Author: Jordan L Hawk
Publisher: Widdershins Press
Rating: 5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: After losing the family fortune to a fraudulent psychic, inventor Henry Strauss is determined to bring the otherworld under control through the application of science. All he needs is a genuine haunting to prove his Electro-Séance will work. A letter from wealthy industrialist Dominic Gladfield seems the answer to his prayers. Gladfield’s proposition: a contest pitting science against spiritualism, with a hefty prize for the winner.
The contest takes Henry to Reyhome Castle, the site of a series of brutal murders decades earlier. There he meets his rival for the prize, the dangerously appealing Vincent Night. Vincent is handsome, charming…and determined to get Henry into bed.
Henry can’t afford to fall for a spirit medium, let alone the competition. But nothing in the haunted mansion is quite as it seems, and soon winning the contest is the least of Henry’s concerns.
For the evil stalking the halls of Reyhome Castle wants to claim not just Henry and Vincent’s lives, but their very souls.
Review: Which would pose more of a challenge and a fright? Confronting a haunted mansion, or confronting one’s own haunted past? Restless Spirits is an intense – yet amusing – character driven, nail biting ghost story, deftly cutting to the heart of both dilemmas. Jordan L. Hawk has gifted readers with another inventive combination of suspense, wit, and passion, centered around two very provocative men: Henry and Vincent. It’s a good thing there is room in my heart for more favorite characters and their antics!
As the super intriguing blurb states, Mr. Dominic Gladfield has inherited Reyhome Castle, a haunted mansion in upstate New York. He wishes to convert it to a resort, of course following exorcism of the resident spirits. Mr. Gladfield had previously utilized Vincent’s services with success, and he had heard Henry speak of his scientific theories at a meeting of the Physical Society in Baltimore. Why not put the two men – and their two vastly different approaches – to work for him ridding the mansion of her ghosts? The process would surely prove to be entertaining as well, and the successful party would be awarded a prize of $500. Bring on the players….
26 year old Henry Strauss, though he’s never gone up against a true haunting, is a believer in the paranormal. However, he also believes the vast majority of psychics, spiritualists, mediums, etc., are nothing but charlatans who prey on the emotions of innocents. Henry has up close and personal reasons to be bitter with the spiritualist community. An after effect of these is that he plays his feelings close to the vest.
“No wonder Henry had turned to machines. They would never break his heart.”
Vincent Night is a spiritualist medium who owns an occult emporium in New York, which he inherited from his mentor. Vincent’s self- confidence had recently been badly shaken. His shop and his very existence hang on the edge of ruin, as he can no longer bring himself to work as a medium.
“Poor Vincent. How must he feel? What horrors must still visit him in the small hours of the night?”
Henry and Vincent each have the compelling need of immediate financial gain to stay afloat, let alone get ahead in life. Vincent is desperate to keep his occult emporium afloat for Lizzie, his business partner who is a high level spirit writer. Henry has a young dependent, his cousin Jo, to care for and a new invention, his Electro- Séance, to prove in the field. He hopes the invention will not only be the answer to his creature comforts, but find him hailed in academia as well. Causing those hokey spiritualists to become defunct would be a nice side benefit in Henry’s eyes. Both men are intelligent, witty and well versed in adversity and standing up to society’s prejudices. Cousin Jo is mulatto, Vincent is Native American, and both men are homosexual. None of which are viewed with anything resembling equality in the late 1800s. Let me state clearly, Jo and Lizzie are very primary characters in this book, they have issues and surprises of their own, and I assume will have major roles in the entire series. Nobody writes a strong, smart, kick ass female “sidekick” character like Jordan Hawk. Love these ladies.
Henry and Vincent are extremely wary of each other, log before they meet in person. Primarily due to what they know (or believe they know) about each other entering into the competition. Once they come to learn more about one another first hand as they work together at Reyhome Castle, they grow on each other. Yes, that last sentence is full of innuendo, you’ll spot it clearly once you’ve read the book. 😀 Sparks fly between the two men, oh yeah, the physical attraction is instant, although Henry tries valiantly to ignore it, while Vincent gleefully plays it up. Watching Henry squirm beneath Vincent’s bold flirtations was delicious. Henry and Vincent both have very distinct personalities. Although we learn more about them – and they about each other – as the story progresses, I was enamored with them both from the moment they first appeared on page. They are both strong, enduring, fair minded men, who had been kicked to the curb some by the cards dealt by life which left them both vulnerable in differing capacities. I’d give a slight edge to sympathizing with Henry as the story progressed, as he seemed more vulnerable to specific information that was deliberately withheld from him.
This story is written in fantastic narrative style using third person point of view, which allows the reader into the heads of both Henry and Vincent. I felt this was rather crucial as to understanding their actions, thoughts, and the progression of their ability to trust one another. The author seamlessly weaves together an abundance of themes and details going on in this book. All of the secondary characters are fully fleshed out – The pompous Mr. Gladfield, his somewhat annoying niece Miss Prandle, and his slightly shifty servant, Bramforth. There is just enough information about them to make one go hmmm….
Most of the story takes place within Reyhome Castle, where the reader knows there to be a finite amount of people present – although the setting might sound limited, it knows no boundaries at the hands of this talented author, who sculpted the mansion into a character unto itself. I couldn’t turn pages fast enough, and was on the edge or my seat, muttering “OMG what is around that next dark, dusty, creaky corner and am I going to need to turn more lights on!” I was engrossed with wondering about the history of the hauntings – who died? Were they murdered? Was someone still among the living playing games? Was the haunting authentic or all a ruse?? And if a ruse… to what end? The story contains so many great plot twists, I had something partially figured out, and when it panned out, it left me feeling gutted for Henry. And simultaneously for Vincent. Sigh. I marveled at the methods, both scientific and spiritual, that the men concocted and utilized against the very formidable and evil ghost who was terrorizing the mansion. It was pure pleasure witnessing them break down the walls between themselves, build trust, and eventually combine wits in a climactic, last ditch effort to exorcise the ghost. Let me tell you, Henry and Vincent combining forces, whether fighting spirits or engaging in more corporeal pleasures, is entirely scorching hot. ♥ Alas, who would ultimately lose, and who, if anyone, would win.
Loads of juicy foundation material has been introduced in Restless Spirits for exploration in future books in this series. This could easily involve the interpersonal dynamics and societal issues alone, let alone how everything could translate into Henry, Vincent, Jo and Lizzie potentially working together to solve future hauntings. Bring. Them. On. 😀
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Plus..look at that gorgeous cover!!