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Mo Fanning
Mo Fanning, author
If you love Marian Keyes, Taylor Jenkins Reid and Sophie Kinsella, you'll almost certainly enjoy this warm, but dark romantic comedy. Professional Santa Silas French fills out the same application as always for his regular stint at a New York department store. Ellen Gitelman hangs her jacket behind the counter at the East Side Diner and smoothes out her waitress uniform, as she waits for the coffee pot to stop percolating. A double whammy of bad news leaves Silas jobless, with no money to pay for a planned trip to reconcile with his estranged gay son Joey in Florida. Cutbacks at the diner cost Ellen her job. A chance tip from his local bar gets Silas a job as Santa on a cruise ship that happens to be docking in Florida, where Joey lives with his husband and kids. Ellen heads to a cafe across the street and spots a bulletin board ad selling tickets for a cruise. Her riotous friend Julia volunteers as travel companion. The MS Viking just happens to be carrying 3000 gay men in the mood to party. What could go wrong? Silas soon finds himself involved with some unsavoury business and meets a potential new love in the form of Ellen. Over the course of the Christmas Holiday cruise, the three slowly learn that what they thought they were seeking isn't really what would make them truly happy, and that they are in control of their own choices. GHOSTED is a dark romantic comedy about the continuing bonds we have with our loved ones after they are gone
In the dark romantic comedy of reconciliations and fresh beginnings, Fanning (author of The Armchair Bride and Rebuilding Alexandra Small) introduces readers to widower Silas Elijah French, a 67 year-old unemployed New York department store Santa as he attempts to mend a broken relationship with his estranged gay son, Joey, and 68 year-old Ellen Gitelman, a widow struggling with a recent Lupus diagnosis only five years into cancer remission. Broke and desperate to see his son, Silas applies for a Santa gig on a two-week holiday cruise to Florida where Joey resides with his husband and two kids. Expecting to make enough money to surprise his son and the grandchildren he’s never seen, Silas accepts the job on the gay cruise line. He didn’t expect an international drug smuggling operation, snoring drag queens, a shady priest, or the pleasant jolt of meeting Ellen, a woman whose eyes reminded him of his late wife.

Fanning tugs at emotions from the opening pages showing Silas, a broken man severely down on his luck and anxious about reaching out to his son, and Ellen, who is still reeling from her Lupus diagnosis. They meet aboard the MS Viking after Ellen mistakenly buys tickets for the gay cruise and literally falls into his arms. The budding romance often takes a backseat to the mayhem aboard the ship and complicated but engaging relationships among crew members and other passengers, like Patrick and Kathy Lucey, a brother and sister duo who bicker incessantly.

Fanning has weaved a tale that has it all—romance, humor, drama, mystery, and suspense. Despite Silas and Ellen having a lot in common and enjoying each other’s company, their relationship doesn’t really power a story that instead has at its heart friendships and family bonds. Fanning’s prose and dialogue are crisp, brisk, and incisive, and the characterization is strong in this novel that’s ideal for readers who love diverse casts, surprising connections, and healing relationships, with much comic complication.

Takeaway: Emotional story of healing relationships and being there for the ones we love.

Comparable Titles: Stephen McCauley’s My Ex-Life, Audra North’s Midlife Crisis.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-