Krisitne Grayson, ed.
trade paper $15.99
It’s good to read outside your comfort zone from time to time. I’m not really the target audience for this anthology. But I found it a nice, enjoyable collection of ghost stories that are a perfect fit for the season. I meant to have this posted a little earlier, but things have been hectic enough that I didn’t finish the book until last night.
The stories here cross a variety of genres, but at heart they’re all romances. Now there are certain conventions of the romance genre that can’t be violated if the story is to be considered of that genre. Editor Grayson (the romance author persona of Kristine Kathryn Rusch) explains this in her introduction.
The main thing is that the two lovers have to end up with each other. While I like an upbeat ending, I prefer a little more suspense in the outcome of the relationship. I guess you could say I’m not that much of happily ever after kind of guy. I find unrequited love more interesting thematically.
Of course, knowing things won’t work out every time is just as unsatisfying.
Anyway, you aren’t here to read about me. You want to know about the stories. They’re all worth reading. They span a variety of time periods and encompass a number of other genres. All of them involve ghosts in some form, although the ghost isn’t as central to the story in some of the tales as in others.
Louise Marley takes us to Montana just after The Great War in “The Farewell Gift”. Dean Wesley Smith gives us another installment in his Duster Kindel time travel series with “A Ghost of Time.” “Christmas Interrupted” by Lisa Silverthorne returns to the present with another time travel tale in which a woman has to prevent a murder that occurred the previous Christmas.
I don’t usually think of military fiction and romance as going together, but it seems to be a thriving subgenre. “The Ghost of Willow’s Past” by M. L. Buchman has a ghost that isn’t human, in one of the more unique entries in the volume. Accomplished romance author Mary Jo Putney gives us a dark tale of demonic possession in which two Guardians must rescue a group of kidnapped children in “Toasted”.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues the dark theme with “Chains”, in which two lovers are reunited in middle age. I think I liked this one the best. One of the things about romance as a genre that I have a hard time with is the whole love at first sight thing. I’m enough of a cynic that I have trouble buying into it. I can certainly believe an infatuation at first sight can grow into true love, but I’m skeptical about love itself being instantaneous. In Rusch’s story, the love had been established years ago. That made the whole relationship seem more natural and less forced to me, and as a result I enjoyed this one the most.
Veteran of many genres, Carole Nelson Douglas takes a Goth rocker back to Regency times as part of an effort by the powers of good to save his soul in “Miss Meriweather’s Christmas Follies”. While this one had its moments, I felt the character development was a little rushed. I can buy into the idea of a rock star fitting in as a Regency lord eventually, but I think this one would probably work better as a novel.
The last and one of the longest pieces is from Anthea Lawson, who writes YA novels under the name Anthea Sharp (reviewed here and here). “A Countess for Christmas” is firmly in Jane Austen territory. While I don’t worship at the Altar of Austen the way some do, I have enjoyed some of her works. Ms. Sharp does a masterful job here; this was my second favorite in the book.
Christmas Ghosts, while not quite my cup of tea, is a solid installment in Fiction River‘s themed anthologies, and I’m glad I read it. It was a nice change of pace.
If you haven’t checked out Fiction River yet, you should. There’s something for everyone. If they haven’t published a volume in your favorite genre yet, they will. Subscription information can be found here. Single copies are available as well.