One of the frequent fights that happens on the borders of romancelandia is whether or not a romance is a romance if the love interest dies. The two central elements of the romance genre are:
- the romantic relationship is central to the story,
- and there is a happily ever after/happy for now ending.
Nicholas Sparks’ books, among others, are often trotted out in this fight because he is known to kill off his romantic partners. In Ghost in Shining Armor, Therese Beharrie is going one better – she’s written a love interest that starts off dead. It is a romance.
On Gemma’s 18th birthday, she is surprised to find her teacher in her bedroom. He has just dies and has come to tell Gemma that she can now see ghosts and her job is to help them so that they can cross over. If you read And They Lived Happily Ever After, you will remember that Gemma was popping up in the book with a man lurking behind her. That man is Levi, and he is a ghost. Ghost in Shining Armor expands on the magic in Happily Ever After, casually introducing alternate universes.
Gemma lives outside of Cape Town, South Africa, has been helping spirits cross over for 12 years and has a system. Levi also lived around Cape Town, but in an alternate universe. He has suddenly died and who ever it is that manages ghosts has offered him an opportunity. If he helps Gemma work through a difficult emotional issue in 3 months, he can go back to his own life and not be dead. Gemma feels like she needs to help him complete his life business so he can move on. Gemma and Levi are both helpers and neither wants any help for themselves. They also both bottle up their emotions and shove them away. If they had existed in the same universe and met in their daily lives, they would have fled from each other. Forced together, both in crisis, they (eventually) open and grow in ways they never would have otherwise. Because they are so alike, they spend a good portion of the book bouncing off each other and pointing out the things they each want to ignore. Like recognizes like.
Early in the book there were some high cringe moments of embarrassment that were hard for me to read. But, I trust Therese Beharrie so I powered through. As usual, she rewarded me with a thoughtful romance that cuts to the heart of how to give yourself a happily ever after.
CW – accidental death, ghosts, adoption, abandonment, controlling parents, boundaries
I received this as an advance reader copy from Kensington Books via NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.