Book Review

Paramour by Margaret Ethridge

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Title: Paramour
Author: Margaret Ethridge
Publication Info: Turquoise Morning Press 2011
ISBN: 9781935817383
Genre: Paranormal

Paramour Cover This book came to my attention based on a reader recommendation. I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach this review since I finished the book this weekend and immediately said out loud and on Twitter, “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”

When I look at a small press book, I think about whether I’d buy another book from them, if the book I read is indicative of the quality of the books the press plans to produce in the future. Based upon this book, I am not impressed with the quality of the editing or the press itself. But the story and the concept were enough to keep me reading, and I wanted to finish it because I wanted to know how it ended – I cared enough to want to see the resolution, in other words. But when I got to the ending, I was far from satisfied, and am not impressed with the author or the decision to end the book in this manner.

The opening of the story focuses on the painful death of Frank, whose ghost is attempting to touch or reach his mother in the first scene. The description of Frank’s pain and desperation was enough to make me want to download and read the book.

Plot summary ahoy!

Camilla, better known as “Cam,” returns to her childhood home because of the sudden and somewhat untimely death of her father from a heart attack. When she arrives, a neighbor thrusts a tuna noodle casserole into her hands, and Cam stumbles numbly into her father’s house, confused and grieving. Tuna noodle hits the floor, she leaves the mess on the kitchen tile, and heads upstairs to bed where she turns on the light fixture on the wall above her pillow and POOF! Out pops Frank, the ghost who has haunted that light fixture since his own death several years before.

Cam and Frank grew up together, somewhat. There is some indication that Cam controls Frank’s age, or the age he appears to be. In flashbacks to Cam’s childhood told from Frank’s point of view, he’s startled to see how young he is. Later, Frank portrays his age and appearance from the night he died. Frank can also physically touch Cam, and most objects in the room, but he doesn’t feel anything when he does. He can turn his own light fixture house on and off, thereby controlling his own apparition – but if he tries to get to second base with Cam, he can’t feel a thing.

Cam is fixated on Frank – and asks him to be her first kiss (he refuses, setting of the first of a few periods of time where they don’t speak) and her first sexual experience (same result – with a longer time of not speaking) – but when she returns home to grieve and pack up her father’s house, Frank isn’t the only person she’s ready to bang.

Cue triangle!

Brad, her former neighbor from across the street, bought his parents’ house when they put it on the market, so he lives in the house he grew up in. Brad has nursed a childhood crush on Cam since high school. When he sees her car and hears the news from tuna noodle neighbor that Cam’s dad died, he decides that it’s time he spoke up about how he feels about her. And when Cam sees the now hot-and-tan-and-sexy-and-dedicated-to-yard-work Brad, who mows many lawns in the neighborhood including her own, she’s equally attracted and ready to act on that attraction faster than Brad can rip the pull cord on his mower. The rest of the story focuses on the tension between Frank and Cam, and Cam and Brad in a somewhat-ghostly and very confusing tangle.

Before I get to my reaction to the story, there were a number of things that distracted the hell out of me that I blame squarely on the editing. Things like repeated phrases and words.

“Her brain clicked into gear when she spotted the familiar blue flowers of a vintage Corning Ware casserole dish. She reached for the door handle and began to unfold herself from the driver’s seat.”

A few lines later:

“A wide strip of masking tape with “KELLY” written in neat block letters stuck to the bottom of the dish. Something in her brain clicked, and she paused to question the wisdom of putting masking tape into a three hundred and fifty degree oven for thirty minutes.”

Is the main character secretly a robot? And does a brain clicking sound like my furnace’s burner ignition?

Another example: if any character at any time is holding a beer, they will scrape or pick at the edge of the label with their thumbnail. Count on it. In fact, drink beer when it happens. It’ll dull the confusion of what happens later. Further, Cam has this nervous habit that’s remarked upon repeatedly: she rubs the edge of her thumbnail over the pad of her index finger, and nearly identical phrases are used to describe it multiple times. It’s distracting and repetitive and so bothersome.

