Spending the night in the local haunted house is just one of the many schemes Andrew’s friend has come up with over the years. Andrew doesn’t think twice about going along, but he’s also never believed in ghosts. All that changes when he dreams of Caius, a man claiming to be the former owner of the house and cursed to boot. Andrew is convinced Caius is just a figment of his imagination, a representation of what Andrew would want in a boyfriend—if he were actually out of the closet. But then Andrew begins to dream of Caius night after night, and he spends time getting to know the charming man and developing a healthy crush. Andrew’s preoccupation does not go unnoticed by his friends or family, either. However, it’s hard enough to admit to himself that he’s got a thing for Caius, who may be nothing more than a fantasy created by Andrew’s own subconscious. Letting anyone else know he’s being driven to distraction by a fictional lover is absolutely a nonstarter. Then, Caius tantalizingly reveals that he is actually a sorcerer and very much still among the land of the living, albeit in a cursed sleep. Suddenly, the reality of a lover all his own becomes much more plausible to Andrew.
There are, however, a few caveats to living happily ever after with Caius. First of all, Andrew needs to figure out how to break the curse. This task is complicated by a vicious adversary known simply as Snake, someone who has a vendetta against Caius for his habit of cursing unfaithful or unworthy lovers. Next, Andrew needs to find a way to overcome his fear about losing friends and family if and when they discover he is gay. Even knowing the only way he’ll have a chance at keeping Caius is by coming out officially, Andrew struggles to find the right time. Finally, there is the question of Caius using curses to punish former lovers. Whatever feelings Andrew may have for Caius, he’s not sure they would be strong enough to overlook Caius’s actions if Caius was acting on a evil impulse…
Ghost House was an interesting mix of semi-instalove, suspense, and melodrama. Grey frames this as a fairy tale and I think I can generally agree with that. For one thing, I never really understood how/why Andrew/Caius worked. Clearly, the fact that Andrew saves Caius from the curse is meant to bolster their connection. However, I never got the impression these two really connected on a deeply emotional level. Part of the trouble for me was the way Andrew often seemed to act like a “fair weather” boyfriend. That is, when things were going well between then, it never mattered that Caius had cursed his former lovers. However, when Andrew was specifically reminded of/presented with evidence that Caius had cursed former lover, Andrew automatically associates “curse” with “evil” and never seems to give Caius the benefit of the doubt, even after we learn at least one of these curses was retribution for Caius having been cheated on. It was equally frustrating that Caius takes a “I don’t have to explain my reasons to you” attitude. As annoying as this flip-flopping was, there always seemed to be some aspect of the curse and the Snake character who cast the curse that drew me back into the story despite the melodrama between the romantic leads.
As far as the story structure goes, the book is divided into two distinct parts: the “fairy tale” part and the “ever after” part. I like the idea that this fairy tale is only half over when Andrew and Caius finally manage to come together. However, I was less thrilled with the two MCs immaturity in their relationship. I discussed Andrew’s hot-and-cold take when presented with evidence that his boyfriend used magic to curse people. Similarly, I thought Caius had some drama-queen tendencies if/when Andrew acted like the late teen/early twenty-year old that he is…namely, Caius seems to take offense at Andrew’s inability to immediately come out of the closet as soon as he and Andrew decided to couple up. I found this incredibly disingenuous on Caius’s part, because he came of age in a time where being gay was taboo and was likely to land you in jail.
There were a few mechanical/continuity problems in the book that I noticed, but what really gave me trouble was the poorly defined concept of “ghost” in this story. For a book that hinges on elements of the paranormal, I never really knew if “ghost” meant an actual ghost or something from Andrew’s subconscious or magic courtesy of Caius sorcerer powers. For example, many of Caius’ former lovers and the main antagonist in the book might be anyone one of the three things (subconscious projection, a magical creation of Caius’, or an actual ghost).
Overall, I enjoyed this story mainly as a fluffy take on a fairytale. It contains many cliched situations, so if you enjoy that kind of melodrama, you’ll likely enjoy this book. I did enjoy the layers of mystery surrounding the relationship between Caius and the Snake, as well as the circumstances of Snake’s situation. There is a bit of family drama regarding coming out, which adds some extra dimension to the story as well. This book is not really scary paranormal or horror-like, so if you’re looking for a lighter take on paranormal/fantasy that focuses on the drama of finding out magic exists and what happens when a magical and non-magical couple comes together, you’ll probably like this.