Melanie Jackson’s The Ghost and Miss Demure(2010) is a paranormal romance, from the Love Spell series of Dorchester Publishing. No idea who they are, but obviously Harlequin is not the only game in town.
Karo has burned her bridges at work. Her boyfriend/boss stole her historical research and published it as his own. A lesser crime was cheating on her. Short of funds, she leaves town to help oversee the restoration of an isolated historical mansion. She arrives during a dark and stormy night, and a lightning strike leaves her both in shock and with an ability to see and talk to a resident ghost.
Karo’s new boss is a handsome and wealthy Englishman, who knows his history but has no illusions about his job: Turn the place into a tourist trap. Karo has sworn off handsome men, but she appreciates Tristam’s honesty. He appreciates her spirit, and the flirting begins. It helps that the ancestral builder of the mansion was a sexual adventurer, and as a result it features everything from erotic carvings on the doors to a playroom generously stocked with whips, paddles, manacles, and other similar delights.
After a slow start, Jackson keeps the plot bustling along as the characters work on their relationship, the restoration project, and the ghost’s problem. The tone is Gothic and cheerfully over the top; the title misleading – Karo is many things, but not demure. Provided you accept that, it’s a fun easy read. In addition to a couple of standard sex scenes there is a narratively justified S&M encounter with a rare touch of true erotic heat. Some reviewers have criticized Jackson for jumping on the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon, but it should be noted that The Ghost and Miss Demure was published before Fifty Shades. It should also be noted that though Tristam is wealthy, and her boss, there is no sense that he rescues her, takes advantage of her status, or that she gives anything up to be with him.
The Ghost and Miss Demure is lighter and more playful than other paranormals I have read. Several aspects, both good and bad, reminded me of High Spirits, a film I saw decades ago. However, there are also references to historical events, such as the persecution of witches, that add unexpected meat to the story. Jackson is a prolific writer, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.