Furthermore, I had a TON of consistency-based questions, both about the world building or mythology of Frank’s haunting, and about Cam’s character. For example, Frank can touch just about anything in Cam’s bedroom (which long ago used to be his bedroom) but he can’t touch the journals and diaries where Cam records details of their conversations ostensibly so she won’t forget anything he’s said. He can’t touch those books as much as he’d like to, and there’s no sufficient explanation for that, or any exploration of why he’s haunting a light fixture to begin with. It’s just an accepted feature of the house: for sale, 3br, 2.1 bath bungalow, lily garden of exceptional quality, EIK, W/D, new roof, ghost in bedroom light fixture. There’s no questioning of WHY Frank is there, or whether Cam or Frank would like him to no longer haunt a wall sconce. She’s very unalarmed by the presence of a ghost on her bed, both as a child or as an adult, and even after long periods of not speaking to him, she’s still trying to jump his ghostly bones.

Sometimes in the course of the story, Cam seems not to be able to recall Frank in the least. She bounces out of bed one morning, chases after hot lawnmowing Brad in her yard, despite trying to get on base with Frank the night before. Yet it’s never explained how that connection of memory works, and the ending makes that even more confusing. I think I’m meant to understand that Cam thinks her interactions with Frank are a dream, but in flashbacks she dresses seductively for him on more than one occasion – indicating that some degree of conscious preparation was involved before she turned on the light. She had to get the sexy nightgown from somewhere, presumably shopping with him in mind – but that’s never explained. She has very emotional scenes with Frank, begging him to kiss her, begging him divest her of her pesky virginity, and yet despite tears and serious feelings of rejection she doesn’t really seem to remember him unless she’s in bed, and possibly horny.

Then comes a scene that had me twitching.

By the time Cam finally convinced Brad to take her upstairs and get funky in her room, Cam has gone back and forth between Brad and Frank trying to get someone to do her already. Really. It’s unappealing, to say the least. But then Cam and Brad get busy on Cam’s bed, and I’m thinking Oh, no, please don’t turn on the light. Oh, no.  And of course Brad turns on the light, and POOF! Out pops Frank to watch them do it, providing color commentary and remarking on the entire event while Cam can hear him and see him standing over her while Brad does the deed.  I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Ghostly voyeur menage, I have read some. That was more than enough for me.

Then there’s the ending. I try very hard not to reveal the ending of a story, but in this case it is so off the wall that I can’t not talk about it, especially since it affected my overall grade of the book. Hence, hear ye, there be spoilers. Highlight the text if you want to read them.

At the end of the story, Cam has packed up her father’s home for sale, and moved in with Brad across the street. They’re now engaged. Frank has somehow erased himself from Cam’s memory. But on the day of the open house, she walks through the house with a screwdriver, and turns on the light so ghosty Frank can pop out. He does. She tells him she is engaged, then indicates she’s planning to unscrew the light fixture from the wall, saying, “Don’t you want to come with us?” thereby ensuring that Frank can watch them screw for his eternity.

ETA: I owe y’all a big apology. I’m sorry. The spoiler tag was miscued so the above paragraph was visible. I apologize profusely. Totally my error.

There are some moments of clever writing strength within the story. The author attempted to focus on the concept of the heart, with physical and emotional elements present through each character, mirroring their losses in ways that all focus on the human heart. Frank was shot in the heart, and his ghost has a dark hole in his chest that bothers him at varying moments, depending on his sexual or emotional proximity to Cam. Brad also is affected physically and emotionally by his own heart, the details of which are revealed later in the story. Cam is grieving for her father and feels that pain in her own chest. Well, sort of – she’s easily distracted from her grief by her own hornypants, and not in a sex-affirms-life type of way. Cam is easily distracted most of the time. In just about every damn scene, in fact. I can’t figure out if Cam is selfish or just ridiculous with the short term memory of a goldfish.

Ultimately the men in the story are much better developed, and they both deserved better than Cam. There are some clever scenes with Brad and his older sister, and with Brad and Cam nervously talking over one another (though the dialogue tags are overly frequent and make these scenes confusing) on their first dates. There was great potential in the premise and in the opening pages. But by the end, I thought this book was a hot mess. It could have been a much stronger story had there not been distracting repeated words, some truly bizarre moments of bad prose, and inconsistencies in the mythology of the story. But because of the giant WTF of the ending, I was more pissed off than curious, and that ultimately affected my grade of this book.


