by Sharon Cullars, paranormal (2007)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 978-0-7582-1371-6
The Object Of Love, like the Brava imprint itself, seems to be suffering from an identity crisis of sorts as it is simultaneously a ghost story, a cozy mystery-type drama, a family drama, and a May-December romance. It's pretty impressive therefore that everything comes together very well in this book. This book has a most engaging story, an unusual one in most respects. I'm just not sure whether it is an engaging romance story.
Lacey Burnham has recently lost her twenty-one year old son Calvin in a car accident. While experiencing intense grief, she allows Calvin's friend Sean Logan to stay over at her place for a few days during the funeral. This leads to a sexual relationship that is probably most unwise given Lacey's emotional state and the fact that Sean is about the same age as her son. However, Sean has always had a crush on Lacey and he's hoping for something more than a quick fling from Lacey. However, there are secrets that Sean is keeping from Lacey and this secret involves Calvin. Meanwhile, Calvin is still around, his ghost not pleased that his mother has shacked up with the young man he considers his former best friend.
It is actually hard to give an accurate description of the story because it will probably seem quite ridiculous on paper, what with ghosts and all, but author Sharon Cullars manages to present a cohesive and most entertaining story. What I enjoy the most about this book is the author putting in the effort to describe the emotions experienced by Lacey as vividly as possible. The first half or so of this book when Lacey is experiencing shock and grief over the sudden loss of her son can be tough to read because the emotions described are so raw and so real. Ms Cullars shows a deft hand at portraying realistic characters and letting me experience what her characters are feeling here. If she promises to write like this in her future books, she's just gotten a new fan in me.
The mystery surrounding the estrangement of Sean and Calvin leads up to a raw and painful revelation. While the mystery itself has my attention, I confess that I feel slightly annoyed later in the story when Sean keeps alluding to this Big Mystery but refusing to tell Lacey anything. Like Lacey, I get really irritated with this kind of behavior. I also roll up my eyes at the thing Lacey does late in the story that cause Sean to land in hot soup. When she pleads that she has no idea what she does will get Sean in so much problem, I snort and scoff. Considering the relationship between the Big Mystery in question and Sean, Lacey must be really dense not to assume that the first suspect will be Sean. Then there is the whole drama about prison rape that again has me rolling up my eyes and going, "Oh please..." Do we need to be so melodramatic so late in the story? The ending to the mystery is too convenient in my opinion but nonetheless this subplot is an engaging read. Because Sean comes off as a well-developed troubled young man with big dreams and intentions but not necessarily the means to achieve them, I find myself compelled to keep turning the pages to find out what really happened between him and Calvin.
Sean is on paper a rather stereotypical troubled youth from the wrong side of the tracks but Ms Cullars presents a well-drawn young man who is most sympathetic. I like how Sean doesn't use his past as an excuse to justify his actions in the past. Ms Cullars doesn't overcompensate too much when it comes to Sean - he has problems, he still has problems, but I am shown that while he may have his flaws, he's a good fellow underneath it all. Lacey is a well-developed heroine as well, with her being a pretty sensible person on the whole except when it comes to dealing with things way out of her depths.
The problem here is that I never can see why Lacey will love Sean. I can easily see why Sean will believe that he's in love with Lacey. Lacey is the mother of his better-off old friend who's a striking contrast to his own parents. I've no doubt the man must have a romanticized image of Lacey in his mind, like some kind of perfect mother-lover figure that he has been looking for all his life. But I have no clue what Lacey sees in Sean. Sean is hot. Sean is cute. Sean is, I suppose, great in bed. But I don't see what Lacey finds in Sean to warrant a long-term relationship. But to be fair to Ms Cullars, she doesn't end the story with a wedding so it is not as if the characters are rushing into things. I just wish I have seen more of what Lacey sees in Sean.
Therefore, I find it hard to buy the romance, but because I am fond of the characters by the last page, I'm more than happy to imagine that everything will work out perfectly for them. The Object Of Love is a very well-written story with some scenes that can cut really deep and hurt so good. The rest of the story can be an uneven and bumpy roller coaster ride, but it's never boring and, even if I don't find the romance as interesting as the characters or the mystery subplot, I'm most pleased to have read this story.
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