Books that Haunt Me by Rachelle Ayala
Warning: This post contains spoilers! Read at your own risk.
Certain books refuse to close themselves after the last chapter. They simply won’t crawl quietly back to the corner of the bookshelf or into the e-reader archives. They make me angry, restless because the author did not do what I expected. Like a child kicking up a temper tantrum, I storm off to the closest book forum to vent and see if others felt the same. The next morning, I’m still rolling in bed, replaying the scenes, asking myself why I didn’t see the ending twist, or why, oh why, Ms. Author, did you have to kill off my favorite character?
But you know what? I inevitably become obsessed by that author’s writing, and like a moth seeking a burning lamp, I head straight to the store to browse or buy other books, either to vindicate myself with “I’m smart enough to figure her out,” or “Her characters are too over the top weird and this time, I’m not going to be upset,” or simply, “I can’t get over that tortured love story and the high blood pressure that goes with it.”
Agatha Christie is one author who leaves me tangled up in knots. I was determined to outsmart Hercule Poirot, and oh, that slippery Miss Marple, pretending to be an innocent senior citizen. I ended up collecting her entire set of works, including her archaeological mysteries. Recently, Anne Rivers Siddons and Melissa Foster have snagged me in this emotional whirlpool of love and hate. Not only are their characters flamboyant, obsessed and bordering on psychopathic, but the twists in the story hurl my emotions into an eggbeater. Okay, I was slightly more prepared for Off Season than I was when reading Outer Banks and Peachtree Road. I knew Anne would throw a curveball at the end, and I even suspect that Peaches was a devious twit and up to no good. As an author, I understood exactly why she mentioned the trip Cam took to Edgewater 20 years before the story present. Of course, I suspected there was some hanky panky. But everything seemed so sweet, dreamy, and cozy that I wasn’t prepared for the last freaking page to throw me out of my down comforter and slap me into the ice cold lake. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. By morning, I had calmed down and conceded that the author was brilliant. Had she ended the story as expected, I would have simply yawned, smiled to myself knowingly, and put the book away.
Melissa Foster. What can I say except she keeps me on my toes? My favorite character is Molly Tanner. Talk about unreasonable obsession. Molly is haunted by a scene, an abduction of a child. When she hears of another missing child, Molly will stop at nothing, not even her husband’s disapproval, to ferret out the truth. By the time I finished Chasing Amanda, I had just about guessed every person in the book as the kidnapper. I had formulated all sorts of wild subplots, but Foster tripped me at the end. It’s like she expertly stuck her foot out while I was scrambling in the underbrush looking for clues and plop, I fell on my face. Another book that had me steaming was Come Back to Me. I settled in expecting a happy grand reunion. Oh, it was starting to look clichéd. There’s the missing husband and the new boyfriend. Okay, yawn, what’s going to happen when husband returns? Suddenly out of nowhere, something traumatic happens to flip over the entire applecart. I was flabbergasted. You. Don’t. Kill. Your. Protagonist. I screamed and yanked my hair. Only later, after I finished the book and appreciated the heartfelt transformation of Beau, the missing husband, did I realize that he was the actual protagonist of the story. Whew. I’m still thinking about that story to this day.
Finally, Mary M. Forbes has totally and completely captured my heart with her maddening and frustratingly tortuous love stories. Hawk’s Gift had me enthralled in the western Canadian wilderness with a Metis (mixed-blood) fur trapper and a high-born aristocratic woman who strives to be the only reporter to interview a dissident Indian chief, Big Bear. The sexual tension starts immediately when Roberta marches into town to interview a madam of a whorehouse to defend her against the town’s reverend only to be captured and put up for auction as a whore! Damien, the dangerous drifter, takes pity at her confused demeanor and bids $1000 for her. Not that he had the money. They escape the whorehouse and he immediately endears himself to her by asking her to be his personal whore. About this time, the average reader would be in a screaming, howling fit! But Ms. Forbes weaves a tale of sexual attraction, class and race conflict, power struggle, betrayal and seemingly unrequited love that binds you to the story and characters until you just don’t want the book to end. Never before had I wanted the lovers to be happy, but dreaded it knowing it would mean the ending to this mesmerizing story.
How about you? Are there books that won’t let you go? Authors that pummel you but have you going back for more? I’d like to hear from you and add these gems to my list.
Rachelle Ayala is the author of dramatic fiction crossing genres and boundaries featuring strong but flawed characters. She writes emotionally challenging stories and is not afraid of controversial topics. However, she is an optimist and laces her stories with romance and hope. She has written three novels. Michal’s Window is a powerful and emotional journey as lived through the eyes of Princess Michal, King David’s first wife. Broken Build is a story of redemption and healing where a man learns to love and trust the woman who destroyed his life. Finally, Hidden Under Her Heart is concerned with forgiveness in the face of judgment over abortion. Visit Rachelle at her website, on her blog, or follow her on twitter @AyalaRachelle.
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