Review: Ghosts (The Power of Zero #2) by Jackie Keswick

Jack Horwood doesn’t do families. Or Christmas. From the time his mother sold him to her pimp to the moment he walked out on the man he loved, Christmas has always been about change and painful choices. This year seems no different. Helping Daniel and Nico recover from their imprisonment and hunting down those responsible puts Jack in a frame of mind he doesn’t want to inflict on anyone. Least of all Gareth and the tentative relationship they’ve started to rebuild.

But Gareth, for whom Christmas is all about new beginnings, won’t let Jack take the easy way out. He makes him face his ghosts instead. Even when said ghosts invade their bedroom.

When Daniel’s parents are found, Jack is determined to settle the matter without involving Daniel at all. But fate decrees otherwise, and it’s Gareth who helps him finally understand that the strongest bonds are those forged together. Once he gets that, Jack can step up and make a decision designed to lay his ghosts to rest—for good.

Let's face it, anything with a Christmas theme and my interest is already perking up, so when I spotted the blurb for Ghosts and it said 'Jack Horwood doesn’t do families. Or Christmas. From the time his mother sold him to her pimp to the moment he walked out on the man he loved, Christmas has always been about change and painful choices'. I was rubbing my hands together with glee, Christmas and some angst all packaged together, what could be better?

Perhaps I should have paid a little more attention to the fact that Ghosts is the sequel to Job Hunt. With the benefit of hindsight, I think it would be a better experience to read them in sequence (since Ghosts has numerous characters some named in full but actually only mentioned in passing which left me scratching my head from time to time about who they might be).

Reading Ghosts as a standalone probably contributed to the longer than usual time it took for me to warm to the main characters Jack and Gareth and it was if I'm perfectly honest a bit of a slow burn for me. Missing some back story and crucial aspects of their personalities it took a wee while to piece the hints together and begin to feel involved. Ghosts has quite a sedate pace exploring how prickly hacker extraordinaire Jack Horwood makes choices about his future.

Circumstances forced Jack to be entirely self-reliant and put defences in place to prevent others getting too close. He has created his own moral compass and created his own rules without fully understanding some of social expectations. The prospect of a relationship with his former Commanding Officer and current boss Gareth, pushes Jack to begin to break down some of his defences and to open up a little more.

By contrast, Gareth Flynn is extroverted with warm and open approach, he finds that he de-stresses by cooking elaborate meals and takes huge satisfaction feeding those he cares for and Jack in particular. Gareth goes all out to make a feast for Christmas and has an informal and open door approach to Festivities which is somewhat daunting for the more introverted Jack.

Putting love into his culinary creations Gareth tries to make dishes that Jack will savour, and the foodie in me was captivated.

Frankly, I was expecting a story with a dash of season's cheer sprinkled with some angst, and instead I got a mellower, slightly introspective read with a beauty all of its own. The crisp writing style worked well to highlight an intensity of emotion with much being left unsaid, and actions speaking louder than words, as Jack and Gareth set in place the foundations for a future together and consider who else is important in their lives. Gareth helps Jack to finally understand that family can be so much more than the one you are born into.

I recommend that you read The Power of Zero series in order, I will most definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Dreamspinner Press


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