Rating: 5 “Essie” Stars

Publisher: RCubed Books

Genre: Paranormal Gay Romance

Tags: Ghost, HIV, Paranormal, Romance, Short Story

Length: 41 Pages

Reviewer: Cindi

Purchase At: Amazon.com

Blurb –

After Todd’s mother dies from cancer, he moves back to his hometown in the foothills of the Appalachians from Chicago. It’s 1997 and he’s just been given a death sentence–an HIV-positive diagnosis.

Todd expects his remaining time on earth to be spent alone. But Cal, his handsome next-door neighbor, has other ideas.

Cal is not the only surprise in Todd’s new life. Todd begins having visions of an older woman, Essie, when he dims the lights. Is she just a figment of his imagination? Or is she a truth teller? When she talks to Todd, she’s smart and hopeful.

When Todd tells Cal about the ghost, Cal knows her already because Todd’s mother spoke with her before her death. Essie was a godsend when Todd’s mom was in so much pain.

And now, Essie urges Todd to live…for himself…for new love. But is she too late?

Review –

This story ticked almost all my boxes, which shouldn’t surprise me because of who wrote it. I’ve been a fangirl of Rick’s for several years now. I’m a big fan of books with ghosts. In Hope, we have Essie. I love a good romance. Here, we have Todd and Cal. I also occasionally love books that play with my emotions. Hope does that in spades.

It’s 1997 and Todd is having a horrible year. His mother has just passed away and he’s just been told that he’s HIV-positive. Imagine finding this out literally days before you lose your mother. Todd quits his job, donates all but his bedroom furniture, and packs up and heads back to live in his mother’s house, just making it in time for the funeral. His first night in the house he’s convinced he’s lost his mind when he sees what appears to be a woman standing in his hallway. After (not quite) convincing himself that he’s seeing things, he has a bit of a freak-out moment and goes to bed, covering his head with the covers, of course. 😉

Then he meets his hot new neighbor, Cal, which freaks him out almost as much as what he tried to convince himself he didn’t see the night before.

Cal was close to Todd’s mother and was there for her in her final days when her son couldn’t be. Todd is instantly attracted to the man. That attraction depresses him because of his recent diagnosis. Instead of seeing where they might can go, Todd avoids the hot neighbor at all costs. Essie, God love her, has other plans.

There’s (obviously) more to the story but it’s short so I won’t give everything away. I will say this… Todd’s fear of what may or may not happen with his health comes through to the reader clearly. My heart broke for him as he basically convinced himself that he’d been given a death sentence. It also broke for Cal, whose feelings were hurt over what he saw as being rebuffed. Thankfully, with the help of the resident ghost, Todd opened up and finally let Cal know what was going on.

I adored Essie. She’s not in the book a lot, but she doesn’t need to be. She’s there when it counts and that’s what matters.

The author takes the reader down the road a few years to see how the men are coming along. That chapter got to me almost as much as the ones before it that took place in 1997.

This is a romance, but it’s so much more than that. The reader is allowed a glimpse inside the head of someone (that would be Todd) who’d just been given bad news about his health in a time when there weren’t a whole lot of options out there for treatment. I was sad for him, but I was also thrilled to see that first glimmer of hope after Essie basically put him in his place.

Another great read by Rick R. Reed. The title is perfect.