Ethan Roam is just an average college kid trying to stay on top of his workload while battling increasingly vivid dreams. When he accidentally falls asleep in class, however, he realizes he may have a problem. A friend of the family guides Ethan to Dr. Grady Hunter. At this point, Ethan is willing to try anything—which is good, since Dr. Hunter’s office seems anything like the typical visit to a sleep therapist. Not only is the doctor incredibly attractive, but his office is chock full of, well, oddities like tarot cards and an ouija board. While Ethan is under the impression Dr. Hunter can help him unravel why he’s having such vivid, lucid dreams, Dr. Hunter has other plans entirely.
Haunted by the death of his first love at the hands of a werewolf, Dr. Grady Hunter has dedicated his life and career to battling misbehaving paranormal entities. When Ethan Roam walks into his practice, Grady is torn between his desire to maximize the potential he knows Ethan possesses and his desire to know Ethan as more than an apprentice. Keeping the younger man at arm’s length proves to be very difficult, even as Grady’s former flings come out of the woodwork to make his life and job that much more difficult. And just when he finally realizes the depth of his feelings for Ethan—not to mention his own desire to act on those feelings—Grady risks losing it all when he has to come clean to Ethan about the truth behind Ethan’s dreams and Grady’s own plans for vengeance.
There are so many elements in this story that tickled my fancy. I love me some paranormal activity and there are heaps of ghosts, werewolves, vampires, magic, and so on in the book. The drawback is that these themes are more like a veneer laid over a common basic plot: two lovers find each other and the actions of one drive the other off into danger, but the threat of losing each other forces them to make amends and they all live happily ever after. I feel like it would be fairly easy to replace all the paranormal drama with regular unrequited love and violence. The sheer number of paranormal beings necessarily means we cannot really delve deep into any of their histories, too. This is only a sticking point where it concerns our MCs. It turns out Ethan’s dreams indicate he is actually rather a powerful being—but there is precious little to root that idea into the story. On the plus side, we see the dreams/nightmares he has, but how and why that makes Ethan such a big kahuna is pretty much “because the author said so” in the book.
The romance felt pretty lackluster to me. The attraction we see “growing” between Ethan and Grady felt forced to me. It was far easier to see and understand why Ethan falls for Grady—Ethan has zero relationship experience and is attracted to the suave-seeming Grady. We know Grady, on the other hand, is on a mission to avenge his first love. We know Grady has basically sworn off relationships because he felt so bereft and that he engages in casual relationships (or just plain old fuck-buddyness) with people of both genders. I just didn’t understand why Grady suddenly starts to have feels for Ethan apart from it’s what the author wanted. After they finally fall bassackwards into something like a relationship, Grady at least seemed to do a 180 with regards to his never wanting to fall in love again.
One of my favorite parts of the story is how Schwartz attempts to build suspense and tension by having Grady know something about Ethan’s past, but not actually telling Ethan about it. This was a lovely little angst bomb. Initially, Grady keeps the secret because he must if Grady is going to be able to realize his long-sought revenge. But as the two fall in love, Grady realizes that revealing this secret will likely drive Ethan away. My one complaint about this is how on-the-nose the narration is regarding Grady and this secret. We know pretty early on that Grady can use Ethan’s past as a means to Grady’s own ends because the narration just flat out tells us that. Still, I’m a sucker for seeing these kinds of situations unravel on page. And unravel they do in this book, in spectacular, melodramatic style.
Another highlight was the side character, Dacey, a dashing vampire. Of all the characters, I actually thought he was the most well rounded without being in your face about it. On the surface, he’s all fun and games and “darling, when are going to have that threesome?” But underneath, he has genuine feelings for the people he chooses to associate with. Unlike the “Grady knows a secret about Ethan,” Dacey’s surprises are actually surprises…but when you look back at the character, you can imagine whatever tidbit was revealed was there all along if you just knew to look for it.
This is a paranormal romance with an emphasis on the get-together angst between an inexperienced young man and a jaded older man. There are Halloween elements (specifically, the climactic events happen on Halloween) for readers who enjoy holiday-themed books. Despite the wealth of paranormal tropes, I found the world building didn’t do justice to the type and variety of beings presented. Schwartz made good faith efforts to at least justify why Ethan is so special, but I thought even that fell somewhat flat. On the whole, this is not a bad choice if you’re a big fan of paranormal or melodramatic romance themes.