Book Review

Review: Spirited by Mary Behre


Title: Spirited
Author: Mary Behre
Publication Info: Berkeley Sensation March 4, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-425-26861-2
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Spirited Spirited was a trip out of my comfort zone that turned out to be pretty fun.  Once I allowed myself to be swept up in the story, which is, frankly, incredibly silly, I had a great time.  

I’m so divided about this book – it was a mess, but I couldn’t stop reading it.

Spirited is about a woman named Jules who has a crift (a combination curse and gift).  She can see and talk to ghosts.  She gets a visitation from one very angry ghost in particular, but the ghost can’t communicate with her clearly.  It does, however, manage to get her involved with a murder investigation led by Seth English, an all around perfect guy.  He looks gorgeous, he’s a great dad (single), he’s great to his mom (he wears the tie she gave him even though it’s ugly).  He’s perfect once he figures out that Jules is not a hooker (they first meet when she’s in costume for a Pimps and Hos party) and that she’s not a junkie (on her way to the party she had purchased some organic oregano for her mom, as one does). 

But Jules doesn’t want him to know that she talks to dead people because she thinks he won’t believe her, which leaves a whole lot of gaps in her stories about how she found a murder victim’s body in a dumpster.

Organic Oregano in a giant foil pouch One problem I had with the book was that I have a problem with the romantic suspense sub-genre in general, and this was, in fact, romantic suspense with a large dash of paranormal.  Every now and then I decide to try this genre out again, and it never quite works for me.  I can’t handle the juxtaposition of realistic violence and romance.  I read science fiction romance that has tons of action, but even then I prefer the violence not to be terribly realistic and not to involve violence against women or kids unless the women and/or kids are able to defend themselves – I do love a kick-ass heroine.  Spirited is not terribly graphic, and a lot of the violence happens off-page, but it does involve violence against women (none of whom are terribly kick-ass, although Jules kicks the shit out of a mugger), children, and a pregnant woman.

It’s not the fault of Spirited that it happens to be part of a sub-genre that I’m not comfortable with. 

My more-quantifiable general problems with the book had to do with believability.  I do not believe that a seasoned cop would so quickly dismiss the possibility that the person who is connected to the murder in more than one way might be involved with the murder.  Or that this couple would be so overcome with lust that they would have sexy times after he’s done interviewing her (he’s very careful about that) but before the case is closed and even before a suspect has been named.  Seriously, Jules and Seth are so overcome with insta-lust that for most of the book I assumed they were under some sort of supernatural influence. 

Also, Seth starts calling Jules “Precious” about two minutes after he meets her.  I don’t believe a cop would call a person involved in a murder case “Precious” and in general, if a guy were to start calling me “Precious” on such short acquaintance I would kick him.  If my husband calls me “Precious”, I assume he’s making a Lord of the Rings joke.  If a stranger calls me “Precious”, I assume he’s a condescending asshole, not a hunk of love.

But after a while, I sort of relaxed into the insanity.  This is not a documentary about police procedure.  But aside from the pile of corpses that accumulates over the course of the book, it’s a lovely fantasy about someone who is lonely and hurt and vulnerable getting to feel both respected and protected by a great guy she can really count on, and finding family in the process.  Jules makes peace with her supernatural powers, reconnects with her family, and finds true love.  Jules has a history of abandonment and being hurt, and Seth is protective and reliable. Sean gets to feel competent and he earns the respect of his peers and the girl he loves.  

Look, I had big mood swings about this book.  I think “Pimps and Hos” parties are offensive.  I find it offensive that a homeless guy’s death is considered to be OK because it allowed him serve one last higher purpose (saving a middle class white woman) before going into the light.  I find it offensive that the hero calls the heroine a pet name right off the bat.  She’s not the One Ring, and she’s not your pet poodle, so how ‘bout you USE HER DAMN NAME?  Everyone seems to have an IQ of negative five and no one acts like a normal person.  Seriously, no one had a single coherent thought in the entire course of the story.

Yet I was strangely charmed and I kept reading, even though lately I will drop a book pretty quickly if it’s not working for me.  I wanted to know what would happen next.  I thought it was cute when Jules threatened to call Seth “Lambykins” if he calls her “Precious” and I thought it was cute when they had a conversation about the oregano at her parents’ house.  I thought this romance was kind of a good example of the idea that you have to find a partner who matches your emotional baggage.   And I found myself staying up to finish the book because I wanted to know what would happen next. 

Would Jules, who had been told not to leave the cop’s apartment until he got back, for her own safety, decide to rush home (the bad guys know where she lives) to get clean underwear? 

OF COURSE she would!  And then what?  It was like a cavalcade of madness but it was wildly entertaining once I learned to go with the flow.

I suspect this book will go over better with people who are more comfortable with some of the standard (and/or silly) tropes of romantic suspense.  It’s goofy and funny – sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident.  There’s a lot of torrid sex of the standard variety.  You know – a lot of licking and nibbling and plunging deeply.  The sex writing was neither incredibly original nor cringingly awful.  The ghost was seriously creepy and the side characters were underdeveloped but entertaining.  I was truly happy for Jules and Seth at the end of the story.  They will have reliable, moral, kind, slightly dim children.  If you decide to read this book, just be prepared to surrender all logic, relax, and go with the flow.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Organic oregano is available online from many sources. Check your local listings. 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sarita says:

    I have a love-hate relationship with nicknames as a romance element. On the one hand, they can totally be funny or sweet and characters who randomly give everyone nicknames seem cool to me (no justification for that, they just do). On the other hand, calling someone by a syrupy/infantalizing endearment too early in the relationship just seems obnoxious. And ‘Precious’ makes me think of a spoiled wealthy ten year old girl with Shirley Temple hair.

  2. 2
    Tam B. says:

    I once stopped reading a book because the heroine was called by all her family “Oops” or “Oopsy”. This was an author I had enjoyed previous books in the same series but I just could not stomach this nickname.  I also couldn’t see this character as a strong female lead if she tolerated that.

    Thanks for your review

  3. 3
    E. Jamie says:

    @Tam I heard about that book with the ‘Oops’ nickname. (title’s not coming to me though) Totally turned me off reading that book. It’s also one of the reasons I can never get into the Sookie Stackhouse books or Tru Blood series. Just that ridiculous name for a heroine…sorry, can’t do it.

    As for nicknames in general, once you’re in a relationship, it can be cute (but Precious? Really?) but right off the bat? Yeah, I’d think he was being a condescending assbutt.

  4. 4
    Heather says:

    Thank you for calling out the nickname! I found it less condescending and more creeptastic.

    I don’t mind romantic suspense paranormals (paranormal romantic suspenses?) but I think I was expecting a different story based on the back blurb. But, you know, I kept reading…and will probably read the next one, too.

  5. 5
    CarrieS says:

    @Heather – oh good, it wasn’t just me!  I got an ARC without a cover, and the attached blurb made me expect something more paranormal, less suspenseful.  But then I took another look after I read the book, and especially with a cover released I realized I should have known what I was getting into!  The blurb screams paranormal/whimisical and the cover screams contemporary romantic suspense.

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