It was supposed to be the best weekend getaway of his life. Competitive surfer Myles Taylor was finally going to pop the question to his long-time boyfriend and stake his claim. But instead of sweeping his beau off his feet, Myles is swept out to sea in a freak rip tide. When he finally comes to, his boyfriend is now where to be seen, but Myles’ long deceased uncle is walking down the beach. It’s more than just a bad dream, however, when Myles realizes he’s spending his days tied to the beach house he rented—the one where his life was supposed to really begin, but he’s finding out it’s the last place he was alive.
For Casey North, life could not have gotten any worse. His restaurant, his pride and joy, went up in a blaze of fire and smoke and left him with nothing. In his depression, the woman he thought he was going to marry up and leaves him. Left with nothing and sliding dangerously close to depression, Casey returns to his home town to try to get his life back together. He rents an old beach house with coolly aloof neighbors and an ambiance that has his cat on edge. When weird occurrences start to happen, Casey beings to wonder if he’s finally gone off the deep end. He’s hearing thumps, finding broken glasses, and even has his own antidepressant medication thrown at him…all by some invisible force.
Before Myles succeeds in truly scaring away Casey and before Casey truly gives up on putting his life back together, these two opposites realize that they may be literal and spiritual worlds apart, they are also desperate for one another’s company. With help from spectral visitors, Myles begins experimenting with interactions between his astral plane of existence and Casey’s. He discovers he can make noises, his voice can be heard, and eventually, he can manifest physically before Casey. Casey, on the other hand, is increasingly convinced Myles is not a figment of his imagination and the attractive ex-surfer is actually helping him claw back out of depression.
As the weeks pass, both men realize they just might be falling in love with one another. Casey is determined to make it work and willing to make whatever sacrifices he must to be happy with Myles. Myles. on the other hand, grows increasingly fearful that he is only able to remain in the waking world because it is his mission to see Casey happily settled down with someone alive.
Things come to a head when Myles disappears unexpectedly—just when Casey was ready to dedicate the rest of his life to him.
Alright, so one of the book’s big draws for me was how the author would approach the portrayal of one main character who is dead and another who is alive—not the least because I harbor a secret fantasy of writing my own fanfic with this very device at the center. In very broad terms, Archer delivers on this front. For one thing, I liked that Myles is already dead when he and Casey first encounter one another. For another, I liked the development of Myles condition of being dead—meaning, he starts off unable to interact whatsoever with anything or anyone, save the neighbor’s yippie dog, and ends up being able to physically manifest before others, not just Casey. Most of that shift, from wholly incorporeal to actually corporeal (all while still being dead) was interesting…I admit that the final stage where Myles is fully corporeal and interacting with other humans apart from Casey me feel Archer was pushing the envelope a touch too far, I can’t deny that the build-up to that point was something she worked hard to establish.
There are some questions that were briefly raised and left unexplored—one was how sporty hunk Myles would be attracted to Casey who, in his near depression, has let himself go (note: the author makes this very clear with several self deprecating remarks via Casey himself and comments about how tight his clothing has become) and that Myles’ attraction might only be because Casey is the only one who can see him (at first).
Another unanswered question is why Casey is the only one who can see Myles when no one else can. Myles dies a few weeks or months before Casey rents the same house. During that time, Myles discovers he cannot leave the immediate vicinity around the house and has concluded that he is, in fact, very dead. He sees his deceased uncle and there is another ghost in the house next door who offers Myles some advice. But before Casey arrives, Myles tries plenty of times to get the attention of people on the beach to no avail…so why Casey? And why is Myles ultimately able to physically manifest in front of Casey’s family and physically interact with them?
The physical manifestation does, however, allow the relationship between Casey and Myles to develop into an actual romance. This relationship is another layer in the story that I appreciated. Part of the advice Myles gets from his ghostly friends is that maybe it’s not Myles who has unfinished business that needs to be addressed, but rather, maybe it’s Myles who needs to help Casey move on from his drama in order for them both to move on. This provides a little bit of angst on two levels: one being Myles comes to learn he actually cares for Casey and the other being Myles is determined to be a martyr so Casey can have a chance at what Myles believes is a real relationship (i.e. one with someone not dead).
One of the highlights of the book is the drama-filled ending. I enjoyed how it tied back to the events at the beginning of the book and there is a twilight zone-esque twist that paradoxically had me reevaluating the whole book, while at the same time reinforcing the impressions with which the story had left me.
I only have two real critiques. For all that Casey stars as one of the two romantic leads, there was just a lot of suspending disbelief in watching him fall in love with a dead man. He came to the story with a huge amount of emotional baggage—the restaurant he built from the ground up has burnt to the ground and the woman he thought was going to marry dumped him—coupled with Myles’ (albeit temporary) efforts to distance himself from Casey (because how can a romance between the dead and the living work?) had me wondering if Casey wasn’t doing what Myles was: falling for someone because they’re conveniently there.
The other was the ending…as exciting as it was, I felt like all the action unfolding wasn’t as clearly outlined or as deeply researched as it could have been. In other words, the brevity of the ending coupled with the fantastical way the loose ends got tied up make the ending feel a bit less credible. Indeed, the relentless development of Myles’ ability to manifest was slow and steady…but the ending was over in a flash, there was little time to savor.
Despite these minor shortcomings, this is a fairly sweet get-together tale between a ghost and a living man. There are some dark undertones from the suspicion that Myles was murdered and there are some scenes where Casey discusses what may be a descent into insanity when he discusses seeing a ghost with his therapist. If you like paranormal stories and are looking for one that pushes the creative boundaries, this might be a great book for you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.