Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Holiday Spirit by Dani Harper

TITLE: The Holiday Spirit
AUTHOR: Dani Harper
PUBLISHER: Cobblestone Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 20k)
GENRE: Paranormal romance
COST: $4.99

Just like in the movie, Kerri Tollbrook can see dead people – except Galen McAllister is adamant he’s not a ghost. He convinces her to go check out his not really comatose body at the hospital, where she figures out someone has likely locked his spirit outside of his own body. With Christmas fast approaching, can she help him regain himself, or will he be left a ghost forever?

I purchased a number of Christmas stories this past year that I didn’t get around to reading, either because I’d overdosed on the season or ran out of time. This was one of the stories I never got to reading until now, and I wonder if being away from the season where it’s much easier to forgive weaker storytelling hindered my enjoyment of it.

Both lead characters start out the story delightfully fresh. Kerri is frazzled with the season in a ditzy but cute sort of way, while Galen walks the right line between delight at finally being seen and frustration that she insists on believing he’s a ghost. Their charm carries them through the whole beginning and into their fledgling relationship, even as the vague paranormal glimmers turn into a cavalcade of borderline clich├ęs by the time Kerri’s witch Aunt Elizabeth is introduced to help. I forgave the new details that seemed to keep popping in out of nowhere, thinking, “This is a Christmas story, of course I have to suspend my disbelief even further than I normally would.” Some of my initial charm dissipated as Kerri took on an even ditzier persona as the story progressed, but still, Galen was normal enough to counterbalance her so I was okay with that.

Then came the finale/resolution. I’m not going to spoil anyone, but there was a believable, if hasty, resolution to Galen’s situation, with a twist I didn’t actually see coming. I kept waiting for the twist to get explained, and waiting, and then, when the story took a whole new turn, I figured there it was. Except…no. Throughout the story, the author went to great pains to add a lot of explanations for the paranormal activity, all the way down to the uses of various crystals in the magic that gets involved. Yet, when it came time to explain the resolution, it vanished. It’s simply not there. I can accept a Christmas miracle as much as the next person, but not when the author has gone to such lengths to offer explanations every step of the way. Because of this easy out ending, I enjoyed the story less, considerably less, actually, because at that point, the romance felt like a cop-out. It’s a shame, really, because up until that, I generally liked the characters and thought the story sweet. Now, I’m just left with a sense of vague annoyance that a slightly charming story couldn’t live up to its potential.

Readability

9/10 – Easygoing and fast, with believable dialogue to help

Hero

7/10 – An everyday joe kind of vibe, likeable

Heroine

6/10 – Personality is all over the place

Entertainment value

6/10 – A sweet, if implausible, romance is spoiled by an easy out ending

World building

7/10 – The glimmers of the paranormal here are interesting, but the lack of any real resolution detracts from it all

TOTAL:

35/50

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