This is probably one of the most interesting romance novels that I’ve read so far. Interesting both in a good and a bad way. I’m having a very hard time deciding whether or not I like this book. I got it in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley and I read it a few months ago – it has taken me a while to let everything sink in and write this review.
The Spirit Chaser is a paranormal romance novel about, stay with me, a reality TV show about paranormal investigation. Austin had an encounter with a ghost in his childhood and then started studying them. He turned this into a hit TV-show called “Spirit Chaser Investigations” where he and his team drive around the country in a van (yes, a lot like Scooby Doo) investigating haunted houses and filming while doing so. He starts out with a lot of respect and awe, but slowly turns into a brazen and fearless investigator who taunts every spirit and ghost he meets. Obviously, this will turn out bad for him – especially since he is the only one on the team without any paranormal sensibilities.
Anyway, the story starts when his best friend and lead psychic is injured during an investigation in a warehouse gone horribly wrong. He decides to quit, so Austin needs to find a replacement. He interviews many who turn out to be fake psychics and eventually goes to Casey, who was recommended to him by his previous lead psychic. She is the real deal but also won’t be bossed around by Austin – which is why their relationship starts of rocky. Austin is upset over his friend getting hurt and leaving (which he feels is his fault), is not ready to let anyone in even though he needs it for the show, and when Casey refuses to give in to everything he wants, things get worse. When Austin passes Casey by and uses another (fake) psychic for an episode, she is furious and decides to quit. Austin finally realises he’s gone too far and that he needs Casey, and their relationship improves. When they do research for a case on their own, they grow closer and start a real relationship – which quickly leads to them falling in love.
But, just when they are happy and their TV-show is doing better than ever, things start going wrong. One of the demons that Austin has angered over time is out for revenge. She basically possesses him, completely closes him off from his friends and family (leading to a break up with Casey) and Austin loses his grip on reality more and more. When the team finally realises what is going on, they stage an intervention: an exorcism to get rid of the demon and save Austin. The demon isn’t ready to let go, and then Austin realises what’s happened: he in fact died in the warehouse where his best friend and lead psychic was hurt, and the demon has been in control of him ever since then – slowly getting rid of his soul and completely taking over his body. The only thing that is left for him to do is die, both to get rid of the demon and to save his loved ones from having to do it.
I liked the premise of the story and how it played out. It’s all very mysterious and it made for a very original romance novel. The relationship between Austin and Casey started of as two people hating each other, the two grew closer, became friends and eventually fell in love. I loved how it evolved. But it didn’t have a happy ending. I read romance novels because of the happy ending, which makes it one of the most important parts of the story for me. I also realised something rather disturbing when I finished the book: if Austin indeed died at the warehouse in the beginning (even before he met Casey), that means that he was already dead throughout their entire relationship…
This was not mentioned in the book, and I don’t know how many of you realised that. This creeped me out so much! His neck snapped, so he was really dead, but his body survived since it was inhabited by a demon. Yes, in the beginning, Austin’s soul had the upper hand, but he was physically dead. Also, the relationship between Austin and Casey soured because he was getting darker and darker – when the demon was taking over. So basically, Casey had sex with a demon…
And then another thing, Casey doesn’t have any familiars (ghosts/spirits who help the psychic) because she doesn’t trust anyone. So this entire story is basically one long, drawn-out story about how she got her first familiar (think How I Met Your Mother turned How I Got My First Familiar). Also, the story isn’t wrapped up completely and is left a little open-ended. Austin always said he would come back if he died, and he doesn’t at first which leaves Casey devastated. But then a few weeks later, he gets delivered to her by the psychic-friend who found him wandering in spirit world, lost and afraid. Austin doesn’t realise he’s dead, doesn’t know what has happened and seems to have lost a bit of his memory. So it’s up to Casey to gently let him get acclimated and eventually tell him that he died (apparently going too fast would be too much of a shock and could … kill him?). And that’s where it ends. So she leaves a few story lines unattached. Apparently that is because there is supposed to be a second book where the story lines will continue. Even though the description and title are known, Melancholy Ghost doesn’t have a set publication date and there’s no word on if and when it will come out. In any case, I won’t be reading it because A) I was too disappointed by the ending of book 1 and B) the description of book 2 sounds like crap (the investigation team does riskier and riskier investigations to keep ratings up, Casey is struggling being with Austin but not really being with him, psychic friend wants to help Austin move on into the light, and nobody is telling Austin anything so he goes to find answers on his own).
Anyway, aside for the ending, I really liked this book! On the positive side: I loved Austin and Casey’s relationship. The entire paranormal investigation/reality TV show added originality and depth to the story. And the way the story plays out was logical and believable (in the paranormal setting). The biggest negative for me was the ending: it let me down so much (but now that I know a second novel was in the works, it makes a little bit more sense). I also cursed Austin for his stupidity in being so brazen and fearless and defying ghosts, spirits and demons. It’s his job, he experiences it everyday and even though he has no paranormal sensibilities, his entire team does. So he should be smarter and realise that he can’t keep doing that, unpunished. He does realise this in the end, that it is all his own fault and that he is losing everything because of his own fault – which does redeem him, but it’s just so stupid of him! In general, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars because the originality and Austin/Casey make up so much. Up to the last two chapters, this was an amazing book for me! And most people don’t have the same hang-ups I do about happy endings, so they will love even the last two chapters.
What do you think? Have any of you read it yet, and do you agree with me or not? Let me know in the comments!