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The Ghost and Mr. Moore by Wendy Dalrymple

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The Ghost and Mr. Moore

by Wendy Dalrymple
July 12, 2021
RomanceScience Fiction/Fantasy

I’ve always loved The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, the 1947 film about a widow who falls in love with the ghost of a sea captain, but I greatly dislike a certain plot complication that occurs near the end of the movie. The Ghost and Mr. Moore is a gender-swapped version of the story that avoids the complication and is entirely optimistic, with love conquering all. It’s a warm, sweet, comforting story with solid storytelling and some lovely writing.

The book begins with the story of Jacaranda Manor and the Braun family. This family built the manor in 1894 in Florida, sparing no expense and decorating with the best taste. Eventually the family lost their money and the youngest daughter, Carolina, died of Spanish Flu in 1918. After the stock market crash of 1929, the home was abandoned and fell into ruin.

In the present day, recent widower Joseph Moore and his son River move into the manor so that that River can be near his deceased mom’s family and Joseph can renovate the house. However, the house is not abandoned after all. Carolina’s ghost still lives there, and she is not at all happy about Joseph’s loud and messy project. Carolina first makes contact with River and then with Joseph. Carolina strikes up a friendship with Joseph when he agrees to not only renovate the house, but to restore it to its former state as closely as possible.

Even though this is a short book, it takes its time with the romance development between Carolina and Joseph. They develop a really lovely, gentle, warm relationship and help each other heal. There’s no sex in the book, but their efforts to touch, and the changing sensations they feel as they become more trusting and therefore are able to physically connect more, are romantic. Partly because this is a romance between two people who assumed they would never have another romance, and partly because Joseph and Carolina are reasonable and mature people, this felt like a story between “grown-ups” in the emotional sense of the word.

This is a low conflict story in which Carolina and Joseph move quickly from initial animosity to mutual respect and co-operation. Their relationship develops alongside the restoration of the home, which provides a sense of time passing and is viscerally satisfying. Reading about the mansion being restored to its glory days but with the addition of plumbing, electricity and a modern kitchen gave me a nice sense of rightness – the reversal of entropy expressed in new flooring. I also loved the way Joseph brings Carolina’s art into the world, reversing her erasure from art history (she never got to show her paintings in life, and they were all abandoned in the attic).

I liked how this book involves closure for Carolina and Joseph. Joseph researches the fates of Carolina’s late fiance and family members for her, and Carolina helps Joseph heal from the loss of his wife, Rachel. I appreciated that Rachel, who we never meet, is still a presence in the book:

Often, Joseph would grow quiet and stare off into the distance, and Carolina knew that he was thinking of Rachel. She was not threatened or bothered by the memory of his wife and River’s mother. They shared their joys and sorrows, and, in it, found an unexpected love that neither of them could have ever dreamed of.

However, the book glosses over the emotional and practical potential challenges of living with a secret ghost wife. In particular, I found the approach to parenting River to be troublesome because it made me doubt the happiness and stability of the ending.

Show Spoiler

At one point Carolina vanishes for a while thinking that Joseph needs a chance to fall in love with “someone with a pulse,” as she puts it. During this time River has a hard time accepting her absence but comes to accept it. When Carolina comes back and she and Joseph decide to be in a relationship together, they agree to keep her presence a secret from River so that he won’t be “confused.” This seems ridiculous to me, and cruel. River is already confused, and surely keeping Carolina a secret would drive a wedge, however small, between Joseph and River who are very close.

This is the warm fuzzy socks version of a ghost romance. It won’t satisfy anyone looking for something angsty or high conflict. There’s no on-page explicit sex, not is there anything scary, or even a lot of detail. The book speeds over years worth of time in places. But for a sweet (but not gooey) romantic take on the “ghost loves human” plot, this was very enjoyable.

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