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The Dead Romantics


The Dead Romantics

Ashley Poston, the bestselling author of young adult books like HEART OF IRON and GEEKERELLA, makes her adult debut with THE DEAD ROMANTICS. This quirky and surprising romance will make a believer --- of ghosts, love and everything in between --- out of any reader.

Florence Day has a secret as big as they come, and only a few people (and her NDA) know it: she is the ghostwriter for bestselling, fan-favorite romance author Ann Nichols (think Nora Roberts). Oh, and she can see and communicate with ghosts, but I’ll let you decide which is the bigger secret. Years ago, Florence came to very unwanted and unfavorable fame when she used her ghost-seeing abilities to solve a local murder. But after her classmates started calling her “Wednesday” and teasing her relentlessly, she knew she had to get out of the small town of Mairmont, South Carolina, and her family’s funeral home. Because, of course, the family of a girl who can see ghosts would run the town’s only funeral home. As far as Florence is concerned, it’s like she was destined for weirdness.

"While I never thought of myself as a paranormal romance reader, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the arms of handsome ghosts and the believability of a love story that can cross boundaries."

Despite it all, Florence has found laudable (if not public) success ghostwriting romances, with books like The Probability of Love, A Rake’s Guide to Getting the Girl and The Kiss at the Midnight Matinee earning rave reviews from major publications and serious sales figures for Ann. And then came The Breakup, which Poston describes as “The kind of breakup from a love you thought would last your entire lifetime, only to find your heart ripped out with a spork.” Ever since, Florence cannot write the last book in her four-book contract. She knows the moves, sure, but the ending consistently involves death or tragedy, and there’s nothing “happily ever after” about a dead protagonist. Or is there?

Having lost her faith in love, Florence has been battling with her editor for the last year, a feud ended only by the latter’s retirement and the appointment of a new editor. She is shocked to learn that Benji “Ben” Andor is jaw-droppingly handsome, a “very hunky beanstalk” who she really wants to climb. When their first meeting gets off to a disastrous start (in which Florence, posing as Ann’s assistant, introduces herself twice), Ben makes it clear that “Ann” can be given no further extensions and that her manuscript is due tomorrow, come hell or high water. Unfortunately for Florence, hell arrives in the form of her beloved father’s sudden death, sending her back to her hometown and her family’s funeral parlor. When she arrives at Days Gone Funeral Home, there is one very unexpected guest: Ben, as brooding and handsome as ever, but very, very dead.

True to form, Florence’s eccentric father has left his family with a laundry list of requirements for his funeral, including the appearance of Elvis, a thousand wildflowers and a murder of crows (the collective noun, not the verb). As the eldest sister, Florence takes these tasks in stride, but returning to her hometown has rocked her confidence and set her back to the misunderstood girl whose secret cost her friendships, acceptance and a real life. Immersing herself in her lovingly weird family also results in some growing pains and readjustments, none of which are easy to handle on their own, let alone when you’re planning your father’s funeral and walking a (very handsome) ghost through the first days of the afterlife.

A successful young woman returning to her dead-end small town battered and beleaguered is a premise that is not new in romance or romantic comedies. But Poston upends every trope, stereotype and predictability with her ghostly, surprising and utterly unforgettable novel. As Florence helps Ben solve his unfinished business and their banter heats up, romance simmers at just the right temperature, pace and swoon-worthiness. Although the afterlife is a hard boundary to cross, Poston’s gentle handling of their relationship (and the lack of touch) can stand as a metaphor for so many different dynamics and orientations that it makes THE DEAD ROMANTICS the perfect romance for those reading from beyond the veil or before it (oh, how I’d love to read a ghost’s review of this book!).

To say that this is an ambitious novel is putting it mildly, yet Poston rises to the occasion with imagination, creativity and sheer honesty. She is an assured writer who --- even when it requires a suspension of disbelief --- knows exactly the story she wants to tell and how to tell it. But what really sells her book is the earnestness with which she infuses not just her characters, but also their individual stories of love, grief and second chances.

Although centered on death and set largely in and around a funeral home, THE DEAD ROMANTICS is almost never sad, achieving that perfect combination of sentiment and hope that feels weighty and uplifting all at once. While I never thought of myself as a paranormal romance reader, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the arms of handsome ghosts and the believability of a love story that can cross boundaries.

I think that Poston herself says it best when she writes about the return of Florence’s belief in love: “Love wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t forever, either. It was something in between, a moment in time where two people existed at the exact same moment in the exact same place in the universe.” If this is true, as Poston has convinced me it is, then we are all lucky to exist at the exact moment that books like THE DEAD ROMANTICS are being written.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on July 22, 2022

The Dead Romantics
by Ashley Poston