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