Sex and the Single Ghost
by Tawny Taylor
(Kensington, $12.95, NC-17) ISBN 0-7852-1507-X
***
It's been nine years since Claire died and frankly, she's feeling a little frisky. Okay, a bit vengeful, but mainly frisky. And now, she has her chance for a bit of justice and a bit of fun. You see, every nine years a "Spirit American" may come back to life on Halloween. And the best part is that if they touch someone's heart, they can stay for nine days. While it may not be Jake's heart Claire wants to touch, she's willing to do anything to get her chance.

But what our heroine doesn't know is that Jake's been waiting a long time for her too. And coincidentally, he's spent that time the same way she has - being dead. You see, only four days after her murder, Jake was killed in a train wreck. Now he, too, has to touch a soul in order to keep touching Claire.

This could've been a trite little comedy of errors, with each struggling to hide their undead state, but Taylor shies away from that and has her main characters out themselves very early in the game. In fact, Claire enlists Jake's help to find out how she died and why her ex-fiancé is suddenly looking very guilty. But first, they're going to have sex - and lots of it.

The sex scenes in this one vary from hot and sexy to squicky and icky. Claire and Jake experimenting with toys? Hot. Clair and Jake experimenting with someone else's toys? So not. I'm all for frankness in sexuality, but at times the author’s choice of terms conveys an image I don’t want in my head.

I have to say that if it hadn't been for the ick factor, this one would've been a four-heart book. The romance is solid: each person had been crushing on the other for years and both felt the other wasn't a possibility. Claire was engaged to a jerk and Jake always seemed a bit out of her league. I buy that. I also buy that even after nine years, you can still harbor a crush on the one who didn't get away, but wasn't caught to begin with. They're cute, they're honest and they really care about each other. It's a formula that works and the ghost angle - erm, sorry "Spirit American" angle - is a clever twist.

The only real bumpy part is the resolution. I'm treading carefully here, as not to give away the ending, but I have to bring this up. In the last chapters, things wrap up a little too neatly and the reveal of a supporting character's true identity seems to contradict the beginning of the story.

In fact, I read the passage three times, thinking maybe I'd misunderstood, then went back and gave some key parts a once over. And, yet it still didn't quite work for me. But, then again, I'm a bit of a nitpicker.

Sex and the Single Ghost definitely has its issues, but it has its charm too. It's a fresh take on paranormal ghostly romance and will give the reader a few laughs. While it's not without its frustrations (squickiness, a cowardly ghost and the mind-boggling denouement), it's a fun, quick read.

--Amanda Waters


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