Title: A Frost of Cares
Author: Amy Rae Durreson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 138 Pages
At a Glance: Amy Rae Durreson packs a lot of love story into this chilling and poignant paranormal novel.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Military historian Luke Alcott leaps at the chance to live in the seventeenth-century country mansion of Eelmoor Hall, home of the Royal Military School of Medicine, after being offered a job cataloging the school’s archives. Luke believes he chose the perfect place to start a new life and put his broken past behind him. But soon after settling into the old house, he hears strange noises—like footsteps—and he begins to suffer from terrible nightmares.
The only person Luke can turn to for help is the taciturn caretaker, Jay, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who carries an old battle wound. Together they try to understand Eelmoor Hall’s history and decipher what could be causing the haunting. As the weather grows colder and snow dusts the countryside, a child goes missing. Luke needs to deal with his own demons and learn to trust in love again if he hopes to face down the angry spirit and find the missing girl.
Review: One of the first things you’ll notice when you read Amy Rae Durreson’s A Frost of Cares (because, let me just say right here, I very much think you should read it) is the untraditional, not to mention unexpected, delivery of the story. It’s not that the book is narrated in the first person by Luke Alcott—we see first person narration all the time. It’s not that the story is being told in a sort of epistolary fashion a decade after the incident that fuels the narrative—that’s a time-honored literary device too. It’s not even that it’s a contemporary ghost story that’s also a beautiful mix of romance and tragedy—that’s been done for ages on the page and in cinema. What I personally found most unique about A Frost of Cares is that, as the story begins, Luke almost immediately breaks the fourth wall and includes us, the readers, in what is at times a sort of stream-of-consciousness narration.
What makes this feel so much different from other books, in my opinion, is that Luke doesn’t take on the role of a character in the story as much as he plays the role of our confidante. He invites us into his thoughts and narrates events in real time as they’re happening, even as he’s writing about the past—a past, by the way, that still haunts him—and I absolutely loved the intimacy of the way Durreson includes these brief asides in the narrative, so much so that when I was looking at my notes and highlights for this review, I got sucked right back into the story. The book, I’m thrilled to say, is every bit as wonderful the second time around, and possibly even more so since I knew and adored Luke and Jay by then.
The setup of this short novel is perfect, not only in the romance and the love that grows between Luke and Jay but in the supernatural elements as well. Eelmoor Hall is the ideal atmosphere for a gothic-style ghost story to unfold, where the legend of the Mistletoe Bride takes on an eerie realism as Luke’s first night in the Hall draws him into an immediate and intimate acquaintance with the 17th Century girl thought to have existed only in a legend passed down through generations. The chills and fear and adrenaline arcing through Luke’s narration are spot-on, paced to keep us readers poised on a nervous edge and flipping pages in anticipation of what will happen next—and I did, gladly. Twice.
Where the paranormal storyline supports those adrenaline spikes, the poignant tragedy that is both the distant and the more recent past plays on our emotions and juxtaposes the happiness and courage that Luke and Jay find in each other as their bond strengthens. There’s a lovely nuance in the emotional connection Durreson finesses between readers and two of the characters in this novel as well, characters that never appear on the page in more than the most ephemeral of ways, and by the end of the story, I don’t mind admitting that their bittersweet absolution gave my heart more than a little squeeze for the trouble.
A Frost of Cares is, at its core, a redemption story built around a ghost story and then intertwined with an opportunity for second chances for Luke and Jay. It’s a story of healing and of the sort of trust that grows between two people when they risk exposing all their secrets and fears and scars to each other, and find that when all is said and done, they have no reason to hide because they’ve become each other’s safe place to land. I loved every bit of history and detail and imagination Durreson wove into this story, and all the parts and pieces that manifested so subtly and moved the plot along, keeping me riveted to my Kindle, beginning to end. Especially in the end, which placed a beautiful and romantic period on this love story.
If you’ve ever doubted that a chilling ghost story and a sweet romance can coexist within the pages of a single book, I think A Frost of Cares could well make a believer out of you.
You can buy A Frost of Cares here: