Even before The Sixth Sense and the famous line “I see dead people”, I loved ghost stories. Long ago I discovered Elizabeth Peters' gothic books written under the pseudonym of Barbara Michaels. Since that time I search out similar ghost stories, stories that are not too scary but not too cutesy either. I've read Sharla Lovelace's Before and Ever Since and decided to check out her backlist. Over the holidays, I decided I just had to read The Reason Is You, her first release.
Dani Shane grew up as an outcast in her small town. As a child she didn’t realize that others couldn’t see the people that she did. Before she knew to hide this fact she had the reputation as the town’s oddball. Of course that made her the prime target of all the mean girls and bullies.
She swore never to return, but fate has a way of taking up that type of challenge. Twenty years later she is back, needing to live with her father until she gets back on her feet. However she isn’t returning alone. Her status as an unwed mother - her daughter Riley is sixteen years old - is going to give her detractors even more ammunition for insults and digs. She is not worried about herself, but concerned for her daughter.
While she is dealing with her failure and inability to provide for her daughter, Alex appears again. She always thought of him as her guardian angel, since he materialized at one of her lowest times in her life. She was sixteen and he stated he was thirty-one. She wouldn’t help falling for his “sexy, confident, hot as hell older guy” vibe even though she knew he was a ghost. While seeing him again after twenty years is a shock it is not as big as the one she gets when she realizes that her daughter can see him too, and is in fact talking with him.
She is horrified to think that her daughter will experience the same type of harassment that she did. But she doesn’t have the courage to explain to Riley that Alex is a ghost. She needs time. She warns Alex off, hoping that he is the only one Riley can see.
She always been afraid of being on the water, but she is very familiar with the shoreline. The only job available is in the local bait shop, helping out in the store, scheduling the trips and if need be, working as a fishing guide. With her back against the wall, she accepts the position but it is a far fall from her career as a successful graphic designer in Dallas.
Since right now she doesn’t have any luck except bad luck, the way she meets her new boss Jason is by rear ending his new two-month-old BMW. She never expected to meet someone so attractive in this podunk town. It is just too bad about that boulder on his shoulder.
Dani is an excellent first person narrator and appealing character, as are most of the other characters, with the exception of Dani’s tormentors. They seemed a tad unbelievable. Oh, not the snide comments about her comedown in the world and the comparison between their successful lives and her dismal one. Those type of comments were completely believable. But the ease with which the cruelty and crudeness is resumed surprised me. Still that didn’t bother me so much because the other characters are so varied and interesting.
The bonds between family members are very accurately displayed. I liked the fact that both Dani’s father and she struggled with her unique ability. Jason is dealing with his recent divorce and the separation from his son – again very accurately displayed.
However, there is a but. I not fond of triangles and there is one of sorts here. Plus, even though Alex hasn’t aged, and Dani is now almost forty, it seems that he should be more of a big brother to her than a love interest. Maybe because he was around all of her life even though he didn’t show himself until she was sixteen. So having the sexual attraction element as part of their relationship almost felt wrong, even though there is a good reason for it. As with most triangles there is a bittersweet aspect to the ending that again left me with mixed emotions.
I liked the book but I felt letdown a little since it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I wavered back and forth on the grade, finally settling on a C+. For those of you who enjoy triangles, I think you will enjoy it more than I did.
-- Leigh Davis
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