Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Dr. Wyatt Case loves history and his job as the head curator of a Richmond museum. But things are tense at work as construction is causing the museum to lose money and Wyatt’s job is on the line thanks to a nasty trustee who is looking for an excuse to get rid of him. Wyatt must think of an idea for a new exhibit in the next few days to have any hope of keeping his job.
Wyatt’s friend Noah provides a welcome distraction when he drags him to a local bar, the Gravedigger’s Tavern, as an excuse to get to know the owner. Noah also wants to introduce Wyatt to bartender Ash Lucroix. Ash turns out to be friendly and gorgeous, with his black curls, suspenders, and tongue stud. He also has an old-fashioned style that appeals to the historian in Wyatt. Wyatt is not the kind of guy who dates much, and he is sure there is no way a guy like Ash will ever be interested in him, but after hours of talking, the two guys totally hit it off. This leads to a night of passion that both men enjoy, but in a moment of panic, Wyatt takes off without a word after Ash falls asleep.
Ash is understandably annoyed and pretty much ready to be done with Wyatt after that, but Wyatt finds himself inspired by the Gravedigger and gets an idea for an exhibit. The tavern has a gaslight feel in the decor and the dress of the staff. It is an historic building, hosts a huge Halloween party every year, and nightly ghost tours kick off from the bar. So Wyatt decides to make his exhibit about local ghostly legends, showcasing the real history behind the story. Not only does it help resolve his job crisis, it gives Wyatt a chance to spend more time around Ash as he researches, and eventually the two manage to move past their bad beginnings and develop a relationship.
But just as things are looking up between them, they begin to fall apart for Ash. He is hearing unexplained noises, having strange visions, and seeing glimpses of a man following him and even talking to him. At first they attribute it to stress and some recent head injuries, but things escalate to the point that Ash begins to have panic attacks and be in a constant state of stress. As Wyatt begins to discover more about the grisly history of the land where the bar stands, the situation becomes even scarier. Things in the bar are constantly breaking and others are noticing unexplained sights and sounds as well. But Ash seems to be the one targeted and he is slowly falling apart. Wyatt doesn’t know if he believes in ghosts, but will do whatever it takes to help this man he is totally falling for. But as the ghostly hauntings get more intense, the lives of everyone involved in the bar may be in danger.
Oh, this was such an exciting book and kept me eagerly turning pages the entire time. Abigail Roux creates such a wonderful ghost story interspersed with the tale of love between Ash and Wyatt. She does a fabulous job of combining incredible historical detail along with the ghostly legends that makes everything seem so real and immediate. I could feel Ash’s fear as he keeps seeing and hearing unexplained things, wondering whether he is falling apart and feeling constantly afraid. I was totally caught up in the story as the situation escalates from a few small noises to the point where we are genuinely in fear for the characters’ lives. This isn’t a horror story, but I found it genuinely thrilling and I loved following the ghost story as the mystery unfolds.
I also loved both Ash and Wyatt and thought they were such fun characters. Wyatt is the academic and sees himself as a little stodgy and boring. But I didn’t find him nearly as dull as he sees himself. In fact, I thought Wyatt was quite funny, especially in his interactions with his best friend Noah. He has got a great sense of humor and he was quite witty and likeable. Ash is definitely the more sexy one though, and his retro style totally does it for Wyatt. Not to mention Ash’s rotating collection of unusual tongue rings (the vibrating one made for quite an interesting love scene!). He is popular at the bar, especially when he does his “flair” routines, juggling bottles and doing tricks for the patrons. Despite his reservations about getting involved with Wyatt after the walk out, Ash is soon totally into Wyatt as well.
The story also has some really likeable secondary characters and I really enjoyed the close knit group from the bar. Noah quickly settles in with Caleb, the owner of the bar he is scoping out early in the story. Despite his gruff demeanor, Caleb clearly cares for his staff and becomes increasingly concerned with the escalating ghostly interaction. And waitress Delilah and fellow bartender Ryan are also great friends, caring for Ash and doing their best to look out for him as he slowly falls apart. I really liked the way these guys are like a little family and how they stick together to figure out the mystery and take care of Ash.
I really only had two small quibbles here. First, I had some trouble at times figuring out who was doing the action. The story switches between Ash’s and Wyatt’s POV and there were times I got disoriented. This sometimes is an issue with ereaders where section breaks aren’t always clear, although I have noticed this problem in some other books by this author. My other observation is that despite the jerkiness of leaving without a word after they have sex, I sort of got why Wyatt did it. I mean, he rarely dates and got drunk while talking to Ash at the bar. So after it is all over, he didn’t really know how to handle the “morning after” protocol, not to mention he sort of panicked upon sobering up. Yes, totally jerky and he deserves Ash’s annoyance. But I sort of felt that Noah and Ash’s reactions were somewhat extreme, especially since Wyatt apologizes right away and is sincerely sorry.
Overall though I thought this one was just wonderful. Great characters, lots of humor, wonderful sense of history, and incredibly thrilling. I really loved Gravedigger’s Brawl and would highly recommend it, especially if you are looking for something to jumpstart your Halloween season. Definitely excellent.
Cover Review: Oh my gosh, this one is pure cover porn. Such a gorgeous picture, so beautifully done, and perfectly evokes the imagery and feel of the story. It is hard to see the detail in the little thumbnail, but if you click to expand it you can appreciate it a bit better. Just amazing.