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The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston


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The Dead Romantics

by Ashley Poston
June 28, 2022 · Berkley
Romance

I am very confused by The Dead Romantics, a contemporary romance between a ghostwriter and an actual ghost. This book has a lot of parts to it, and I’m not sure how I feel about almost all of them. I will therefore write this review as a list of all the pieces and how I felt about them. Expect frequent use of words like “ambivalent” and “confused.” None of these are spoilers – they are all parts of the basic plot set up. As you can imagine, I think the book struggles to balance all this stuff.

1. The main character, Florence, is a ghostwriter for a romance novelist.

She can’t finish her latest book because she had a terrible break up a year ago and concluded that romance is dead.

I was initially a bit perturbed by the ghostwriting thing but it was actually rather fun seeing other characters attempt, unsuccessfully, to guess for whom Florence writes. It does mean that on top of all the other things that I am about to relate, Florence has to deal with whether she’s a disappointment to her family (NO) and whether she was ever a good writer (ALLEGEDLY, YES), and

MINOR SPOILER AHEAD

whether she has a right to be angry with her ex-boyfriend who stole all her ideas (ABSO-FUCKING-LUTLY).

There’s some nice stuff here about why Florence enjoys writing romance. There’s also a cool twist that I shall not reveal.

2. Her family lives next to and runs a funeral home in a small town.

I know exactly how I feel about this – very good indeed. I love a good “raised in or near a funeral home” story, whether nonfiction or fiction, and for the most part I loved the stories in this book about the pride the family takes in their work and the many joyful traditions they’ve incorporated into their lives.

3. Florence’s beloved dad dies suddenly and prematurely and Florence has to go home to help organize the funeral (her dad had a lot of requests so it’s an involved process).

Okay, folks, this is where I lost the thread.

Almost all of the book takes place during the short period of time (a couple of weeks, I think) that Florence is at home, helping prepare the funeral. She’s sad, of course, very sad. She cries a lot, and so does her family. But also she heals a bunch of relationships and eats waffles and falls in love with a ghost, so it’s a pretty cozy week.

When my dad died suddenly and prematurely, and I had to prepare his funeral, I was not having bittersweet bonding experiences or falling in love or anything like that. It was an awful time to a degree that makes me shudder to this day.

So is Florence’s experience, which involves a lot of bonding and hugging, falling in love and regaining her motivation to write, along with missing her father, is that just what mourning looks like in a healthy family?

My experience did not involve a healthy family dynamic.

Is Florence having a typical experience for a healthy family, or is it very strange and unrealistic to combine “sudden loss of parent” with “new love, healing, and regained optimism”?

I have no idea, Bitches. I’m hopelessly confused.

4. Shortly after she meets her new editor, Ben, he gets hit by a car and his ghost starts haunting Florence. They fall in love while Florence is helping get the funeral ready.

It’s not like ghost romances can’t be compelling and romantic, but this one threw me for a loop. It happens very fast – Ghost Ben and Florence are around each other for only one or two weeks (it’s difficult to keep track of time in this book). Ben is very vulnerable and scared. Florence is emotionally raw. Those are good conditions in which to make sudden and extreme attachments but I’m not sure it’s a good way to make lasting ones.

With all the other things happening in this story, I didn’t feel that I really got to know Ben nor did I trust the longevity of their relationship, although I might be too biased because falling in love while planning the dad’s funeral was so hard for me personally to relate to. I am fond of Ben, and fond of Florence, but ambivalent about the romance. However, they did develop an easy way with each other that I liked.

More spoilers ahoy

5. When she was 13, Florence solved a murder by talking to a ghost and was so relentlessly bullied afterwards that she left town for New York City and hasn’t been back in ten years.

I am confused. Everyone in town is nice to Florence upon her return, even her ex-arch-nemesis Heather (of COURSE it’s a Heather).

Why didn’t she pretend no ghosts were involved when she first solved the crime?

Why did her parents allow this level of bullying for years and years?

Is everyone in town an ex-bully, or just Heather?

If the former, why are they all being nice to her now?

6. Florence’s sister Alice is really mad at her so Florence has to sort all that out and make amends and have a sister talk.

I adore Alice but this talk seemed too little too late. Also for the record I am Team Alice, always, in all things.

By the way, there is an HEA, and it’s quite predictable, although it leaves the reader with a lot of follow up questions, such as:

SUPER MAJOR HUGE ENORMOUS REVEALING THE ENDING SPOILER

Why hasn’t Florence been ‘haunted’ by coma patients before?

Is this a thing she can do regularly? Shouldn’t she visit coma patients and see if they are, for instance, comfortable, aware of their surroundings, able to make requests regarding life support, etc?

This is a big deal, right? No one acts like there are any ramifications to this ability!

To sum up – there’s a lot happening in this book and my opinion is that the romance is the least interesting and the least convincing part, although I did like that Ben and and Florence don’t fight or have a big misunderstanding or anything like that – there’s plenty of external conflict what with him being dead and all, and conflict between them would have been too much.

The romance suffers big time for happening smack in the middle of all this other turmoil involving death, family dynamics, trauma, healing from a bad breakup, a major professional setback, and regaining confidence and inspiration. I felt as though I was reading two different books – a family-centered drama about a sudden death, and a ghost romance rom-com.

Now, I am VERY biased by my own life experiences, but I think that even if I remove the death of Florence’s father from the equation, there’s still an awful lot going on in this book, and the romance gets lost within it. Frankly, I’ll be curious about what other people think of this strange, ambitious, cluttered novel. My “too much” might be someone else’s “just right.” If nothing else, I admire it for doing something different, even if it didn’t work very well for me.

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