Luke Alcott has finally reached the point where he’s ready to let go. Almost ten years before, his lover disappeared, and he’s done holding out hope the man will return. Instead, Luke makes the impetuous decision to head out of London and take a position cataloging a small library and museum for the British Army. His Ph.D. and specialty are in the history of the British military, so he’s perfect for the job, and it will get him out of the city for a few weeks. Eelmoor Hall is a huge 17th-century mansion, and Luke is certain he’s not alone. And he’s not talking just about Sergeant Jay McBride, the caretaker of the old building.
Luke and Jay get off on the wrong foot, but begin to find a common ground. Luke experience several terrifying ghostly encounters, all happening at night, and when he confides in Jay, he finds help. Jay believes everything Luke is saying, and is determined to watch out for the other man. But the ghost, whom they believe to be that of the Mistletoe Bride, is turning malicious, and then men seek refuge at Jay’s place in a newer building on campus. They also act on the attraction brewing between them.
Things seem to be going well between the men. Their affection and attraction is growing quickly, and Jay trusts Luke enough to show the man his missing limb. Luke is able to confide in Jay about his long-gone lover. Together they tentatively start building something. But the ghost is determined to have her say, and she almost takes Luke’s life. Together Luke and Jay must face down a malicious ghost and finally lay her to rest, or they have no hope of a future.
So you know how when you pick up a book you might normally have passed by, and then are sucked right into the story, fully absorbed and on the edge of your seat through the whole thing? Yeah, that was A Frost of Cares for me. I’m not big on ghost stories in general, but there was something about the blurb for this one that intrigued me enough to pick it up. And let me tell you, I am so glad I did.
Right away, this book is different. Luke is the first person narrator, and not only is he recounting the story, but he breaks through the fourth wall and is speaking directly to the audience. This could have been clichéd and cheesy, but in Durreson’s hand, it’s masterfully done. He tells us right off the bat that he’s writing it down to hopefully get over what happened. It’s ten years since the events of the book happened to him, and when the story unfolds, you can see why it would still stick with him after all that time.
This book is, by turn, amusing and downright creepy. It’s very well written, with the right amount of tension. I found myself feeling right along with Luke as he was experiencing the creepy and terrifying moments. Not only that, I was also right with him as he was falling in love with Jay. There’s a line in the book where Luke says that it’s not a ghost story. It’s a love story. I’d like to argue that it’s both. Both parts were perfectly balanced, showing us in equal parts the spine chilling and the heart melting. I loved that as Luke retold the story to the audience, he began to remember all the good things that happened over those few weeks. That it was just about the ghost, but about him and Jay meeting and falling in love.
Luke captured my heart from the beginning, and I loved following him on this journey. Jay is a stand up and stalwart kind of guy, with his own demons and baggage. I loved watching them come together. They truly understood one another, and they fit so well. I especially loved that Jay understood where Luke was coming from in regards to his ex-lover, even if he didn’t agree. The whole thing was treated well, and made believable. Again, these guys just fit so well. It was a fantastic romance, filled with heat and affection, and I was rooting for these guys. I liked that they were both broken in similar, yet different, ways, and by talking about things, and knowing that someone else understood, they were able to heal far more than they’d been doing on their own.
It was a lovely romance. And as I said, it was perfectly balanced with the ghost story. Guys, I don’t often get creeped out by thing written on the page. I definitely feel what I read, but when there is something like this, my brain puts up a natural barrier, and doesn’t let me visualize it too much. But in this story, the picture that Durreson painted was so vivid and real, there were moments when I almost believed I was right there and it was happening to me. I was glad I was reading this in daylight, and I have a feeling this one is going to be popping up in my dreams. It’s just that good.
I do have to make mention of two tiny quibbles, though. The first is that there were a few parts when Luke was figuring out the story behind the ghost, who she was and how she got there, that, when he was relating the tale, felt ever so slightly like an info dump. On the whole, I thought it was done well. But there were a couple of passages that bogged me down some and slowed the pace of the story. The other small, tiny problem I had only happened a few times. The story is tense and creepy at times, and the author did a great job of breaking that tension with an anecdote or funny line for Luke. However, there were a few times when that tension was building, and the broken too soon. It pulled me from the story, and I had a little trouble getting back into the mood.
But I still have absolutely no qualms about recommending this story to you. It’s an exceedingly well written ghost story, it’s a beautiful and lovely romance. There’s not a lot of angst here on the romance side, and most of the tension comes through on the mystery/peril side. But Durreson delivers a tale with solid, real, believable, and wonderful crafted characters that will pull you in and keep you engaged throughout the whole story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.