Title: Haunted by the Past
Publisher: Breathless Press
Pages/Word Count: 44 Pages
At a Glance: Haunted by the Past is a nice, quick read overall, though, if you want something not too involved but still quite romantic.
Reviewed By: Rena
Blurb: Jared didn’t believe in ghosts or love, until he moved into his new house and found both.
Finding a house that suits him, Jared makes the move to reclaim his independence. However, he doesn’t expect to find himself both attracted to and concerned for the almost-reclusive gardener, Evander.
Jared believes Evander is hiding an eating disorder. But the appearance of old photographs and love letters in the house cause him to wonder about the stoic man. As their friendship becomes more, he wants to help and uncover the secrets he knows Evander is hiding. Each of them are haunted by something, and it’s not the house.
When a ghost from Jared’s past appears, they must fight for their own happiness, even if it means exposing themselves and the truth.
Review: I’m a huge, huge fan of haunted house stories and am always dying to read a gay romance that takes place in an old house with dark secrets. Pelaam’s Haunted By the Past delivers some of that but ultimately falls short of developing a number of things highlighted in the blurb. It’s a novelette, clocking in at around 12,000 words, and the short length means some shortcuts were made in some way or other regarding the plot. In this instance, I’d loved to have seen a heavier emphasis on the haunted house, its backstory, as well as Evander’s, and how all of those work together to affect the budding romance between Evander and Jared. In the end, however, much of the attention was placed on the sex scenes instead.
It’s not to say that Pelaam ignores the house and all the unexplained experiences Jared has as a renter. Far from it – faces in windows, cold spots, flitting shadows – they’re all there, providing us with a great foundation for some really spooky supernatural moments. The letters, especially, and the creepy manner with which Jared discovers them, are a fantastic touch that adds a human element to the house’s history. It’s just too bad those are relegated to the background, by and large, and are mostly skimmed over.
While the book’s a romance, ergo, the focus should be on the developing relationship of the main characters, the house, its past, and everything (and everyone) connected to it are relevant to the romance. The letters are surprisingly brushed aside after their discovery, and while Jared acknowledges their significance, they’re forgotten till the end of the story, when their link to everything is revealed.
The romance itself is really sweet, and we get to see everything unfold through Jared’s POV. He’s the quintessential artist-dreamer who falls madly in love with the quintessential silent, brooding mystery on two legs that’s Evander. His efforts at reaching out to Evander and moving their relationship forward despite what appear to be barriers are heartfelt and sincere, and there’s not much of a leap for the reader to make when empathizing with him. In a longer story, I think the process of getting to know each other more would’ve been much more compelling, but by and large, given the length of this book, what we get works pretty well.
That said, both men’s back stories come out of the blue at the last minute, which threw me off. Of the two, Evander’s history – and the reason behind his odd behavior – has already been hinted at from the beginning. Or at least we already know something’s up with him, so for his history to come out after the climactic moment is less jarring than Jared’s. Mind you, it’s a great backstory to read about, which gave me even more reason to wish this were a longer book, considering the implications. Without getting into spoilers, let me just say that his revelation means a much larger picture involving supernatural elements. It’s not just limited to the house and its weird past. And we don’t get that from the story leading up to the climax – no mention of anything remotely otherworldly happening elsewhere, beyond Evander and his connection to the house.
As for Jared’s backstory, it was the one that made me blink in confusion because I didn’t see that coming, and nowhere in the book, at any point, was anything hinted at. We only get an idea from the blurb. So to have certain complications ensue with no preparation beforehand threw me off somewhat, and I ended up feeling as though Jared’s backstory was tacked on as a means of placing the lovers in danger and forcing Evander’s history out into the open. If I were to step back and look at all of the different subplots objectively, I can see how they all work together to form a great, compelling story. However, the novelette’s length cuts down quite a bit on any opportunities at developing all of them for a more fleshed-out book, and whatever chances are there are largely devoted to the sex scenes.
Haunted by the Past is a nice, quick read overall, though, if you want something not too involved but still quite romantic.
You can buy Haunted by the Past here: