Julian Weems’ life has fallen apart. Once a college professor, a mistake led to him losing his career and his current temporary position substitute teaching has not been renewed. Which is why it’s so easy for Julian’s sister, Cece, to talk him into taking a job with her husband’s show. Julian doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but he does believe in science and research, so he takes the job as “professional skeptic” on the UnReality Network’s new show, Bump in the Night. Even if he really doesn’t want to.
Oscar Fellowes has always had the gift, and he has been able to communicate with ghosts since he was a child. Along with his best friend, empath Ezra, Oscar began the original iteration of Bump in the Night as a web series. Now, they can’t turn down the lucrative contract with UnReality Network to bring their show to TV. As long as the contract is airtight, that is. Oscar and Ezra aren’t there to be made fun of or disproved. All they want to do is be respectful of and help the spirits.
Production on the show is a mess even before shooting really begins. A storm raging over the small upstate New York town makes power unreliable in the Hendrick’s House. Strange occurrences have the crew jumpy. Oscar isn’t getting straight answers out of the ghosts, and the effects are wearing on him and Ezra both. Julian has encounters that he can’t explain. And while this is all going on, Julian and Oscar are drawn to each other in a way neither man expected. Despite the fact that Julian is there to question everything Oscar says and does, their attraction is too strong to ignore.
But things go from bad to worse, with the ghosts and the production team alike. It’s clear Oscar and Julian are being lied to, and they’re determined to get to the bottom of it. When people start getting dangerously ill, it becomes a matter of life and death.
The blurb on this one intrigued me, and I was quick to pick it up. A skeptic and a real medium was a great juxtaposition, and I was hoping for exactly what this book delivered. Julian and Oscar are both great characters and their interactions carry the book.
Julian has been dealt a rough hand, in life in general and particularly in more recent years. But he’s muddling through. The opportunity to be on the show is one he can’t pass up, but he’s not happy about it. He’s sometimes a bit whiny and a bit cranky, but it’s not overdone, so it never got truly annoying. I particularly liked Julian’s growth in the story, as he reconciled his attraction to Oscar and his experiences with ghosts with what he’s always believed. I particularly liked that he wasn’t a jerk about his skepticism, and never attacked Oscar for what he believed, but rather simply tried to disprove or explain the phenomena they all experienced.
Oscar is totally endearing, and he’s dealt with skeptics his entire life. That doesn’t make it easy, but he can handle it. I liked how steadfast he was in the face of the problems with the production crew and how he and Ezra were determined to do the right thing for the ghosts. Oscar is a very kind, very big-hearted person. So even though he often has physical effects from communicating with spirits, his sole focus is to treat the ghosts with dignity. It was a great touch that worked in the book’s favor.
As for their attraction, it simmers from the start. Oscar and Julian find each other attractive, but do their best to ignore it at first. They both have their reasons, and it plays well. When things start happening, they are drawn together even more. There’s not a lot of on page sex in this one, but the romance is a constant background through line that totally works as a counterpoint to the larger mystery.
And the mystery here was well done. I picked up on certain clues, especially about one particular character, as well as about what was causing harm to the living folks. But I wasn’t sure how everything was going to play out until nearly the end. For the most part, I was satisfied with the resolution. It had bigger twists than expected, and indeed, probably bigger than it needed to be. However, everything wrapped up at the end with a conclusion that worked.
I will say, though, for me things got a little muddy in the storytelling from about halfway through to the nearly finished mark. The narrative got a little chaotic at times, and I felt there was a lot going on without much forward momentum. Pieces and clues were being dropped that seemed inconsequential (though most of them panned out) and it felt a bit disjointed at times, especially in two or three scenes where it felt out of character or confusing when information was being relayed.
That being said, I enjoyed the MCs a great deal and liked the story overall. I liked the way the author handled Oscar’s abilities and, in particular, Julian’s growth. The epilogue sets things up nicely for more books, and I’m looking forward to reading what comes next.