Ghost of a Chance by Flo Fitzpatrick
(Zebra Debut, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7750-5
You have to hand it to Zebra – their Debut line sounds like a great idea, at least on paper (no pun intended). Too bad Ghost of a Chance never rises above the mundane. From its humdrum title (come on, can’t the editors think up something catchier than that?) to the yawn-inducing heroine, this book elicits nothing so much as a giant mental shrug. Too bad – the plot setup was promising.

Dancer and choreographer Kiely Davlin is enticed back home to Dallas for a revival of Bad Business on the Brazos. Her old pal, Lida Rose, is directing. When Lida Rose informs Kiely that she’ll have her pick of six gorgeous, straight men, Kiely is instantly suspicious of Lida Rose’s matchmaking intentions. But a revival in a historic theatre sounds like too much fun to miss, and she does love to choreograph.

The theatre is haunted by the ghost of the last leading man in Bad Business, one Don Mueller, who was shot to death onstage fifty years ago. Someone put real bullets in a prop gun, but was it an accident? Or a murder? The case was never solved. Lida Rose has invited all of the surviving cast members to the opening. Meanwhile, Kiely is attracted to hunky Rafe Montez, one of her co-stars, and she’s seeing Don Mueller materialize, as well. But why is he appearing to Kiely and nobody else? Is he trying to tell her something? And is Rafe really interested, or is he just acting the part?

To be honest, it’s hard to care. The story is told in first-person, and in order for this technique to work, the main character has to be somebody that’s interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention and carry the book alone. Kiely Davlin, frankly, isn’t that character. The book segues from dialogue to narrative, then back to dialogue, then to narrative, in a rather rhythmic manner that is more lulling than engrossing. Kiely talks to someone. Then she explains what’s going on. Then she talks again. Her character seems to have been made up as the author went along. I never got a handle on who or what she was, other than a dancer who’d appeared in numerous productions.

Kiely and Rafe are supposed to be the lead couple, but their romance is mostly nonexistent. They share a passionate kiss during rehearsals. Is it love? Lust? Or just good acting? Hard to tell, because there isn’t enough heat between them to melt an ice cube. This is one book that might have benefited from a hint of purple prose, but Kiely mostly thinks in throwaway one-liners, so their romance never feels like it’s going anywhere. And the climax involves Kiely acting too stupid to live, mainly because if she did the sensible thing that any thinking female above the age of eleven would do, the story would end fifty pages short.

The Zebra Debut line is bound to be a bit uneven in quality since they are featuring a new author with each release. Kensington is to be applauded for at least trying to give debut authors a shot. They’ll need stronger entries than Ghost of a Chance to hook readers, however. The low price might make it enticing if you like ghost stories, but otherwise, think twice.

--Cathy Sova

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