Title: After the Storm
Author: Chrissy Munder
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Novella / 80 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
A guest review by Kassa
Angry and frustrated with his chronic illness, Vincent Poulsen moves into an old lighthouse to live out the few days he has left. After a dangerous collapse, he meets the ghostly Captain Cason, who shares stories of his distant past. In the process, Vincent stumbles over the tragedy that binds the captain to the lighthouse and his haunted memories. Then fate offers them in death a chance to make right what they couldn’t in life….
Reprint: This short story was originally published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Desire Beyond Death
After the Storm is totally unexpected and equally delightful. For those that didn’t read this offering first in the anthology, you’ll definitely want to get it now. The great characters, descriptive writing, clever ending, and above all really wonderful ambiance create an unforgettable story with a great twist. This story just solidifies Munder on my must-read book list.
The prologue begins with a creepy story told around the campfire. The storyteller is telling a scary tale about the lighthouse and the ghost that lives there to a group of eagerly terrified young boys. The caretaker was a ship’s captain that lost his one true love to the sea. Unable to let go of his loved one’s body, the captain drown as well and haunts the lighthouse as a ghost now. From there the story picks up with ailing artist Vincent, who has rented the lighthouse for his last few weeks before succumbing to illness. Vincent unexpectedly befriends the captain’s ghost and slowly comes to learn the captain’s story. When a sudden storm rolls in, life and death hang in the balance when history attempts to repeat itself.
This story sucked me in from the very beginning. I could imagine a campfire with young boys listening eagerly to a haunted house story about ghosts, great storms, true love, and tragic endings. The descriptive writing right away sets a high bar as the dark, yet inviting ambiance cloaks the characters incredibly well. Here is one of the early descriptions that immediately gives you the feel of the story to come.
The speaker held the last syllable, letting the words hang heavily in the chilly night air. For a moment, the only sound was the crackle of the fire and the sound of the water hitting the shore. The small group of boys shivered with morbid delight as they sat in the damp sand and huddled closer to the flames before breaking the silence with their excited demands.
When Vincent makes his appearance, I couldn’t help but sympathize and immediately like the man. He knows he’s dying from his unnamed illness but wants to do so without the suffocating presence of his family. He loves them but needs to be able to do things for himself without needing to be strong or caring for others. Vincent struggles with this need against feeling guilty but his character is so subtle and well portrayed, he feels incredibly alive and real. His character has a lot of nuance and depth, which is shown from the small moments of agonizing pain to his easy acceptance of a ghost as his only friend. Although a dying man alone in a haunted lighthouse may seem like a dark or depressing concept, the light touch and deft hand to prose keeps this story moving anything but morose.
The atmosphere is so rich from the wind and salt of the sea to the encroaching pain of Vincent’s illness. You are immediately thrust into the sounds, taste, and smell of the shore. I don’t want to give too much away in this short novella but the story keeps you guessing. It’s really a love story about the captain and his lost true love, how they met. It’s also about the unlikely friendship between Vincent and the ghost. The ending is a surprise, so cleverly done, and I kept wondering throughout what would happen. Would Vincent be magically cured and find true love? Would the ghost be set free? Would his true love manifest? I had no idea what direction the story would go but the great storytelling had me willing to go wherever the author took me.
There is a happy ending, although not the one necessarily expected, and the novella is actually very romantic tale wrapped up in a classic ghost story. If you haven’t read this offering, be sure to do so. Curl up and let yourself sink into great storytelling and an inviting, unforgettable tale.