A ‘paranormal love story’ sets off immediate alarm bells that a Ghost rip-off is about to occur but KA Moll’s Haunting Love is far removed from that 1990 hit film. Instead, she introduces a romance that is as agonising as it is beautiful to watch unfold. There’s no spiritual pottery scene here, but two characters who must nonetheless shape their budding romance under the influence of spectral visitations and traumatic pasts.
This is KA Moll’s fourth romantic novel and a departure from her usual storytelling. It’s at once tender and terrifying as southern belle, Anna, finds strange things afoot in her Illinois apartment. She soon meets psychic Gabe, who comes to perform maintenance on the place only to find the building haunted and the occupant haunting her every thought.
Both women are emotionally scared, making their instant attraction both forbidding and difficult. Anna’s upbringing in a strict religious sect has her wracked with guilt over her sexuality and the death of her parents. Gabe still mourns the sudden death of her wife. As a psychic, she communicates with the dead, but her wife remains unreachable and she can’t move on.
In a unique twist, we also meet Gabe’s deceased wife Evie, who’s unfinished business keeps her from moving on too.
Moll’s characters are complex and damaged and a defining aspect of her writing is that she grounds them in reality. Like all good romances, love conquers all, but it is refreshing to see that Moll makes sure love doesn’t do it alone. She uses love to drive her characters to seek the professional help they need, lean on friends, and begin the difficult personal journey they must take to reconcile their past.
Supporting their journey is Moll’s own background. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Social Work, a Master’s Degree in Counselling, and has supervised investigations of child abuse and neglect for her State’s Child Protective Services. When it comes to psychologically scarred people, she knows her stuff.
If there’s one fault with Haunted Love, it’s the need for more in the non-romantic aspects of the story. Early in the novel, Anna is baffled by the paranormal activity invading her life, but with each event, the action quickly cuts away to another scene or jumps ahead in time, leaving us startled by the sudden end to an interesting event. As the story unfolds, this becomes less of an issue and the ramifications of each event are explored in more satisfying depth but the early chapters feel rushed because of these leaps.
Romantically, Moll teases to the point of torture. By the time Anna and Gabe consummate their love, we’re aching for it almost as much as they are. Until then, the plot weaves through a tapestry of personal stories that move the plot forward while providing a rich history for these modern day characters.
The unabridged audiobook of Haunted Love is narrated by Emily Beresford and runs for approximately 6 hrs and 37 minutes. Beresford has narrated over a hundred audiobooks and offers a soft, sweet voice that is beautifully suited to Moll’s style of writing. Her diction is sharp and she avoids overplaying the few sex scenes. Her characterisations are not always distinct, but when she adopts a southern drawl or vocal quirk, she’s consistent. Even so, Moll’s writing lets us know who is speaking or acting at any given time.
There are a lot of complex issues explored in Haunting Love, from grief and suicide, to love and family. While they are presented with a LGBTIQ* slant, they are issues that can affect anyone. Moll may focus on lesbian romance in her writing, but she touches everyone in this instance.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
*LGBTIQ = Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex Queer