CharlatanRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novella

Cruz Guthrie and Etienne Newman were quick to realize that they weren’t meant to date, at least… not each other. Instead they became friends. The best of friends. Even if Simone, Etienne’s ghostly protector, spirit guide, and sister was often inclined to throw things at Cruz. Usually things like cusions or mushrooms, but the occasional mug happened, too.

Etienne is a “sensitive,” a ghost hunter — or ghost charmer or exorcist, whatever you want to call him. When he happens upon a job that requires no ghostly talents and offers a good deal of money, he of course offers it to Cruz. It’s not like there’s much to do, after all. Just visit a house that isn’t haunted, wave a bit of sage around, light some candles, and put the old fellow’s mind at rest. Even Simone thinks Cruz can do it.

Cruz wouldn’t normally accept but… he needs the money. His youngest sister is recovering from cancer and the hospital bills are mounting up. He works two jobs already, and even so his family is doing little more than scraping by. Reluctantly, Cruz agrees and heads off to meet, and reassure, Mr. Weber that his house is spirit free. But when Brody Weber, Mr. Weber’s son barges in, intent on keeping the charlatan from taking his father’s money, Cruz is introduced to a spiritual force that shouldn’t be there.

So much for this being an easy job. Between Mr. Webber’s angry son, an angry pair of ghosts, and his own guilt at letting people think he’s the real deal, Cruz has his work cut out for him.

Cruz Guthrie is a good guy. He’s kind, compassionate, everything a good guy ought to be. He doesn’t get angry, doesn’t blame Brody, doesn’t like keeping secrets, and doesn’t have much of a personality beyond being a good guy.

Brody broods. Brody is prickly and has moments of self-doubt, insecurity, and snappishness that hint at more of a character. Perhaps, because he’s been haunted for all his life — his ‘friends’ are more spiritual annoyances than metaphysical ones — it’s natural for him to have more than a slight touch of depression, but even then I’m stretching to give him more personality than he shows in the book.

To be honest, every character is nice. With one exception: Simone. Simone is, quite frankly, a bully. All she ever does is throw things at Cruz and threaten Brody. You can say, “oh, she’s protecting her baby brother,” or… “she’s being funny!” No, no she’s not. She’s throwing a mug at someone who can’t see it coming. Maybe she’s not trying to kill him, but she’s trying to hurt him.

This book is so tone-deaf in parts — like Simone — that it made it hard for me to stay interested. The plot is… okay. The author’s interpretation of the spiritual world was interesting, but the characters were all one note: Good guy, okay guy, or brooding guy. The romance, such as it was, felt a little tacked-on. Two guys think the other’s attractive and decide to take a chance. Cruz, being a good guy, manages to perk Brody out of his funk and the day is saved, huzzah!

But, really, all snark aside. It’s… an okay book. It’s nicely written with a fast pace, serviceable plot and might work as a beach read or something light and quick for a lazy afternoon. If you want some featherlight fluff with a happily ever after, this isn’t a half-bad read.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

elizabeth sig