Past Shadows by Stevie Woods, Charlie Cochrane, Jardonn Smith

MLR Press

Gay Anthology / Ghost

ISBN:  978-1-60820-104-4

Reviewed by Cassie



“Death’s Desire” by Stevie Woods

Hugh hasn’t seen his Simmercy relatives for several years due to an inappropriate attraction to the son, Charles, who is just a few years younger than he is.  When he arrives at their opulent country hall, he’s unhappy to discover that he still feels the same way about Charles as he did years earlier.  The appearance of a ghost bearing a tale of a scandalous and tragic event from the family’s past distracts him somewhat, especially as he is the only one who can see the man.  Will the search for the means to help the ghost bring Hugh and Charles closer together?

 “Death’s Desire” is a tale that is both sad, due to the horrific events that led to the ghost’s existence, and hopeful.  Hugh and Charles’ search for the means to free the ghost is interesting, and their romance is sweet.  Although there is never any real doubt about the outcome, I enjoyed “Death’s Desire” quite a bit.   


“The Shade on a Fine Day” by Charlie Cochrane

The parish has a handsome new curate, William Church, and the local single ladies are all atwitter.  Even Beatrice Swann succumbs to the curate’s inadvertent charms, much to the chagrin of her brother, Benjamin.  Things aren’t what they seem with a couple of the townspeople, however, as a strange dinner party at Canon Newington’s house will soon show.

“The Shade on a Fine Day” is a well-written Regency tale of a strange ghost, secrets, and romance.  I like Charlie Cochrane’s restrained writing a lot, and the unusual ghost was really cool, but the romance took a long time to get going.  At first, it was so subtle that I had a hard time believing it when the characters finally decided to talk to each other.  When they did get together, however, it was very sweet.  “The Shade on a Fine Day” is a good read, but expect a slow pace.  


“Green River” by Jardonn Smith

During the Great Depression, work was very difficult to find.  The Works Progress Administration put men to work improving roads and doing other public works.  Ernest Surbaugh found himself, along with his brother and uncle, at just such a WPA camp, in Southern Missouri, in 1938.  There he meets new friends and stumbles upon a very strange sort of ghost.

“Green River” was my least favorite story in the anthology.  It’s told in a kind of meandering way, which I’m sure was purposefully done because the story is framed as a much older Ernest telling a story to a younger relative.  The setting of a WPA camp near the Gasconade river is very well realized (and I squeed at the Missouri setting).  The characters are interesting and felt real for the time period.  The thing that bothered me most was that it seemed at first that Ernest was going to get together with one character, and then he’s suddenly with another.  I also wasn’t crazy about the ghost portion, which had a cool explanation but a strange way of manifesting itself.  “Green River” is a good way to get the feel of a 1930’s WPA camp, but as a romance I didn’t like it as much.

Past Shadows is a varied anthology featuring three different settings and three different kinds of ghost.  All three stories have something to offer to fans of ghost stories and historical romance.


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