Title: A Hundred Lonely Halloweens
Author: Ari McKay
Length: 30 pdf pages, 8000 words.
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal bittersweet romance
When Micah Harrison bought Delany House, he didn’t suspect that it was haunted – or that the lonely ghost of Richard Delany would be the most appealing man he’d met in a long time. As Micah learns more about Richard, he realizes he’s in danger of falling in love, but he gives in to temptation anyway when Richard offers him the gift of an erotic Halloween encounter. However, Richard’s real gift is not only a night of sensual pleasure, but also a chance for Micah to find the love he’d been looking for and never found.
I read this as I was in the mood for haunted house stories this year, and thought it would make an interesting contrast to G.R. Richard’s take on the trope (It’s Like a Party in My Closet, which I reviewed last week). This is a very different sort of story, though. Although I found the writing a little pedestrian and clichéd, I was pleasantly surprised by the rather bittersweet ending.
Micah Harrison is a man who isn’t bothered by ghosts. Even when the realtor warns him against buying the lonely old property, saying it’s haunted, he doesn’t listen. The strange goings on during his painstaking restoration work don’t bother him at all. Not, that is, until the ghost begins fondling him in his sleep. However, when Micah challenges the ghost to show himself properly he has a surprise: the ghost is the attractive young man from the portrait he found in the house. He manages to get the name “Richard Delany” before the ghost disappears again, which sets off a mission to discover more about his spectral visitor.
It turns out that Richard Delany died a hundred years ago, just a few years after his jilted lover threw himself off the “suicide falls”. It was clearly a scandal at the time, but it enables Micah to deal with Richard’s ghost with great sympathy and understanding. He is quickly able to absolve Richard of all his guilt over the issue–a bit too quickly for my liking, although I suppose it couldn’t have been dragged out for much longer in such a short story.
Micah and Richard fall into an easy rapport over the next few night’s short conversations, with Micah proving extremely susceptible to Richard’s flirtation. This was probably my least favourite part of the book as it just seemed far too quick and easy, with Micah tempted to fall in love almost instantly. Overnight Richard transforms from a gloomy ghost to a laughing, fun companion, which also seemed rather convenient. However, when Halloween gives Richard the opportunity to make himself more manifest in the physical realm, I found the ensuing scene intriguing because of their dynamic. Richard is still not quite like a flesh and blood man, and the way Micah reacts to this made good reading. At this point I thought I knew exactly how the story would end, and so the actual ending came as quite a shock.
It’s almost impossible to talk about the ending without giving major spoilers, but although I’m not usually a fan of the bittersweet ending, in this case it worked for me. Perhaps because I was never all that invested in Micah and Richard as a couple, I didn’t mind how things panned out and actually thought it a pretty hopeful, upbeat way to finish things off.
So, although the prose didn’t particularly draw me in on its own merits (too much telling and info dumping), because of the unexpected turn of events I was left more satisfied and intrigued than I’d expected. If you like the idea of slightly fey Victorian ghosts you might get more out of the overall story than I did, however, and I’m sure it’s going to be a hit with some readers.