Paramour is available in print from Amazon as well as for the Kindle, for the nook at BN.com, and in print as well. It is also available at AllRomance.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Kerry Allen says:

    Due to the unfortunate font choice on the bottom of the cover—-where it looks, at least on this monitor, as if it says “oying for her love”—-I kept waiting for the plot summary to go in a completely different direction…

    captcha: looked78 As in, I must’ve looked 78 times before I figured out that’s supposed to be “vying.”

  2. 2

    I love books with an original concept, and this one sounds like it had been promising.

    I can forgive a little repetition—probably because I have sympathy. I do it myself, and my editor always whaps me for it. I dread the day she misses some—or just gets tired of telling me to shape up.

    But I’m actually glad you warned us about the ending. I always download sample chapters on my Kindle to weed out poorly written books, cliched plots, stupid characters… but the one thing it can’t protect us from is a weird and unsatsifying ending. This sounds like it was both. A shame, really, for a plot that could have been a winner.

  3. 3

    Wow, I think I will rush out and buy this!
    Why is she living away from home as it sounds like she hasn’t even grown up? And, she falls for a guy who mows the neighborhood for a living? What’s his other job, soda fountain jerk, paper delivery on his bike? Does she ever clean up the tuna noodle (I love tuna casserole so I would not have dropped it!) ?

    Is this a vanity press? I can’t imagine anyone buying this book to print it.

  4. 4
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Even if I were a big fan of the paranormal (which I’m not), I would not have been able to get beyond “her mind clicked.”  Maybe it’s a form of OCD on my part, but repetition of certain words or phrases in a book sets off my antennae and, before long, I’m looking for the next incidence of that word/phrase rather than paying as much attention as I should to the book.  An Elizabeth George mystery I recently finished used the phrase “slut’s wool” to refer to dust bunnies.  She must have repeated it at various points at least five times.  I’ve never heard that phrase before (and I lived in England for a number of years) and it was disorienting to say the least.  I just finished a non-fiction book about one-hit wonders and the author kept using the word “waxed” to refer to the process of recording a song (as in, “They also waxed a version of ‘Proud Mary’”).  The use of “waxed” was so insistent (and particularly bizarre considering that wax—i.e., vinyl—has not been the vehicle by which we listen to music for at least two decades) that I almost gave up on the book although a lot of the information covered was interesting.

    Whenever I read anything like that, I always saying to myself, “Hello, editor!”

  5. 5
    Barbara W. says:

    Ha, so this is what that was.  I take it Frank never decided if he was going.  You’d think she’d have the decency to ask her fiance if he wanted a third, since maybe at some point Frank might want to get some man-love.

    They must have had some redeeming and interesting qualities that kept you reading, but just from reading your review, I want to beat all three main characters with a tree branch.

    captcha hard95 – I’m hard on 95 percent of the authors who screw me with a hideous ending.

  6. 6

    May I ask how old the heroine is? Purely curious, given the state of her hymen and the fact that she’s lived away from home for an appreciable time.

  7. 7
    Sarah Frantz says:

    I don’t think your spoiler tags are on the right paragraph? Or you need to put them on another paragraph, too? *I* don’t care—I’m a slut for spoilers. But others might.

    Other than that, this sound like a hot mess of a book. I didn’t figure out until a bit of a way in your review that Frank has ALWAYS been a ghost for Cam. I thought they really grew up together and Frank died while Cam was away or something. But no (right?). Strange.

  8. 8

    It sounds a tiny bit like “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” where Nina has to choose between a ghost and her new boyfriend. But there’s no icky voyeurism, and the film is about moving on after a tragedy, and is handled surely and deftly.
    A lot of the problems sound to me like editing problems. Every author I’ve ever discussed this with has repetition problems, and you can’t always see them when you revise. It takes a beta reader and/or an editor to iron them out. There’s even a name for it, “echoes” or “crutch words or phrases.”
    Also, the continuity problems. I bet the author wrote this over quite a long stretch of time in bursts of 500 or 1000 words. And sometimes broke off in the middle of a scene. It’s really hard sometimes to get into a book when the first draft is written like that.
    Some time ago, I read a book for review with many of the same problems (different press, though). The author’s style was great, but her story wandered, didn’t have a focus and wasn’t really very sharply edited. I don’t usually enter into discussion with the authors of the books I review, but in this case, I was curious, and asked her. Minimal editing. I felt she’d been let down by her editors. With some judicial cutting and some refocusing that book could have been kick-ass.

