Review: Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight
I like the double entendre of the title Haunted Souls; it’s not just a ghost who is haunted in Kathryn Knight’s novel. Emily Shea and her former lover Staff Sergeant Brett Leeds are both haunted by their pasts. Emily is raising a child alone and is tormented by the fact that she has never been able to share this news with his father, Brett. Brett is haunted by the events he witnessed in Afghanistan, events that shatter his dreams every night.
Brett is now stateside and knows he has a son and cannot forgive Emily for keeping that fact from him, nor will he listen to her explanations of the ways she tried to contact him. Meanwhile, Emily and her son Tyler go on a haunted walking tour with a friend from preschool, and while on the tour, Tyler meets a ghost from the past. This child ghost follows Emily and Tyler home and attaches himself to Tyler.
Haunted Souls follows three story threads–the tenuous forgiveness and developing relationship between Emily and Brett, the troubled ghost in Emily’s house, and Emily’s suspicions that her friend from preschool is living in a dangerously abusive marriage.
The relationship between Emily and Brett is beautifully layered and ultimately believable. They both wrestle with inner demons yet are able to turn to each other in times of need. (Note: like many romances, Haunted Souls contains sex scenes. I think there were about six quite detailed sexual encounters, so this novel would not be appropriate for readers wishing to avoid such scenes.)
The abusive marriage of Emily’s friend and Emily’s attempts to help her are written with delicacy and compassion. Readers will cheer Emily’s persistent, thoughtful efforts to help her friend in a perilous situation. And this story-line later provides some heart-pounding drama!
Less successful for me was the ghost story. The ghost did not exert enough presence for him to feel an integral part of the novel. The details of the ghost child’s life were imparted mostly through Tyler’s flat monologue and Emily’s computer searches. My interest was piqued when the psychic entered Emily’s home, as I was really ready at that point in the novel to be immersed in sensory details and experience a tension-filled encounter with a spectral messenger. (Some of my favorite moments in ghost books and movies involve the give-and-take between psychic and spirit. The movie The Orphanage comes to mind.) However, in Haunted Souls the psychic’s revelations read more like a bland recitation of facts than the high drama I expected.
Though the ghost element was lacking, Haunted Souls succeeds as a romance with a kindhearted, brave heroine willing to help those in need.
I received a copy of Haunted Souls from NetGalley.