Haunting Hope
by Raina Lynn, paranormal (1999)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-12655-1


This book would have been a keeper if the heroine hasn't been such a creepy woman. But more on that later. The obligatory synopsis first, yes?

In 1872, Sheriff Britt McLean is killed while escorting a prisoner to his court session in Breford. Before he dies, he hears the criminal and his henchman vowing revenge on Britt's wife and loved ones, so Britt passes on his chance to move on into the afterlife in a desperate attempt to save his loved ones. Now, he is trapped in this existence as a ghost. His existence is inadvertently anchored to his earthly possessions, most of which are destroyed in a museum fire. Now, in 1999, he is drawn to the last of the few of his earthly possessions - his journal, kept in the safe of the wife of his descendent.

Hope McLean has been a doormat and mousy wallpaper throughout her life, and now, after attending AA sessions, she has mustered the courage to throw her druggie and alcoholic hubby out of her life. With the help of Britt. She later forges a bond with Britt as she tries to rebuild her life. But that scum hubby keeps coming back for more nastiness!

Now, the strengths of this book lie in Britt and the wonderful plot. Really, Britt is simply a gem as the noble sheriff who is lonely and so in need of someone to spend time with after a century of solitude. He is a wonderful, well-fleshed out character who clearly deserves a good woman's love. Also, the plot is slightly reminiscent of that delightful movie The Frighteners minus the gore, and I have a great time reading. The plot twist at the end is totally unexpected and hence, a pleasure to read.

But the heroine is creepy. This is a woman who spends her life being in love with Britt after reading his journal. She recites his writings as her own philosophy. She even marries the scum husband of hers because, as she tells Britt tearfully, that man has Britt's name and is a descendent of Britt.

This woman needs therapy.

Likewise, she spends a year out of marriage in idol worship of that jerk before throwing him out. Good for her! But then she returns to her Mary Magdalena mode, transferring her utter devotion and starry-eyed worship to Britt instead. She is positively orgasmic when she finds out that hey, Britt doesn't actually love his (long dead now) wife!

I'm sure this sort of behavior isn't normal. This is a woman who, after being free from her husband, spends all her time cooped up in Britt's mansion to restore the home to its former glory. No friends, no time for anything but Britt, Britt, Britt. I can't help wishing I can shove at her a cart of therapist calling cards. This Hope has no backbone, is totally dysfunctional, and is the type of people we all laugh at in tabloids and Geraldo. And she is rewarded in the end for her neurotism.

And the wonderful hero isn't enough to balance off the overwhelming sense of uneasiness I feel at Hope's behavior. I'm a busybody, I so dearly want to drag that woman off to a shrink, and ultimately that persistent want meddles too much in my enjoyment of a rather excellent read. Let's hope Ms Lynn's next book has a more mentally healthy heroine.

Rating: 60


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