A Marriage to Fight For

Partners in Parenthood

 
Haunting Hope by Raina Lynn
(Jove, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-12655-1
****
One of the nicest things about this ghostly love story is that the ghost is "real" -- real in the sense that the reader gets to know him so well that often, like the heroine, we forget that he's, well, dead.

Hope McLean is the abused wife of a notorious alcoholic and drug abuser named Richard. Hope suffers from such mental, emotional, and physical abuse she is incapable of tossing Richard out, despite the urging of her friends at the real estate office where she works. Married only three years, Richard hid his true self from Hope until after they had moved into Hope's dream house, a Victorian-era home in the Sierra Nevada town of Manzanita. But Richard's extracurricular activities have left Hope almost penniless with mounting debts and no way to pay. And no way out.

She finds the will and strength she needs to survive when Sheriff Britt McLean comes to town. The one-time Sheriff of Manzanita, Britt was gunned down in 1872 and spends his time wondering the globe. But now and again he is compelled to be near something that was originally his, and since Hope owns the last of Britt's earthly possessions -- a journal -- it's to Manzanita that Britt returns.

It's not easy for him. The home was built for Britt's widow by her second husband. It's even tougher watching his descendent, Richard, brutalize his wife and waste his life. Britt's noble sense of honor finally gets the best of him, and he announces his presence in such a way as to scare the bejesus out of both Hope and Richard. Richard flees. Hope believes she's going crazy.

But Britt explains all, and over the weeks and months that follow, the two build a comfortable friendship that transcends the "differences" in their situations. Despite their better efforts, they fall in love.

Both Hope and Britt know that there is not much chance of a live woman and a dead man living happily ever after. They can't even touch. But Britt is the more realistic of the two, insisting that Hope get on with her life, and vowing to disappear and never return. Before that happens, however, Richard returns and the scene is set for an unusual conclusion that will chance the dynamics of this unusual relationship, and make it possible for the hero and heroine to consider sharing a life together.

Though some readers may find these kind of ghostly love stories hard to swallow, author Raina Lynn has done a beautiful job of somehow making the scenario believable. She does it by ever so slowly building the friendship between Hope and Britt. The characters are given the chance to unveil their true natures. Hope becomes increasingly strong and able to deal with her psychopathic husband. Britt is able to ease his loneliness and expose his gentle nature. The reader is taken on a fanciful, but ultimately fulfilling ride with two lost souls who cross seemingly insurmountable barriers to be together.

The story does tends to bog down towards the end, with far too much time spent on repetitive soul searching. There are also one or two contrivances I could have lived without, most notably the fact that Hope has had a "thing" for Britt ever since reading about him in a history book decades before. But ultimately, Haunting Hope does not disappoint.

--Ann McGuire


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