  9. 9
    Jayne says:

    Did anybody else start hearing Clay Aiken when they read this review? If I was invisible . . .

  10. 10
    Donna says:

    OK, if he erased himself from her memory, how did she know to come over with a screwdriver? One would hope he said “NO! GOOD GOD, NO!” Which is probably what I would have been saying about finishing this train wreck. Cudos for taking this one for the team.

  11. 11
    Fiamma says:

    Sounds just awful! LOL I am not big on paranormals, but it does not even intrigue me enough to want to read it.
    Repeat phrases are hard when you are the author, trust me. When I revise I cringe a lot of the time, but that is why I love my thesaurus.
    As a reader, repeat gestures also drive me bonkers. And it happens in series books A LOT. “In Death” is guilty of it big time hence why I stopped reading it at book seven.
    A perfect example of abusing the repeat phrase was in Shiloh Walker’s Blood Kiss. All the character Mikhail ever did was shrug, ever single time he was written, he shrugged. I almost threw my Kindle across the room.

  12. 12
    AgTigress says:

    …used the phrase “slut’s wool” to refer to dust bunnies.  She must have repeated it at various points at least five times.  I’ve never heard that phrase before (and I lived in England for a number of years)

    DiscoDollyDeb, I have lived in England for most of my 70 years, and I have never heard it either.  It’s linguistically interesting, though, because it uses ‘slut’ in the normal, traditional British English sense of ‘dirty, slatternly woman’, rather than the American English meaning ‘promiscuous woman’, which is now creeping into BE.

    As for the book reviewed:  definitely not my cup of tea.

  13. 13
    DS says:

    If this had been a .99 Kindle book I might have bought for the LULZ but I’m not paying $5 for it. 

    Spamword:  Bad46—were there 46 ways that the book was bad—sounds like it.

  14. 14
    Lori says:

    Due to the unfortunate font choice on the bottom of the cover—-where it looks, at least on this monitor, as if it says “oying for her love”—-I kept waiting for the plot summary to go in a completely different direction…

    I now desperately want to read the book Kerry Allen thought this was going to be. I’m not exactly sure what would be involved in “oying for her love”, but I’m sure it would be great and certainly better than the actually book being reviewed.

    I’ve read a lot of strange things in erotic romances so I might have been able to get past the ghostly voyeur menage, but that ending is way to far over the WTF? line.

  15. 15
    geekgirl says:

    LOL, Even after I looked and knew it couldn’t be “oying” I couldn’t figure out what it could be for longer that I should admit.
    @DiscoDollyDeb   Elizabeth George is one of those author that could be so much better if she wasn’t trying so hard. I absolutely loved the TV adaptations of Lynley and had to go out and buy a bunch of the books. Boy was I disappointed to find she was an American writing British characters. I think she catches an obscure phrase, then uses it to death trying to make her books seem more British.
    After two repeats, depending on how close/odd they are; I have the same problem of looking for that repetition again, and again, and not focusing on the rest anymore. Laurell K. Hamilton is another one that is really bad for that. I ran into entire paragraphs more than once when trying to wade through the first few Anita Blakes.
    Please authors, trust the reader to remember what colour the characters hair is, eyes are, and what accent they’re using. And only tell use about silly habits if they’re going to be important later.

  16. 16
    LG says:

    I’m a fan of paranormals, but not so much a fan of ghosts in romance. I’m not entirely sure how long a book like this would keep my attention, but I think I probably would have had to quit it at around the ghostly voyeur point. Ew.

  17. 17

    i agree with you on the repetitiveness in this book.  in fact, that is something that has bothered me with other books i have read.  especially when i read multiple books by the same author.  they can be in a series or individual books by the same author, but the author will reuse wording to describe the actions of a totally different character in the same way they described one before.  it’s particularly annoying to me if i thought the description was witty or unique the first time.  when i recognize it being used again it makes me think “one trick pony” (even if that’s not a totally fair assessment). 
    ~lAUra

  18. 18
    Jenn3128 says:

    Ghosts in romance are the biggest turn off for me.  I would’ve had to toss it when a ghosts pops out of a light fixture.  Congrats (maybe) for finishing.

