Phantom's Rest

By: Anny Cook

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


After being orphaned in childhood, Beauregard Barker was raised by his aunt. He spent fourteen years in the military, but being badly injured in the line of duty ended his career. While recovering in the hospital, he's visited by the ghost of his late uncle who sends Beau to Phantom's Rest RV Park, which he'd owned and run with his life partner. Beau has spent the last six months there, helping out. When a shy, pretty calligrapher arrives for her annual sojourn at the park, Beau is immediately taken with her and begins romantically pursuing her. So when he finds out that she has a stalker and an assassin is potentially after her, too, he vows to do everything in his power to keep her safe.

Having lost her own parents recently, Emmaline Fairchild is all alone in the world except for a brother she rarely ever sees. Every year, she stays at Phantom's Rest while attending a calligraphy convention, but this year, she arrives with a bit of baggage. She's been hearing voices and thinks she might be losing her mind until Beau hears them, too. Then she receives word that her brother is in the hospital after a serious car accident in which he was run off the road. When she and Beau go to visit him, they end up in a hail of gunfire from a sniper, and Emmie finds out that her brother is actually a secret agent in possession of sensitive information regarding treason being committed by high-ranking government officials. Emmie must rely on Beau and his friends, both living and ghostly, to keep her and her brother safe, and along the line, she comes to love and trust him like no one else in her life.


Phantom's Rest is a stand-alone small town, contemporary romance with erotic and paranormal elements. Beau inherits a haunted RV park from his uncle, where he's been working for the past six months since being discharged from the military. Emmaline is an artist who stays at the park every year while attending a local calligraphy convention. Sparks fly from the moment they meet, but Emmie is a little reluctant to get involved with Beau because of past bad relationship experiences. Emmie also keeps hearing voices, which makes her think she's losing her mind until Beau hears them too and realizes that she has a stalker. Then Emmie's brother, who she discovers is a government spy, is run off the road by hit men intent on retrieving sensitive information he possesses that could expose high-ranking government officials who are committing treason. When she and Beau go the hospital to see him, they end up in a dangerous situation that will require the help of Beau's friends, both living and dead, to keep everyone safe.

Beau was orphaned at a young age and raised by his aunt. After fourteen years in the military (I don't believe which branch was even mentioned), he was badly injured in action, which sidelined his career. While recovering in the hospital, the ghost of his uncle, who he doesn't recall meeting, appears to him, telling him to go to Phantom's Rest, the RV park he owned. Beau has spent the last six months there, helping his uncle's former life partner run the place and has just found out that he's the sole heir to, not only Phantom's Rest, but several other parks they owned as well. Around that time, Emmaline shows up for her annual sojourn, piquing Beau's interest. Although she seems a little reluctant to get involved at first, she warms up pretty quickly and soon they're setting the sheets on fire. But when Beau hears the voice while in Emmie's little home away from home, he almost immediately realizes she has a stalker. Then her brother, Malachi, turns up in the hospital, seriously injured from being run off the road, and when they go to visit him, they become pinned down by a sniper. Beau's training kicks in and he saves the day, then takes Malachi back to the Rest with them to try to keep him and Emmie safe. Upon Beau's first meeting with Emmie, IMHO he came off as a little creepy and predatory, which did not endear him to me at all, but I'm happy to say that he did improve considerably as the story went on. Aside from him not being terribly romantic, he ended up being a decent hero that I generally liked for as well as I got to know him, which wasn't well at all. What I outlined here is about the extent of his characterization, which left me feeling that he was a pretty underdeveloped character.

Emmaline was in a car accident at the age of sixteen that left her with scars that make her self-conscious. She's mostly alone in the world, having lost her parents in an accident a while back, and she rarely sees her brother, who she thinks is an itinerant actor. She's an artist who does both calligraphy and crocheting. Every year she comes to Phantom's Rest for the convention and also teaches classes there, so it's kind of become her home away from home. She's attracted to Beau from the moment they meet, but her past relationships have left her a little wary. Emmie has only been with two other men sexually and both were unpleasant experiences for her. But soon Beau is able to overcome her uncertainties and shows her how good it can be. However, Emmie has been hearing voices that have left her feeling like she's going crazy, and then Malachi is injured and she discovers that he's actually a spy. It's a bit much for her to take in, but luckily she has Beau to protect her and help her through it all. Much like with Beau, I couldn't help feeling that Emmaline was also underdeveloped. She's very self-conscious about her scars and is also very uncertain about having sex after her past experiences with it, but all her issues are just magically overcome and swept under the rug. Along with it, she almost instantly becomes a sex kitten, too, so it was all a little too much to be entirely believable.

