Ghosts of Christmas Past (The Phoenix Institute Series #3.5)

81bAme4SJ2L._SL1500_Author: Corrina Lawson

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Rating: 4.5 stars

Buy links: Samhain & Amazon

Type: Novella in Series

Received from Publisher


Blurb: Christmas can be murder on a relationship that’s on the rocks.

The Phoenix Institute, Book 3.5

As Christmas approaches in crumbling Charlton City, Detective Aloysius James and his partner, Noir, are at a crossroads. Figuring out how to reconcile their careers with their relationship is harder than catching the bad guys.

Now that Noir has learned to control her invisibility and is making a name for herself among the city’s artist collective, Al senses there’s something she’s keeping from him. And he doesn’t know how long they can remain partners. Or even lovers.

Noir isn’t sure how Al would take it if he knew how deeply he has touched her artistic soul, or how he could react if he saw the secret drawings that have helped heal the wounds of her past.

When a murder lands them on opposite sides—Al ready to arrest a suspect Noir insists in innocent—they’re going to need to unwrap all the ghosts of their pasts to make this Christmas the first of many. Or it could be their last.

Warning: Contains explicit, desperate make-up sex. Also, pie.


Review: What we have here is a failure to communicate. I’ve always wanted to use that line, and in this case it’s very appropriate. Al and Noir met under very unusual circumstances in the first novella about them, Luminous, and things have changed. Visibly. And neither of them have a solution.

Most people have had those relationships that happened over a short span of time because of a special reason. A summer vacation at the beach–his family has a rental house next to yours. Unfettered access to each other with minimal parental supervision. You’re able to do and be with each other more than you normally would — but it’s a time out of time. It doesn’t last in the real world of home and school and parents watching and curfews.

But in this case, it can go on in the real world. And Al and Noir are struggling to see if they can build a real-life relationship from their unusual start. However, it’s not going well.

Things have gotten better for Noir, who’s now regained most of her memories and been reunited with her family. She’s also worked with Beth Nakamora at the Phoenix Institute and gained mastery over her power so that she can turn her visibility on and off like a switch.

She’s Lucy, a fledgling artist. But she’s also Noir, inside, and she really enjoys that part of herself too. The part that helps Al solve crimes–there’s a lot of resentment left in her from the six years of being trapped by the evil monsters who’d been the cause of unleashing her unusual powers, and that resentment is eased by helping bust the bad guys with Al. However, it’s not enough for Lucy to dwell in the negative of the past. She wants to move on into the light. She’s joined an artist’s collective in downtown Charlton City and is loving what she’s doing. But she’s torn. Is she betraying Al–and Noir?– by leaving him alone? He did rescue her. But is she betraying herself, Lucy, if she doesn’t pursue her true vocation, her passion, her art? Is she able to be both Noir and Lucy? And why won’t Al talk about it?

Al’s in a quandry. He’s made the job his entire life and his personal relationships have been non-existent. But since falling in love with an invisible Noir, his life has been upside down. He’s been counting on someone else. He’s been doing unprecedented things like thinking about her instead of the job while he’s ON the job. She’s distracting him in all kinds of ways. And secretly, he’s not so sure that he can change to make them work. Or if he wants to. He really loves her, but can he give her what she wants? Can he BE what she wants? And is it fair to her to be stuck with an old detective when she’s young, vibrant, and ready to take off on an art career, especially when he’s a reminder of one of the worst times of her life?

Combine this with a murder mystery that mixes the art scene with the criminal scene and you’ve got a gift of a tale, just in time for a Christmas lover’s reunion–Phoenix Institute style. Thanks Ms. Lawson, you’ve done it again!



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