Ghost Hunter, by Jayne Castle

>> Tuesday, August 08, 2006

With Ghost Hunter, Jayne Ann Krentz (writing as Jayne Castle) returns to her Harmony universe.

This time, though, instead of following Lydia and Emmett, as she did in After Dark and After Glow (I consider her Bridal Jitters story, in the Charmed anthology as a kind of "intro" to the universe), she writes about two all-new characters.

Local Guild boss and powerful ghost-hunter Cooper Boone is everything botanist Elly St. Clair could ask for-the handsome, strong and silent type. Maybe too silent. For when Guild secrets threaten her career at the college, Elly has to call of their marriage-and leave small-town life behind.

But starting over in the thriving metropolis of Cadence City isn't easy, especially when one of Elly's new friends disappears in the eerie catacombs beneath the streets. Elly sets out to investigate with her new pet dust-bunny, Rose (who is very fond of jewelry). But there's a serious complication. Cooper Boone has just arrived in town. He's there to claim his runaway fiancé.
Don't pick up this book if you've either never read Krentz or if you've read a lot of her books and the repetitiveness bothers you. If it's the former, because there are much better JAK books out there (I suggest Trust Me, or Sweet Starfire, if you insist on a futuristic). If it's the latter, because this, while very good, is just more of the same, and it would irritate you.

However, if you're like me, and you find JAK books to be wonderful comfort reads, go buy this. Then put on your pajamas, make some hot chocolate (or iced tea, if you're in the Northern Hemisphere), and curl up with it in bed. That's the way to read a JAK! This one was a B for me.

Elly St. Claire comes from a family of guild bosses (sorry, but I'm not going to go into detail about the universe in which this series is set. Read the second paragraph of the AAR review if you're interested; the reviewer provides a nice, concise explanation). Elly has none of the normal powers (she does have one, but keeps it hidden, because it's just not nice and normal and she fears she might be considered weird for having it), so she works in academia.

Our story starts the way JAK's stories often start, right in the middle of things, with Elly breaking her engagement to Cooper Boone, the new boss of the Aurora Springs Guild. As we soon find out, they had met only months before, when Cooper was still a Guild librarian, and started dating. Soon they were engaged, and around that same time, Cooper became more and more involved in Guild politics, culminating in his being elected as Boss.

When Elly finds what she believes is evidence that Cooper never really cared about her, but just saw her as good Guild boss wife material (those family connections of her, you see), she breaks up with him and runs off to Cadence City.

So jump forward a few months, and Cooper arrives at Cadence City. After Elly shocked the hell out of him by dumping him, Cooper decided he'd give her a few months in the big bad city and then go fetch her. He expects by then she'll be ready to go back, so he's shocked all over again when he arrives to find Elly quite comfortably ensconced in Cadence City, with a new business, new friends, a new wardrobe and even a new dust bunny. Obviously, she's not desperate and ready to go back home in tears!

But when Elly gets peripherally involved in a mysterious situation a tangler friend is in, she needs the help of a hunter, and so she and Cooper have to spend some time together again. And it becomes quite clear that not everything was over when she broke up with him.

So, what's good here? Not the mystery. Apart from the pretty interesting subplot about the blue ghosts, the actual thing about the drug ring and so on was pretty boring. Standard JAK fare, I'm afraid, and she's not known for her sophisticated, intrincate suspense subplots.

But she is known for the chemistry between her hero and heroine, as well as for the way the reader can practically feel the compatibility and increasing intimacy between them, and that's very much present here. Cooper and Elly are both interesting people, and they are even more interesting together.

I loved the way their relationship progressed, with Elly at first so convinced that while she loves Cooper, he doesn't really feel anything about her, other than considering her convenient. At the same time, Cooper still has no clear idea of what went wrong between them, but does feel a lot for her, and he can't figure out how to show her this. He needs to understand what the problem is, and realize that Elly needs to be put above his work, and that, indeed, she is more important to him than his work, no matter how much he planned and plotted all his life to achieve those objectives. Reading the banter between these two and their increasing involvement was fun, and gave me plenty of warm fuzzies.

And speaking of fuzzies, I must make at least a small mention of Elly's dust bunny, Rose, who's got more personality than many authors' main characters. I adored her and her penchant for shiny jewelry :-)

Another good element was the way JAK had Lydia and Emmett, the protagonists of the previous two books in the series, be perfectly integrated to the story. They didn't just show up to assure us readers that they were still in love and deliriously happy, they played a significant part of the plot, and just as important, they were still Emmett and Lydia, not just "deliriously happy former hero and heroine".

So, quite a nice read. It won't be joining my list of absolute JAK favourites, but I do forsee some rereads in the future!


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