Review: Laying a Ghost — by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

laying_A_GhostOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I read quite a bit of books throughout the week, some that touched me and others that did not.  I strive to only compose book reviews here that motivate me to write, otherwise the blog feels more as a job than a passion.  I was set to write a review for a book that I read a few weeks ago, I had a vague idea of what to write about, but no real passion for the story.  I had dragged my feet and found this book, Laying A Ghost, by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow late Friday night.  I knew by the first third of the book, that this reading experience was worthy of a blogpost.

Basic Plot:

John McIntyre is a fisherman/taxi-man on a small, remote Scottish island (Hebridean islands).  John meets his fare, Nick Kelly in the town of  Traighshee and they quickly find a friendship.  As they learn more about each other, will these differences be too much and is John willing to risk everything for Nick?  Can Nick let go of the past to live for the future?

Background:

I have read a few of Davitt and Snow’s novels which had a large emphasis in BDSM.  In those books, there is a dark intensity there, often following a “traditional” romance formula.  So I came to this book with a bit of hesitation, not because I did not like those books, rather that I did not know if that their only style.  However, I found this book to be both charming and endearing.

The island itself is a character, which can be a challenge for a writer not to overwhelm the protagonists.  In this case, the atmosphere of the town of Traighshee explains so much about the background of John that we understand his motivations almost instantly and helps to pull us into the story.  By the end of the first chapter I was drawn into story and the slower pace was actually welcoming.  Like watching an Emma Thompson Regency period movie, you just sit back and immerse yourself into the culture and environment.

John McIntyre:

John is a closeted gay man living in the small town of Traighshee.  The fear of disappointing his family and friends keeps him safely hiding his sexuality, but his love of the land and family keeps him there.  We see John early on as a loving man who often takes care of others in the community.  This level of comfort that John provides others is described by Nick:

There was something about John’s voice, his accent, that was comforting, and Nick didn’t think it was just that it reminded him of how his mother had sounded when he was small– her accent had faded after years in the States until, by the time she’d gotten sick, it was barely noticeable.  Maybe it was something specific about John, or maybe that was just a romantic fantasy.

While reading a book, at least on my part, I see the story as a movie.  The ability of the authors to create characters that are so intricate we are immersed in the dialogue, including the accents.  Davitt and Snow conduct a symphony with this Scottish accent of John.  I fell in love with him in part because of his speech patterns, not just his words and actions.

Dominic “Nick” Kelley:

Nick enters the story as a “mysterious American stranger” whose character is unveiled slowly.  His mother (Fiona) was born on the island, but escaped for a bigger life early in hers.  Now Nick has returned after her death and after his uncle Ian’s death he inherited  his home, Rossneath House.  Nick is escaping from a recent tragedy and we learn that there is just something not quite normal about him.

“Nick Kelley,” the man said, not offering his hand either.  There were little lines around his eyes that seemed to indicate that he hadn’t been sleeping for a lot longer than it had taken for him to travel here from the states.

He is fragile, both physically and emotionally.  As the story continues we find that he actually has a core strength which John learns to rely on in later tense events.

Theme Summary:

This book, to me, is about finding yourself and being true to your inner self.  Nick says something to John later in the book that really spoke to me:

“But I’ve spent my life learning to trust my instincts, or at least trying to, and I don’t want to go into this half-assed.”  He hitched himself up a little higher and clarified.  “If we’re going to try, I’m going to try all the way.  I’m not going to hold back out of worry that it might not work out, because if I do, maybe it won’t work out.  You know?”

This is truly the spirit of Nick and how he approaches his life with John and his new life in Scotland.  Later we see another quote from John that also reflects this theme:

“Money–aye, well, there’s no denying it’s handy, but it’s not worth losing what you are to get it.”

Be true to yourself and don’t hold back for fear of rejection or failure.

Strong Points:

The writing.  At no time did I go, “oh yeah there are two authors here and I can tell the difference in writing styles.”  I could never tell the difference, and I am curious to know how they make their collaboration work so seamlessly on paper.  I love their ability to write the accent and culture of Scotland into the writing and dialogue.

What could be better?

I read a review on either Goodreads or Amazon that thought the writing quality was not good enough.  Ironically they said that English was not their first language, but I wonder if that was part of the reason that they had difficulties.  This book has such a foreign feel to it, this coming from an American.  I love finding a book that gives me a taste of a world in which I do not live.  Davitt is English, so she brings in her personal background to make a vivid portrayal of the environment and culture.  I loved this, but perhaps someone might not like the slower pace.  Quite frankly I can think of nothing to improve the book.

Conclusions:

I found this book because I yearned for a book that was well written, had some sexiness, but was more heartwarming than extreme sex scenes.  Laying a Ghost, by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow has all of these things, but above all it made me think.  It made me realize not to give up on myself or my dreams, and anything worth doing will require sacrifice.  This is certainly a wonderful book and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Bea

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