Title: Raven’s Rest
Author: Stephen Osborne
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 200 Pages
Category: Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal
At a Glance: In the end, Raven’s Rest gets resounding high marks for being a bang up ghost story with enough creepy moments to satisfy any thrill seeking reader, but unfortunately fell short in the romance and relationship department.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Michael Cook has left his abusive lover and settled in the small town of Banning, Illinois. Having nowhere else to go, he checks into the Raven’s Rest Inn and soon learns that the haunted reputation of the hotel is well deserved. Michael gets a job at a local café, where he meets Trey Ramsey. Though Michael has misgivings about starting up a new relationship, Trey seems to be the complete opposite of Michael’s controlling ex, so he decides to give Trey a chance.
Life at the Raven’s Rest becomes increasingly frightening when the ghost of Coleman Hollis appears in Michael’s room. Coleman seems to want something from Michael, and the mystery deepens when Michael discovers he’s the spitting image of Coleman’s lover from years ago. Together, Michael and Trey must discover why Coleman’s spirit is drawn to the Raven’s Rest—and to Michael.
Review: Michael Cook is starting a new life—one that admittedly leaves him at loose ends and more than a little vulnerable. He has endured the quiet abuse of his boyfriend for over five years and, frankly, after being told often enough that you are stupid and your judgment is more than lacking, it’s no wonder Michael second guesses just about everything he does. But he has come to the small town of Banning to escape, and even though it’s not terribly far from his former home, it is still a place where no one knows him or his past…unless, of course, you are the ghost who haunts the very inn Michael is staying at, and the ghost recognizes you as his former lost lover.
Almost immediately upon settling into the inn, Michael is introduced to the spirit of Coleman Hollis, who haunts the hallways of Raven’s Rest looking for his long lost love, Bryan Finn. Upon further investigation, Michael discovers that something mysterious happened to both Bryan and Coleman—the former disappearing one night, the latter leaving town never to be heard from again. Through a series of appearances, Coleman seems to be begging Michael to help him unearth what really happened to Bryan and himself—even if it means endangering Michael’s own life. But Michael is not alone, having struck up a friendship with one of the local boys, Trey Ramsey. Unlike his ex, Trey is caring and thoughtful, although a bit on the wild side and one given to enjoying public exhibitions of their growing relationship. With the town psychic’s help, and Trey at his side, Michael is determined to discover the long-kept secret of what happened to Bryan Finn, no matter what the cost.
The mystery portion of this story was quite well done. The slow unraveling of exactly what happened to the two lost lovers was fascinating to read and carefully drawn out for maximum scare factor. The séances, the corporeal ghostly visits, and even the possession Michael endured all bled together to make for a great creepy ghost story which never failed to make this reader jump just a little bit at each new twist and turn. The author had a definite grasp of just how to play out what would have been a classic campfire ghost story delivered on a dark and dreary night had he left it just in that realm. However, the budding love interest between Trey and Michael is where the story suffered in many ways, and it began with the nagging idea that Trey seemed much younger than his age belied.
Immature is definitely a word I would easily couple with Trey’s personality and rather than make him endearing, as Michael found him to be, it instead made me wonder how someone fresh out of an abusive relationship could find any comfort or strength from someone who obviously appeared to be a bit shiftless and prone to foolish behavior. For instance, it was apparent that the town was a mixed bag when it came to homophobia, and yet Trey took every opportunity he could to pull Michael into public displays of affection just to rub certain townspeople the wrong way. Not only that but Michael was definitely scared and conflicted about his ex, so the constant references to his feeling uncertain if it was wise to get involved with someone so soon after leaving his boyfriend were absolutely justified and yet, time and again, they were simply brushed aside as he got caught up in the mystery of Bryan and Coleman. Five years is a long time to be under someone’s abuse—it just rang false that Michael could rebound from that and trust Trey so implicitly and so quickly after the situation he’d come from.
In the end, Raven’s Rest gets resounding high marks for being a bang up ghost story with enough creepy moments to satisfy any thrill seeking reader, but unfortunately fell short in the romance and relationship department. I will definitely read more work by this author, however, because I feel he has true talent and, no doubt, some fabulous stories yet to tell.
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