Reviewed: January 30, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: N/A (Non-Series)
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 342 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Andie Miller is on a mission. As soon as she confronts her ex-husband and gives him back the checks he's sent her every month for the ten years since their divorce, she can finally close that unfortunate chapter of her life. She has to; she's planning to marry her soon-to-be-fiance. That's the only reason she's back in the prestigious lawyer's office, staring at him over the very desk that caused so many problems in their marriage. It's the only reason she's intent on getting North Archer to stop reminding her every single month about the depth of the mistake she made all those years ago.
That being said, she's not quite sure how North manages to rope her into doing him a favor that includes leaving town and moving into an allegedly haunted house to act as teacher and nanny to two troubled young children to whom North serves as guardian. Okay, yes, Andie actually is a teacher, and is sure she can handle that aspect of it, but she has a future she needs to see about living without facing more and constant reminders of the only man she ever loved so wildly and incandescently that it almost completely burned her out when she lost him. After all, she and North had their chance and he didn't just lose it, he threw it away.
North is still reeling from the thought of Andie getting remarried, but he refuses to let that sway his behavior. Well, he'll stop letting it sway his behavior as soon as she's set up in that monstrosity of a house he inherited and is taking care of his two charges. It's not like he expects Andie to stick around for long. Andie never sticks with anything - not even their marriage - but he is desperate with the loss of the last nanny and a bit intent on getting Andie away from whomever she's planning on marrying. Not that he'd allow that desperation to show...or determine his actions, really. He's far too mature for that nowadays.
But if she needs something for those children while she's at the house, she'll have to call him. And he'll make sure she has what she needs. Even if, or maybe because of it, what she'll need is him.
What an odd book. In many different ways, actually. It's set in 1992, first of all, and the reason for that, according to a comment in the book, is "just because." It's a romance, but the romantic lead characters aren't even in the same part of the state through most of the book and their only communication is occasional phone calls. It's cute and has a light theme, even a nice bit of humor, but the ghosts - and there are ghosts - are creepy and deadly and the children have been traumatized by them. It's all just rather peculiar.
But it is original, I'll give it that.
Not everything worked for me. The romance, a second-chance romance for those who favor the type, wasn't completely successful with me. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how Andie and North acted with each other after seeing each other for the first time in ten years. That seemed a really long time to just turn around and ask your ex-wife to drop everything and trot on down to a veritable castle and watch over the two troubled kids you inherited. It was even more disconcerting to me that Andie did it, and that the subsequent communications between them were friendly enough, and familiar enough, to disavow a ten year separation. Odd.
By the time North and Andie were once more face-to-face, weeks had passed, as had the majority of the book, so the reconciliation period was very brief. It seems more a romance based on new awareness of what happened in their past than building on who they are as people in the present. Fortunately, I happened to like both North and Andie very much, so I was at the very least amenable to their romance, but it didn't really factor into a large portion of my enjoyment with the book.
I do, however, have a bit of a soft spot for ghost stories and haunted houses, so the storyline was particularly appealing. So were the kids and their evolving relationship with Andie. I don't usually prefer children in my romance books, but Alice and Carter stole my heart quickly, efficiently, and completely. They, along with Andie, were the high points of the book and what motivated most of my pleasure with the read.
Andie was a great character. She's got a practical nature and a take-charge attitude that appealed. She has some commitment issues, but she quickly becomes fiercely dedicated to those kids, and I thought Crusie did a particularly fantastic job evolving her from a ghost disbeliever to someone who was facing down spectral anomalies like a pro and protecting her charges like a mama bear. I know I tend to be hypercritical of female lead characters, but I enjoyed Andie quite a lot. I don't think this book would have worked nearly as well as it did for me if I hadn't, either, because it's really more her as a lead character than her and North sharing those duties.
North did have his moments, though. His dry and sardonic wit - especially in the scenes with his mother - were fairly brilliant with understated elegance.
I liked the book very much. So much that I'd happily reread it in the future. Not for the romance, though. For the ghost story and the characters, absolutely. It wasn't what I would consider traditional Crusie, even if she does seem to favor male and female protagonists from very different backgrounds or diametrically opposed ideologies, usually one who is wrapped pretty tight and one who isn't. That element was apparent in this book. It was just such a secondary storyline that it didn't really drive the narrative. For me, it was all about Alice, Carter, and Andie, and I liked that just fine.
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