cover image Ghosts of the Forbidden

Ghosts of the Forbidden

Leanna Renee Hieber. Castle Bridge, $12.99 trade paper (200p) ISBN 979-8-9859-7021-0

Paying homage to the over-the-top, spine-tingling gothic novels of the 1970s, Hieber (the Strangely Beautiful series) treats readers to a deceptively light contemporary love story shrouded in an atmosphere of the fantastic. Goth 35-year-old New Yorker Lillian Anders is jobless, loveless, and soon to be homeless when a chance invitation to a women’s writing retreat aimed at reviving an old publishing house slides beneath her door. Just like that, she’s off to Glazier’s Gap, Colo., where she has a chance to adapt her favorite gothic romances to the modern day, “highlight[ing] the social dynamics, class struggles, [and] all the deep secrets in society.” From the start, there’s something about the manor that houses the retreat that speaks to Lillian, a connection that culminates with the appearance of a ghost who insists that Lillian is his true love returned. The ensuing mystery is filled with all the high drama and family feuds fans of the genre expect, though the shallow characterization and predictable plot twists detract from the experience. Still, Hieber infuses things with just enough lightness and humor to make the quirky premise work. It’s not perfect, but it has its eerie charms. Agent: Paul E Stevens, Donald Maass Literary. (Oct.)