When I think of a story with atmosphere, this would be one of them. While on one level it is a good ol’ satisfying ghost story reading experience that gave me goosebumps and seeing things move out of the corner of my eye, it is also a suspenseful ‘cat and mouse’ thriller and romance all rolled up into one. And just as an aside might I add that I am a whimp and this would have scared the bejeebers out of me if I read it on a dark night with a wind and dry rustling leaves for added sound effect (yes, on a few occasions, I’ve set myself up on purpose that way for a late night Halloween read). Yes, well, ahem-
The story opens with a historical museum curator and a museum lecturer headed down the street from the museum to lunch at a tavern with an interesting historical ambiance. Noah is planning to meet up with Ash,one of the flair bartenders at the tavern, who wants to introduce him to a friend, the tavern’s owner, Caleb who can be a difficult person socially speaking. Noah wants to do a little match making himself so he drags along Wyatt who is suspicious, but finds that he’d rather deal with Noah’s attempt to set him up than deal with a few of the obnoxious board members who are riding him hard to come up with ways to boost museum visitors during a remodeling project.
The Gravedigger Tavern is all that Noah promised, but Wyatt finds himself more enamored with the cheerful and friendly bartender that Noah hopes will set him up with a nice date. Ash is dressed to match the Tavern’s Victorian feel which Wyatt thinks of as Goth, but later learns is called Gaslight.
Ash likes the looks of the Absent-Minded Professor looking Wyatt who appears shy, but has a beautiful smile. He performs his usual flair bartending show that evening and is thrilled when his mission to set Caleb and Noah up seems to work and he gets to enjoy time with Wyatt.
Wyatt and Ash hit it off and spend time talking and drinking. Back at Ash’s apartment in a beautiful old building not far from the Tavern, they have a wonderful night together. But then Wyatt gets the morning after panic thinking that they are too different and this is too fast and ditches before Ash wakes up. And yep, that sort of sealed his fate with a hurt and angry Ash who woke and felt the pain of being used and discarded when he thought he had a connection.
Wyatt’s apology is barely acknowledged by Ash which he knew that he could expect, but just as he leaves from that unsuccessful errand he gets an epiphany of what he can do for a new museum exhibition to generate interest- all things ghosts of their local area. And the guy he needs to see who knows the most local ghost stories? Ash
Wyatt is uncertain of his feelings about Ash so has promised Noah that he won’t go near him unless its strictly business. Its hard for him to see Caleb and Noah getting on so well and he looks wistfully at Ash who seems to thaw toward him a little more each time they meet. Wyatt keeps his word to Noah until odd things start happening at the Tavern though every time there seems a plausible explanation.
Then Ash is terrified out of his wits by an apparition who he sees a few different times. He even hears it speak and gets shoved around by it. That convinces him that he’s being haunted by an evil ghost. No one else sees it so he’s not all that sure he might be loosing his mind.
Wyatt can’t keep his distance when he sees Ash in trouble so he sets about using his formidable research skills to nose out what is going on with Ash and with Gravedigger’s Tavern. As he digs deeper, Wyatt becomes less and less convinced that Ash is delusional because he starts to experience some of it for himself. And if its what he suspects, they are in real trouble.
The plot for this one is two fold- the haunting of the Tavern and the romance between Wyatt and Ash. There are the subplots of the life of the tavern with Caleb, Ash, Ryan and Delilah and the subplot at the museum with Wyatt and the board members.
I enjoyed the introduction to the Gaslight style which sounds sort of interesting and Ash’s quirky style of working it with more tongue rings than Imelda Marcos had shoes.
As I noted before, I was very struck by the atmospheric tone of this book. Those who enjoy horror would call this a light weight. For us lesser souls, it will bring some chills and thrills. The author said in her end notes that she deliberately left out some gory details about some real scary-evil people from New Orleans’ past that are part of the setting and plot of this story. I thank her for that. Though, I, like many others, enjoyed the experience of being scared and unable to put the book down until I finished to the thrilling end.
The characters and their relationship really worked in this story though their development did take a bit of a back seat to other aspects of the story. We don’t get much back history to understand what makes them tick in the present. This was not a weakness to me- more like an observation. I am one who enjoys reading about a romance for which the characters might have to work a bit to bring it about. Wyatt really screwed up which forced them to slow down and take a more cautious approach. Then there is the issue of Ash appearing to be delusional. He is unsure of himself and vulnerable. Wyatt doesn’t believe in ghosts or hauntings, but he believes in Ash. It was great to see him take up Ash’s cause and see them together.
On a side note, I have to say that I’m so impressed with the versatility of this author. I’ve read other books of hers that were good stuff and I like how she’s branched out and tried something new with this one.
This story is enjoyable who like a nice atmospheric romance that gives them tingles up and down their spine.
Copy requested from Net Galley for review purposes.
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