelson Reilly) and the ending—well. I’ll leave it at that.

The next book was Tryst by Elswyth Thane in which a young woman in a country estate  finds the house to be haunted by the spirit of a young man.  It’s a sweet romance and over the years I’ve found any number of folks (usually women) whose eyes light up at the mention of the book.

However, both these books were standalones.  My questions tend to come up more in series.  Jim and Joyce Lavene had the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series (written under the pseudonym J.J. Cook) which features Stella, a young woman firefighter who flees the big city for the Great Smoky Mountains after a failed romance. The house she rents belonged to the town’s late fire chief, Eric, and his ghost still wants to claim it as his own.  Romance ensues between girl and ghost.  I enjoyed the Lavenes’ style—my favorite of their series was the Retired Witches—but I found myself troubled by the relationship.  While it’s obvious that Stella and Eric are falling in love with one another, Stella wants a family at some point.  Where is this going to go?  What would constitute a happy ending? Eric adores Stella, but can he let her go?  And even if he is willing, will she go? We’ll never know what was planned, as both the Lavenes passed away a few years back.

I found the situation even more troubling in Mrs. Morris and the Ghost.  Charlene Morris is still struggling with grief after the death of her beloved husband Jared, so to escape the memories she sells her house and uses the proceeds to buy a large house she will make into a bed and breakfast.  Of course, the house is haunted by Jack Strathmore, who died there a few years previously.  He’s successfully frightened off the previous owners and attempts the same with Charlene, only to discover that she can actually see him.  He enlists her help to prove that his death was not a heart attack, but murder.

My problem with this book is more to do with Jack himself.  While Charlene finds herself deeply attracted to him (and he to her), I find Jack to be jealous and controlling.  When two local men show an interest in Charlene, he responds by blowing lightbulbs and other bits of angry mischief.  He himself admits he has trouble controlling his temper. While the book is well done, with a nifty mystery albeit with a nitpick I won’t go into, I have trouble figuring out what a happy ending would be. Unless ….


Jack is tied to the house and can’t move on to wherever it is spirits go.  He doesn’t see any other spirits, not even someone he knew well who dies in the course of the book.  He and Charlene believe that once his murder is solved, he will move on—but he doesn’t.  My thought is that Jack is tied because of his own selfishness and he won’t move on until he loves Charlene enough to want her to be happy without him. In which case, the happy ending would be that Jack moves on and Charlene has a loving relationship with another living man.  However, the way that the relationship is presented, I suspect most readers wouldn’t consider that happy.  It would only be happy if Jack and Charlene were together.  Even if they move into the afterlife together, what about Charlene’s first husband, whom she adored and still thinks about? Apparently he can’t hold a romantic candle to Jack, who conjures up dashing outfits to impress Charlene and wants to make grand gestures.


So in short, I find this an interesting but sometimes confounding type of book.  Will I keep reading them?  Sure! I like them or at least some aspects despite the problems, providing the author writes well and has intriguing plots.  Any other readers with views on this subject? 

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