Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-351-5
Paranormal Romantic Suspense, 2016
Holly Malone’s bike goes out of control and sends her flying over the bridge into the water… oops. When she comes to, she’s on dry ground, groggy and disoriented, and she manages to find her way back to her apartment, only to realize that 40 years have passed since the day she died in an accident. Or that’s what she’s told by a dotty old lady now staying at her place, since Holly has no memory of what happened to her that day. But she isn’t dead, is she? Okay, that dotty old lady, who claims to be her Aunt Adelaide, can only hear her, and her old flame, Shane Halloran, seems to be the only person who could see and hear her. What does this all mean? She and Shane, now 75, would have to look into what happened to Holly, and maybe, maybe, it is possible for the two of them to have a happily ever after after all. But why is Shane living under an assumed name? Does he have anything to do with the accident?
Scarecrow’s Dream is certainly nothing like the generic werewolf/vampire stuff in the market out there, which is a big plus where I am concerned. But the entire story turns out to be a head-scratcher. The actual premise is quite interesting, but the author goes off on so many different tangents here that she ends up obfuscating her story with pointless gimmicks that bog down the story.
For example, early on the author hammers on how tough interracial couples can be, mostly because cops will shoot black people on the streets – the author using a made-up case similar to that of the real life shooting of Amadou Diallo to underline this. The whole dating a darker-skinned guy (Shane has African ancestry) is death by New York cops is tad too much of a hyperbole for me, especially considerable that Shane is a recognizable stage actor, but that’s okay, I can roll with this if this arc goes to somewhere good. But no, after that talk about demonstrations and evil trigger-happy racist cop bashing, the whole thing is dropped. Is the whole thing just padding to fill up the pages? Only the author knows for sure, I’d guess, but the result is still padding.
And is there a reason why Aunt Adelaide has to be such a clown of a secondary character? Her belief in spiritual matters allows her to easily believe Holly’s story and get the whole ball rolling, but her clownish antics and her contrived use of teen lingo are all unnecessary jarring distractions. Holly’s often awkward efforts at sarcasm is also like this. The whole story ends up taking on a lurid, cartoon-like vibe when both Adelaide and Holly speak like extras in a Scooby-Doo cartoon, and hence, when the simple but quite elegant resolution arrives, I end up feeling disappointed instead. This is because the author’s circus-gone-wild style of writing up to that point has led me to expect the bad guys to be white NYPD KKK members who are bitter and mad because they dropped out of a clown school that was run by a black dude. Anything else feels like a whiplash of sorts – the story has such an awkward trying-too-hard-to-be-a-stand-out vibe that the resolution feels out of place.
At any rate, Scarecrow’s Dream has all the potential to be a heartwarming tale of second chances, or maybe even an effective statement on the evils of racism, but the author’s execution botches everything up. As a result, this one is just a missed opportunity in every way.