A young woman tries to live a life of sexual pleasure by cavorting with both humans and spirits at the same time.
Fifteen-year-old Amanda grows up quickly when her stepfather–who murdered her mother–seduces Amanda and then tries to kill her, too. Amanda kills her stepfather in self-defense, after which she’s sent to her rich grandmother, who aims to steer her from her “lustful ways”. Her grandmother’s efforts prove to be unsuccessful, as a dead Confederate soldier named William comes to Amanda at night for secret, ghostly sex and the young, impressionable girl falls for him completely. For his part, William believes Amanda is the reincarnation of his lover before he was killed at Gettysburg. A product of his time, William comes into conflict with Amanda’s black nanny, and a more racially diverse present, as well as Amanda’s desire to have children, and the other (living) man, Craig, she chooses to be the father. In the end, Amanda can’t have both a living husband and a ghost lover, and is forced to choose between the two, though neither of the men will go peacefully.
Frank Tropea’s GO ASK THE DEAD is a sexy, eerie, Gothic romance. The main conflict of the book—the dead and living trying to cohabitate—is nicely set up, accompanied by other strong conflicts: Amanda’s own desire to be “good” versus her sexual appetite, William’s racism versus a more enlightened view, and the fight between the two men in Amanda’s life—the dead ghost and the living father of her child. But characters tend to give long speeches rather than engage in dialogue, and there’s a great deal of telling rather than showing. The book could also use another round of editing and proofreading. Characters pop up and disappear without warning, which can be jarring. Some of the underlying concepts seem antiquated. There’s a lot of talk about Amanda’s “lustful nature,” and how she “inherited her sinful traits”—all acceptable for the 19th century, but not a good fit for the present day. The dread of having a child out of wedlock doesn’t mesh with the current climate, either, despite the “this is still the South” justification. Amanda herself can be difficult to like. Her “wanting it all” seems selfish at times, since we don’t get too deeply into her motivations beyond her instant, visceral desire for handsome men. A first-person telling might have helped prompt more empathy.
Frank Tropea’s GO ASK THE DEAD is a disturbing Southern Gothic ghost story and worthwhile reading for fans of sexy, supernatural romances.
~Dave Eisenstark for IndieReader