Title: The Dead Romantics
Author: Ashley Poston
Publication date: June 28, 2022
Length: 366 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.
Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.
When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.
For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.
Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.
Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.
This was a good one!
The plot synopsis is almost too complicated, but once you get into the story, the pieces fit. Basically, Florence is a ghostwriter for one of the most successful romance writers in the industry, but she’s behind on turning in the last book she has under contract. After a harsh betrayal and break-up a year earlier, she just can’t envision true love and happy endings any more. But the clock is ticking, and not finishing is really not an option.
Florence’s family owns the funeral home in a small southern town. She grew up with parents who were infuriatingly romantic and in love, and their home was filled with joy. Florence also has a secret — she sees dead people. Both she and her father have the gift of seeing and being able to interact with ghosts, but when this becomes public during Florence’s teens, she faces so much ridicule and bullying that she swears never to return to her hometown again.
Now an adult living in Manhattan, she’s stayed away for ten years, but is forced to go back and deal with the past when her father dies suddenly. Amidst the turmoil of family grief and planning a funeral, the ghost of Florence’s brand new editor shows up on her doorstep, which is especially concerning since she had no idea that he’d died.
Dead Romantics is a love story, but it’s so much more. It’s a loving depiction of a family that celebrates life and views death as just another part of the journey. It’s also a look at the internal life of a writer, and it’s a study of what it means to feel lost and hopeless and burdened by shattered illusions.
I love how Florence’s family is shown, and I love the rituals they invent and embrace to celebrate the life of a man who seems like the perfect husband and father. I also really enjoyed the strangeness of Florence getting to know the ghost of a man she’d only met once, and how their connection is able to develop and bridge the obvious gap between a living woman and a man who’s passed on.
I won’t give anything away… but I couldn’t see how there could be a solution to their situation that made sense.
There were no happily ever afters between an undertaker’s daughter and her ghost.
Surprise! The ending totally works, satisfied me, and left me feeling upbeat and cheery.
The writing is quite lovely, and having suffered a family loss recently myself, I found that certain passages really resonated:
I’d always written how grief was hollow. How it was a vast cavern of nothing. But I was wrong. Grief was the exact opposite. It was full and heavy and drowning because it wasn’t the absence of everything you lost—it was the culmination of it all, your love, your happiness, your bittersweets, wound tight like a knotted ball of yarn.
There’s a certain character who deserves to suffer some truly bad karma and I felt a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see that happen… but then again, that’s not what this story was really about.
Overall, I’m really glad that I picked up Dead Romantics and gave it a try. It was just the right mixture of sentiment, humor, sadness, and joy that I needed this week. Having read this author’s Once Upon a Con YA trilogy, I was curious to see how she’d do with her adult fiction debut. I’m happy to report that she nailed it!