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Book Review: Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James


Book: Lost Among the Living

Author: Simone St. James

Genre: Fiction

Subgenre: Supernatural, historical, romance, thriller

My Review and Thoughts: Before I officially start my review, let me just give you a little history of me and Simone St. James' writing.

A few years ago, I found her first book, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, on a trip to the library, on the display of new fiction books. The word "haunting" definitely caught my eye and when I read the back cover, I was so pleased to read the book description. A ghost story set in England in the 1920's? Um, it pretty much ticked every box on the list that I mentally carry around when looking for a new book. It felt like it was fate that I was to find a book that so perfectly included my favorite things (historical fiction, anything set in England, the paranormal, with some romance thrown in- hey, just because I'm a feminist doesn't mean I don't appreciate a good love story) and I happily dove straight into the book.

The book was a hit with me, especially since I pictured the love interest as Tom Hardy (it's the whole British thing. DON'T JUDGE ME) and from then on I was hooked on whatever Simone St. James' next new book was (thankfully at the end of every book she has a excerpt from her next yet-to-be-released book to whet your appetite). But after reading each of her books as she released them, I grew a little bored and tired of her formula.

Don't get me wrong, her writing was excellent, descriptive, but not enough to get monotonous and it flowed beautifully. But it was just the formulaic way her stories all progressed: girl in 1920's post WWI England moves/travels to an out of the way place (a small town by the coast, a hospital for shell shocked soldiers, etc), stumbles across a restless spirit that requires her (and usually others) to solve a mystery and/or murder, which usually incorporates the people she encounters and befriends, with one of them usually being the culprit of the mystery/murder. Throw in a hunky love interest (again, nothing wrong with that!), people trying to deal with the aftereffects of the war, and some things in the girl's past that she must come to terms with throughout this adventure. While it was new and interesting to me with the first few books, after a while the concept become quite tedious and I grew a little frustrated for something a little bit different from St. James.

Which now brings me to Lost Among the Living (published this year). I wanted to give the author the benefit of the doubt and went in with an open mind, especially since I loved the description of the new book. Jo Manders, an English woman in 1921, her husband Alex disappearing during the war, becomes a paid companion to Dottie Forsyth, a middle aged wealthy woman, who also happens to be Jo's missing in action husband's aunt. After a tour of Europe, Dottie brings Jo back to the family home, Wych Elm House and Jo finds that something sinister is haunting the house and trying to get her attention. An interesting cast of characters, from Jo's newly found in-law's, to the hesitant and suspicious villagers of the town make a compelling list of possible suspects, as the mystery soon starts to unfold. Especially when a stranger from the past comes back into the family's and Jo's lives.

St. James' formula was still in full swing, but I found the surprises refreshing and I honestly couldn't guess who the suspect finally was until they were fully revealed during the dramatic climax of the book. Jo's demons (both figuratively and literally), mixed with her lack of knowledge about her husband's past, were wrestled with and somewhat conquered and I thought the love story wrung true with its realness and frank interactions. The mystery surrounding the haunting and crime was very original and St. James very purposefully portrayed the sorrow of the Forsyth family that encompassed the aftereffects of the murder.

All in all, I very much enjoyed the book and was incredibly relieved that the book lived up to St. James' first couple of novels. Though the excerpt from her new book at the end of Lost Among the Living sounds like she is going in an entirely new and different direction, which I'm incredibly excited and grateful for. It will focus on two intertwining stories, one in modern times and the other of a girls' boarding school in 1950's Vermont. It will, of course, have to do with a crime and a haunting (yay!). And now I can't wait till 2017 when it will be released. Sigh.

Should You Read It: If you enjoy historical fiction, with some paranormal, romance, and mystery/thriller vibes, then this is definitely your book. I would also recommend checking out St. James' other books if you liked this one. The paranormal aspect isn't too intense (I've definitely read MUCH creepier) but it's enough to be chilling, just not blood-curdling. Her books are perfect for cuddling under a blanket with a cup of coffee or cocoa on a rainy afternoon. Preferably around Halloween. Perfection!

What did you guys think of the review? Interested in reading any of Simone St. James' work? Have you read any of her books? Do you enjoy reading books involving the paranormal/mystery/thriller/romance? 

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