The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston came across my desk from none other than BookTok. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with BookTok, as sometimes the book recs are great, sometimes not-so-much, and sometimes, well, I’ve had major issues.
Poston’s novel follows Florence Day, a ghostwriter for a renowned romance author, as she navigates a difficult return to her hometown followed by her surprisingly dead (and handsome) editor, who only she can see. The story captures several themes in addition to the obvious romance factor, as Florence is immersed in the life she left behind while working through a roller coaster of feelings surrounding her new and now ghostly editor, Benji.
As far as a BookTok rec goes, or just as a general note, I would file The Dead Romantics under the beach read category specifically more than straight-up romance or chick lit. While I try not to do a deep dive into other reviews until I’ve written my own, I did have some friends on Instagram read the book and they shared their ratings before I finished. I’m guessing that some of the ratings on the lower end of the ☆-☆☆☆☆☆ scale may have been based on what they were expecting going into the book.
If you’re expecting glowing prose and a deeper storyline, I think you might be disappointed. But going into it with a “beach read” mentality (albeit I read this in the winter), I think you’ll find it an enjoyable and easy read (which really is all you want when you’re spending a day in front of the ocean.)
This isn’t to say Poston’s prose is bad by any means. The book is well-written, and the characters have enough depth to them to keep your interest. Plus, the plot comes with a decent twist that I won’t divulge here for the sake of spoilers. The writing is clear and incredibly easy to follow, and you could read the book in just a day or two if you wanted.
That being said, some of the dialogue and structure of the story made me cringe. The story comes with some tropes that are fairly common, especially in the beach read/chick lit/romance worlds, and at the outset that isn’t a problem, but at times it seems like the tropes are almost squeezed into the book to fulfill what the reader thinks they’re signing up for with reading this kind of book in 2022-23.
For instance, some of the dialogue just isn’t it. It’s not the way people talk, especially people the ages of the some of the characters who border on older Gen Z/younger millennials. The odd dialogue moments work a little bit more when it comes to Florence’s interactions with her family, who are an eclectic bunch to begin with, but in general some of the conversational writing just feels a little off.
Then there are the moments that feel admittedly forced, which as a reader made me cringe. One of Florence’s first interactions with her new editor involving a kiss for instance. It’s not really that the kiss itself didn’t work, but that an extra layer of realism would have helped make the interaction more believable if that makes sense (perhaps just an extra chapter to build up tension or something, I don’t know, I barely write fiction.)
A fair amount of time is devoted to Florence rediscovering her hometown which she was effectively ousted from when the town learned of her ability to communicate with ghosts. The town, a small, fictional, South Carolina locale, is (in another trope) the total opposite of New York where Florence had since moved to. Most of this trope works, but again, there are times where it feels forced.
What doesn’t feel forced, is Florence’s ability to see and speak to the dead, and specifically to Benji. While this talent of hers obviously focused on the ghost at hand, I would have liked to have seen more of Florence’s gift throughout the book (though you get some of this element back later on.)
To end on a positive note, I enjoyed the small twists toward the end of the story and the inclusivity with some of the characters (Florence’s brother being gay and the town innkeeper being nonbinary). I would probably have given this book the same rating with or without the small twists as I basically resided to the fact that the writing was fun and I enjoyed reading it by that point, but these plot devices added to it and made it somewhat less predictable than I had expected going into it. 3.75 stars.