Author: Stephanie Kusiak
Expected Date of Publication: August 1, 2016
Page Count: 201 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Natalie Hargrove, a previously accomplished artist, and Caitlin Cassidy should never have met. After all, Caitlin was only a twelve-year-old girl when Natalie was already dead and gone. But they did meet, and it was that dramatic encounter in the house at the end of the street that changed their lives forever. The moment was so powerful, so important, that it drew Caitlin, now a renowned novelist, back to her hometown twenty years later to seek out Natalie’s ghost. Taking up refuge in the dark, broken house, Caitlin believes that getting back to her roots and to the bottom of her experience with the ghost will somehow help heal the wounds her life has brought her.
Against the backdrop of a Victorian mansion, a story unlike any other unfolds between Caitlin and Natalie, and leaves them with one lingering question: even if love is enough to bridge the gap between life and death, is it enough to keep a ghost from passing on?
I was incredibly excited to begin reading this for a number of reasons – first, I’m super invested in stories about women, especially when there are LGBT+ characters involved. Second, I love a good ghost story! That usually tends to take the form of a vengeful ghost seeking to inflict pain and torture on others, which is good and well, I enjoy those, but it’s fantastic to come across the rarer type featuring a benevolent ghost! And third, I’ve been craving a palate cleanser after a solid block of horror novels, so a romance was just what the doctor prescribed! 🙂
And this romance was perfectly suited to my tastes like it was written to order. My common nitpick about the romance genre is the dreaded ‘insta-love’ or more accurately, ‘insta-lust’; the main characters meet and instantly their breath catches, their eyes linger and their loins tingle signifying they have met THE ONE. It seems to be less about romance and more a hormonal reaction. But obviously with Natalie being a ghost, that was somewhat of a hindrance to the chances of anything physical happening!
What we got instead was an incredibly sweet, slow-burn romance. Caitlin owes her life to Natalie who saved her from a plunging chandelier in her childhood, and when she returns to Natalie’s house, she’s determined to repay her by restoring the place to its former glory. I loved watching Natalie move from helpless rage and despair to the shocked realization that Caitlin was honoring her and cared so deeply that she undertook this massive project to make her happy. She finally re-establishes contact with Caitlin and their bond grows and deepens from that point on.
What I found intriguing were the rules regarding ghosts – the author created some unusual laws governing Natalie’s existence! I haven’t come across anything similar in the past, and I thought it was fascinating and original the way Natalie interacted with light and how it strengthened her and gave her corporeal form. This was quite helpful in the progression of her friendship with Caitlin! 😉
There isn’t much action and the cast of characters is pretty limited. In fact, aside from a couple of side characters who wander in from time-to-time, the entire plot is consumed with the interactions between Natalie and Caitlin, but that wasn’t to its detriment. I would’ve thought it would become claustrophobic with that narrow focus on just two characters, and yet I didn’t find that to be the case at all. It was very appropriate in a way because for Natalie, being a ghost capable of only limited movement, Caitlin was her entire world.
And for Caitlin, who moved back home after a relationship ended badly and she left everything and everyone behind to start fresh, making a home with Natalie was her sole focus to help her heal from the past hurt. They had a very intense co-dependent relationship and there wasn’t really room for anyone else. I was completely engrossed by the subtle shifts in their dynamic and watching their growing closeness with bated breath, waiting for that moment where they would hit the point of no return and surpass friendship.
It was a ridiculously long wait, I have to say, as for most of the book, they were either obliviously in love or fruitlessly pining after each other. My one criticism is that I wish that they had realized their feelings and confessed them to each other earlier in the book – don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lengthy, drawn-out courtship and the anticipation of its consummation, but we didn’t have very long with Natalie and Caitlin together as a couple, and I would’ve enjoyed seeing more of that dynamic. But it’s so rare for me to find a book that focuses on building a good solid friendship between the main characters and taking the time to sow the seeds of romance and nurture it slowly that I can’t fault this one too much.
The House At The End Of The Street is a very gently sentimental story, and I greatly enjoyed learning more about the main two women and seeing them come to care for each other, first in friendship, then very much later as lovers. I’d recommend it to readers who like a sweet, simple romance and aren’t looking for melodrama or fast-paced action. It’s a wonderfully dreamy read to while away the afternoon. ❤
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free from NetGalley & Sapphire Books Publishing in exchange for an honest review.