The Haunted Heart: Winter

hauntedTitle: The Haunted Heart: Winter
Author: Josh Lanyon
Cover: Lou Harper / Cover Photo: ArtFamily, IronFlame, Marafona – Shutterstock
Publisher: JustJoshin Publications
Amazon:/Print: Buy Link kindle /Buy Link Print
Genre: Paranormal/Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: Novel (156 print pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5 DIK

five star + DIK read 2

A guest review by Tj

Summary Review: A wonderfully written start of a new series, featuring a suspenseful ghost story, and the spark of a new relationship that has me anxious for the next book. But perhaps even scarier than the ghostly happenings are the emotional ghosts of loss and grief.

The Blurb: Still grieving over the sudden death of his lover, antiques dealer Flynn Ambrose moves to the ramshackle old house on Pitch Pine Lane to catalog and sell the large inventory of arcane and oddball items that once filled his late uncle’s mysterious museum.

But not all the items are that easy to catalog. Or get rid of…

The Haunted Heart series. Four seasons. Four ghosts. Two hearts.

Winter. Since Alan died, Flynn isn’t eating, isn’t sleeping, and isn’t spending a lot of time looking in mirrors. But maybe he should pay a little more attention – because something in that 18th Century mirror is looking at him.

The Review:

I’m just a ghost in this house

I’m just a shadow upon these walls

I’m living proof of the damage Heartbreak does

-Alison Krauss + Union Station “Ghost in This House” (Link to YouTube Video for those interested)

When I heard this song the other day, it brought to mind Josh Lanyon’s Flynn Ambrose – a young man who’s just a shadow of himself, drowning in his grief, plodding through each day, surviving, but not really living – perhaps just a ghost himself. He wears his grief like armor keeping the world at bay, so he can just get through another day until… what – that’s just it. Flynn can’t see past that. Mr. Lanyon weaves this theme of grief and loss throughout the story, loss that encompasses Flynn, but also ties in as well to the ghostly goings on. And can this grief be overcome – could there perhaps be something new, something worth living for in the future?

Flynn may not be the only ghost residing in the house on Pitch Pine Lane. There’s Flynn’s handsome downstairs neighbor who has no need for human entanglements. There would seem to be ghosts haunting him as well. And of course a true ghost story needs an actual non-corporeal ghost thrown into the mix. Three’s company after all. So come along, you’re in for a real treat, for one of the finest writers today has conjured up a scary tale of ghostly apparitions.

The meeting of Flynn and his neighbor Kirk could not have been more original as they literally fall for each other. And despite the very gruff response that his neighbor has, having been seemingly dragged out of bed at some ungodly hour and then thrown down the stairs, I couldn’t help but smile at their interaction. Kirk is angry and disbelieving as Flynn tries to explain what sent him bolting from his rooms and falling head over heals on top of Kirk. And Flynn is justifiably terrified of what he’s just encountered, but perhaps even more so of revealing too much to Kirk. Too much of what he’s seen, too much of what he’s living through and definitely too much of his feelings.

Despite their unusual meeting, soon I sensed something more there – a flicker of concern or attraction perhaps, that had me anxiously turning the pages to see what developed. Mr. Lanyon is so very good at portraying these subtle nuances of emotion, which always bring his characters startlingly to life. He knows that most people do not express every thought nor every emotion, but rather, often hide them for fear of looking foolish or being hurt, or perhaps because they are simply denying their existence.

Case in point, when Kirk is checking out Flynn’s rooms for ghostly activity, Kirk admits that he was on his way upstairs anyway: “I was going to ask you to stop pacing up and down all night. The floorboards creak.” To which Flynn replies, “I’ll be sure to pace in the other room.” Kirk’s answering, “Great. I’ll let you get back to it.” on the surface seems to say that he would like to just brush this all off and go back to his quiet rooms, but he seems to imply that he knows that Flynn will not stop pacing, and obviously has not, nor will he be sleeping. Do I detect perhaps a bit of concern on Kirk’s part? Lanyon’s dialog hits just the right note throughout the story. He expresses what a character is feeling, and more importantly what that character is trying not to say in concise words that do more to make them seem real than a whole paragraph of character description would do.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mr. Lanyon’s prose which, as I’ve come to expect, is beautifully descriptive without being excessive, such as when describing the falling snow “The leaden clouds had split open and miniature clouds were floating down, landing on sagging fence posts and peeling window sills.” What lovely imagery – soft fluffy clouds of snow gently floating down from above. I could almost hear that encroaching silence as the world is muted by nature’s blanket. Notice how he sneaks in a reference to the building’s state of disrepair with “sagging fence posts” and “peeling window sills”. Those six words go far in setting the scene.

I don’t wish to ruin the story for you by going too far into what happens, but I can say that you’re sure to be on the edge of your seat in parts and very moved, perhaps even shocked at how Flynn’s loss has shattered him. Having recently gone through my own grief, I found his reactions very believable, while wishing that Flynn would realize that the future can hold so much for him. And speaking of the future, of course there’s what many of us long for most – the sweet stirrings of maybe something possible between Flynn and Kirk – something that neither man could, nor would yet consider or put into words.