  19. 19
    Cara says:

    Great review! So many of your points are exactly what drives me batty in some books. I did want to point out, however, that your coding for the “spoiler” section seems to be missing – it was there in black and white right below where you told us to highlight it. The area above it, however, with the voyeuristic threesome summary? That was a big white area I had to highlight. I’m using Chrome, though, so it might be my browser.

  20. 20
    TracyP says:

    How disappointing.  Paranormals are my favorite genre (though I don’t read ghosts much), and I love a good love triangle, but this sounds like both concepts were executed poorly.  I guess I’m okay with him living in a light (I guess!), but at the end she offers to bring him with?  Yeah, I’da been chuckin the book too.

  21. 21
    Liz says:

    Cara, I had the same problem with Safari.

  22. 22
    SB Sarah says:

    Nah, totally my bad. The 2nd spoiler tag didn’t work correctly. My bad, y’all.

  23. 23
    Sandra says:

    Is this what “going into the light” means? You end up in a lamp?

    So how did Frank become a ghost? It sounds as if he was shot, but did he commit suicide or was he murdered? I wanna know, but not enough to shell out for the book.

    @Laura Bradley

    they can be in a series or individual books by the same author, but the author will reuse wording to describe the actions of a totally different character in the same way they described one before.  it’s particularly annoying to me…

    Three words: Stephanie Laurens “evocative”. And half the time she doesn’t even use it right.

    were22: I swear “evocative” were used at least 22 times in her last book.

  24. 24
    crow girl says:

    I’ll be another one to admit that the repetitive phrases would have driven me bonkers.  I gave up on LKH years ago, in part due to the excessive “spillage” in her books.  I also gave Christine Feehan a try once—once—but when her hero was decribed as having “eyes like molten mercury” for the 27th time, I wanted to hurl the book against the wall.

    Honestly, though, the synopsis would have been enough to make me steer clear.  Poor Ghost Dude lives in a light fixture.  A light fixture?!?  WTF.

    Seriously, why not the radiator?  Why not the toaster?  Cam could start fixing herself a snack, toss in some Eggos, and—BAM!—out pops her spectral, would-be paramour.

    Throw in some lox and bagels, and maybe we could get a verison of Kerry Allen’s “Oying for her Love.” 

    (Someone SOOO needs to write that.)

  25. 25
    Cara says:

    @Sandra

    Is this what “going into the light” means? You end up in a lamp?

    I should have groaned, but I LOL’ed instead.

    And I’m sad to say I’ve caught one of my favorite authors repeating “unique” phrases throughout her series. The awesomeness outweighs it, for certain, but it is something I’m noticing more and more. It makes me wonder why her editor isn’t catching these things, tbh.

  26. 26
    Diva says:

    Oh the repetition does plague me so! I just read one where the guy has a wolfish smile. Cue the drinking game, people. At least twelve references to his wolfish smile and NO ONE in this book is a werewolf it’s just the descriptor she chose to characterize him. Plus, it was meant to be attractive and I read “wolfish” as predatory. Maybe he just has pointy teeth?

  27. 27
    geekgirl says:

    “eyes like molten mercury”

    LOL! As opposed to the solid mercury we’re all so used to? I’d have thrown it into the wall too. Bad enough the repetition, but a bad descriptor again, and again? Blech. Are silver eyes better or worse on the Mary Sue scale than violet?
    Seconding “wolfish” as predatory, rather than hot. Not that predatory can’t be hot, mind you.

  28. 28
    Colleen says:

    I’m insanely curious to know what Frank says while Brad and Cam get it on.
    Does he comment on Brad’s techinque? Or her O face? Talk about how he’s better than Brad? 
    I mean, what does a ghost say to that?

  29. 29
    April says:

    That’s just too hilariously bizarre. But your review was awesome so I’m glad you read it.

  30. 30
    JoanneF says:

    Three words: Stephanie Laurens “evocative”. And half the time she doesn’t even use it right.

    When I read “Devil’s Bride,” by the end of the book, Devil Cynster should have been dead from a terminal case of tetanus.  His “muscles locked” about a dozen times in that book.  What does that even mean?  Made my brain lock!

    see74:  Maybe his muscles locked 74 times.

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