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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Hereafter: A Southern Haunting, Book 2 is a paranormal romance novel written by LeeAnne Hansen. Samantha Knight had always had a thing for Charles Browman, even when she was 10 years old, and he was just a few years older. Charles was a friend of Isabel’s brother, Doug, so Samantha didn’t see him all that often. Isabel’s birthday parties usually provided those rare moments when Samantha was allowed to interact with others. Her father was religious in a way that combined cruelty and control with piety. Any presents Samantha received for her own birthdays were taken by him and given away, even the lovely butterfly pin Charles gave her one year. Samantha and her mother wore old, second-hand clothing and food took second place to providing her father with the gin he swilled each night. That enduring spark of romance between Charles and Samantha seemed to finally come to fruition on the night that Isabel came out. Samantha had been allowed to attend, but her father had filled her dance card with a number of his fellow church members, all older than she. One bluff railway man, Teddy Elms, claimed her father had paid him a dowry for her and demanded her as his property. Charles stepped in, and Samantha’s life finally seemed poised to change for the better. But that night’s promise soon evaporated. Samantha and her family disappeared, and Charles went through the next few years confused and bitterly disappointed that his beloved had left him and married another.
Hereafter: A Southern Haunting, Book 2 is a grand Southern Gothic novel complete with scheming, unscrupulous fathers, a handsome swain and a sheltered and abused young woman who must somehow regain the trust of her now-business partner, Charles Browman. This is a lovely book, with romantic moments that shimmer with hope even as they take place under the blazing stars at night. Hansen’s characters follow the great traditions of Gothic novels of earlier decades. At times, Samantha reminded me of Bronte’s Jane Eyre as she navigates the great house of which she’s now part-owner; tries to understand the inexplicable hostility of the servants; and ponders locked doors, strange sounds and a bedroom window that opens of its own accord. Even more remarkable is the compelling and sympathetic view the author gives us of the business Samantha and Charles are now part-owners of -- a mortuary business. While usually the fodder of horror novels, Hansen’s treatment had me seeing funeral homes and the people who work in them in an entirely different light. This is a beautifully written and superbly plotted tale which should thrill lovers of Gothic romance and southern fiction alike. Hereafter: A Southern Haunting, Book 2 is most highly recommended.