As the opening line of my review probably indicates, I had a hard time giving a genre classification to Phantom's Rest, because it doesn't fall neatly into any of them. Phantom's Rest RV Park is part of a tiny town populated by lots of townspeople, both living and ghostly, so for the most part, I'd say that it has the feel of a small-town contemporary romance. Beau and Emmie's relationship is mostly the focus, but in spite of that I didn't feel like it had much depth to it. They go from lust to falling into bed to falling in love with little thought going into any of it. Then the author threw in an erotic element that IMHO just didn't really mesh well the rest of the story. Beau and Emmie haven't even had sex yet, and he's already thinking about collaring her without asking what she thinks of such an arrangement. This is even after admitting to himself that he isn't all that interested in BDSM, which was totally confusing. Then not long after they finally have sex the first time, they're going on a shopping spree at an adult toy store and putting everything to use, at which point Emmie magically has no issues despite her scars and bad sex experiences. There just wasn't much rhyme or reason or credibility to their relationship. Sometimes in instances like this I can at least console myself with some hot sex scenes, but even those fell kind of flat for me. None of them have much buildup to the main event. There's very little kissing or foreplay before he's shoving inside her. Most of these scenes are also over in a matter of a page or two, some of them even fading to black. Because of the sex toys and BDSM element, I felt the book warranted an erotic designation, but the love scenes really aren't all that exciting like they normally would be in an erotic romance.

Then there's the suspense element, which mostly consists of Malachi being chased around the country by hit men who are trying to prevent him from getting the sensitive information he possesses to the president. There were a few exciting scenes that result from this, but for the most part, this entire sub-plot needed a major overhaul. First, we have no idea which branch of the government Malachi works for, although given that the information he has involves foreign terrorists, I'd hazard a guess that it's the CIA. The idea that he reports directly to the president was not really credible to me, given that agents typically have handlers that they report to. After carrying this information around and nearly getting killed over it, he suddenly decides that the way out of his situation is to email the information to the president. No one should ever be emailing top secret information to anybody. It's possible that spies have highly secure lines that they can use for such things, but if so, he would have known about it from the beginning and not just suddenly come up with the idea. Then after the information is out, the hit men--who apparently have scruples?--instantly back off. I was totally rolling my eyes at all of this, and that doesn't even cover the voices Emmie is hearing. Beau almost immediately realizes someone has her house bugged, but then they spend intimate time there before debugging it. Really? And this whole part of the story was merely a personal vendetta against Malachi that I never fully understood and that had nothing to do with the top secret stuff he was carrying. Not to mention, I saw this bad guy from a mile away.

Last but not least, there's a paranormal element in the form of the numerous ghosts who inhabit Phantom's Rest. They simply turn up anywhere and everywhere, all the time, and don't seem to have much concept of personal space, yet virtually none of the livings seem the least bit perturbed by this state of affairs. They're always just conversing with the ghosts like it's perfectly normal. At least Beau's friends who come to help protect Malachi have a moment of disbelief, but even they get over it pretty quickly. However, the rules of how the ghosts operate are rather murky. They fade in and out at will, which indicates that they're creatures of the spirit realm, but they can eat/drink, crochet, change clothes, and otherwise interact with the physical realm, which doesn't make much sense. How do non-corporeal beings do all of these things? One of Beau's friends asks this exact question, but they just continue on with their conversation and it's never answered, which was totally unsatisfying for me and seemed like a cop out. I don't have anything against the ghosts, as they seem to be quite nice and only want to help out. However, to be quite honest, they didn't add much to the story. I felt like they could have been taken out without really affecting the plot.

I decided to give Phantom's Rest three stars and call it an okay read, because I generally liked the characters and didn't completely dislike the story. There were many good ideas here that had a lot of potential, but I felt the storytelling just didn't live up to it. I think the book would have been much better if the author had focused on just one or two of the plot lines and developed them more fully. Instead the story was overburdened by trying to be too many things all at once, leaving every part of it watered down. It just seems to rush from one thing to the next to the next without really taking a beat in between. I think this is what it would look like if a book could have ADHD. It contains plenty of action and dialogue, but very little in the form of character introspection or descriptive prose, which it desperately needed more of. There were many things I had trouble envisioning, and I didn't feel strongly connected to any of the characters because I didn't feel like I got to know them well. I personally could have seen this being a very good story if it had focused in on the small town romance aspect with a side-helping of suspense or if it had perhaps been a small town romance with the ghosts on the side. I think either one could have worked well and the romance still could have been steamy without the added erotic elements, which IMHO didn't fit well with the other aspects. In any case, Phantom's Rest really needed a lot more depth and dimension to rise to the level of being a truly good read.

Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including mild BDSM elements, sex toys, and anal play, which could be objectionable to sensitive readers.


Anny Cook


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