The best books with haunting and unconventional love stories

The Books I Picked & Why

Odd Thomas

By Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas

Why this book?

I stumbled across the movie version of Odd Thomas a few years after I wrote Restless Spirits, and while I was in the middle of writing the follow-up books in that series, and I was immediately struck by the similarities. So much so that I tracked down the book and quickly devoured it. Like my protagonist Chris Wilson, Odd Thomas has the unfortunate ability to see ghosts, and is frequently haunted by those in need of his assistance, which tends to interfere in his personal life in ways that live up to his unusual first name. Besides being packed with the sorts of chilling moments you’d expect from Dean Koontz, it also features a hauntingly beautiful love story that’s sure to leave you in tears.


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Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca

Why this book?

Although it’s not technically a ghost story, the titular specter of wealthy widower Maxim de Winter’s first wife haunts his new bride from the moment she sets foot in Manderley, his sprawling English estate. It doesn’t help that the late Mrs. De Winter’s maid, Mrs. Danvers, openly resents the new wife’s presence and does everything possible to keep the memory of her original mistress alive. As secrets unravel, the new Mrs. De Winter is determined to get to the bottom of the biggest mystery of all: does her husband genuinely love her, or is she merely a distraction from his grief over losing Rebecca? This gothic psychological thriller is the perfect blend of hauntingly creepy, mysterious, and romantic, and it’s been highly influential in helping to shape my own writing.


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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

By R. A. Dick

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Why this book?

How can you not love this sweet love story about a lonely widow who finds her new home haunted by the ghost of a crotchety but handsome sea captain? What begins as simple companionship between two lonely souls blossoms into feelings neither of these star-crossed lovers may act upon. But the widow Muir is irrevocably changed by their haunted romance. First published in 1945, this book was stunningly original for its time, and is probably responsible for implanting the idea in my head that ghosts are still perfectly capable of falling in love.


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Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

Why this book?

It might seem like cheating to include Jane Eyre on the same list as Rebecca, but the latter clearly owes its existence to the former, which is embedded in my DNA. The original gothic romance has had such an impact on my psyche that I included a blatant homage in the second sequel to Restless Spirits. While there are literally at least a dozen movie adaptations out there, and I definitely have my favorites, none of them perfectly capture this book about a tortured young governess who falls in love with her equally tortured employer. It’s definitely worth a read at least once, if not more.


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Undead and Unwed: A Queen Betsy Novel

By MaryJanice Davidson

Undead and Unwed: A Queen Betsy Novel

Why this book?

While I didn’t set out to copy this novel, I have to admit that unconsciously this mashup of chick lit and horror with a vampire protagonist probably spawned my idea to write a romantic comedy/horror mashup with a protagonist who has just become a ghost. If you enjoyed Restless Spirits, this book has a similar vibe, albeit one that’s quite a bit more, ahem, spicy than you’ll typically find in my own writing. At turns hilarious, frightening, poignant, and steamy, this is probably the book that put paranormal chick-lit on the map.


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