I highly encourage you to read The Haunted Heart: Winter. It’s the start of something wonderful not only for Flynn and Kirk, but for us as readers as well. Thank you Josh Lanyon.




  • Absolutely Josh-Lanyon-brilliant! How can a book be one minute eerily atmospheric and the next smile inducingly warm and witty? I love a ghost story. I love love these characters. Flynn is heartbreaking and wonderful and vulnerable and witty and frustrating. Kirk? Well, as much as I adored Flynn I loved Kirk even more if possible. Big, slightly grumpy, sardonic, with a warm, tender, protective side. Is it okay to whine and demand more and soon?:) Let’s hope Josh is hard at work writing for these wonderful characters.

    • I love your enthusiasm Madonna! And I completely agree with your comment. Josh did a fantastic job of making both men so vividly real. I just loved both of them, but like you I may like Kirk a bit more. There was just something about him – the gruff and tender mix perhaps? And the fact that there’s still a lot we don’t know about him just makes him all the more appealing. I think a lot of readers can’t wait for Spring.

  • I’m literally beside myself because this book was so good. I just…fell instantly for this book, for these characters, for the writing. But I guess that’s just par for the course when it comes to Josh Lanyon. *sighs happily*

  • I have to confess, I haven’t clicked with any of Josh Lanyon’s writing. He’s so extremely well regarded, I’ve given it several tries, but even the books with 5-star/A+ reviews haven’t worked for me for some reason I can’t quite quantify. The paranormal aspect of this one seems like it might be to my liking (the others had no paranormal/fantasy aspect). Given all that, what do you think? Does this one have a enough of a different sort of note to it, to have a chance of being the one that will click?

    (Of course, I’ll probably just try it anyway….)

    • Well Carolyne, there are a number of highly rated writers who although I respect their talent, don’t appeal to my personal taste so I don’t read their books no matter the subject.
      And although the paranormal ghost storyline here is quite different from Josh Lanyon’s other mystery-based books, his writing style is very much the same. I happen to really like his style – and please don’t read anything into that other than my personal taste – but if that’s what doesn’t click for you, I doubt you will feel any different about this book.
      But if the issue was that you didn’t care for the mystery genre then there’s a chance this will appeal to you, although there are mystery aspects here as well as Flynn does a fact-finding mission to learn about his ghost.
      Sorry I can’t be more definitive, but you would be best able to judge if this would be enjoyable for you. Perhaps read other reviews on Goodreads and Amazon to see what people are saying.

      • Thanks–that’s actually a very helpful reply, that you feel it has the same sort of style/tone/cadence/etc. as his other writing. (I’m actually a big mystery fan.) I’ll read the excerpt, of course, and see how it sounds. I do feel a bit left out, though! 🙂

        • Oh good. I’m glad that helped. I know what you mean about feeling left out. I’ve not read many top rated books because I know the author’s style doesn’t match my taste.
          And there have been many top rated books that I’ve read and although I could appreciate how we’ll written they were just didn’t float my boat. In the end it comes down to personal taste as with everything else in life.

  • I’m also loving the beautiful covers for the series, on Lou Harpers website you can view all 4 seasons…gorgeous (and sometimes creepy)…

  • Tj
    I keep telling you, you should be a writer. Your imagery blows me away most of the time and especially in this review. You shouldn’t write like this if you want me to stop sending you books to review. 😀

    • Aw, thank you Wave. Josh’s work inspired me to do it justice. I had actually written quite a bit more – I couldn’t seem to stop myself. The review was almost longer than the book!
      Enjoy the rest of your holiday!

  • Hi Tj,

    Thank you for this lovely review. I have read many, well-deserved, positive reviews of this story, and yours is just about perfect. Beautifully written, without giving away any of the plot. I, too, was quite taken with the “leaden clouds” sentence. Masterful imagery. Thanks again, Tj.

    • Wow! Thank you Susan. That’s such a great compliment. Sometimes a line of prose just sticks with me – ofttimes it’s from one of Lanyon’s books. I love it when he can summon up vivid imagery with so few words. As you say- masterful.

    • Hey who let you in? 😉 I have no issue with you or any author commenting on one of my reviews. And thank you right back at you sir for this and all of your books. They have given a lot of joy to me and so many people.

    • You can comment on reviews on this site at any time J. I just read Tj’s wonderful review of a book that’s most deserving of his high praise. I’m reading this book now while on holiday in Italy, and when I think you can’t get any better you kick the stuffings out of my assumptions. Great going Josh!

  • I agree this was a wonderful story, Josh’s usual magic with writing. He can also write some of the scariest scenes I’ve ever read!
    In this story, for me, the haunting was tempered by the grief felt by Flynn. Both themes flowed together as more of Flynns past is revealed, along with just how deep that grief is felt.
    I also liked knowing just enough, not too much yet, about Kirk. And the way Kirk responds to Flynns grief. Really, Really looking forward to the next installment!

    • I totally agree RDAFAN7. Magic is a perfect word to describe Josh Lanyon’s beautiful writing. He did a wonderful job of tempering the scary bits with the character development. I loved that he just gave us a taste of Kirk’s story, whetting our appetites for more. I can’t wait to learn more about both guys.


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