BLOG REVIEW: Exorcising Sean's Ghost by Beth Kery

27y.o. psychologist has had a tough 15 months that she had to bear in secret.
No one knew that she's been grieving the death of her secret lover who was a successful U.S. prosecutor of high-profile terrorists.
She only has her memories of their 3 blissful & sensuous months together to sustain her.
She's not sure if her grief was making her a little crazy because she thinks the attractive stranger she just met at the park could be her deceased lover.
But there are many things about late-30s corporate lawyer Hero that are very different than her deceased boyfriend. He's too hard and cold. And looks nothing like her former boyfriend.
He's also demanding, dominant, and rougher as a lover 
unlike her romantic and affectionate ex-lover. He's much more closed-up and mysterious in his dealings.
However, he doesn't shy away from taking her out in in public like her ex did.
Neither does he shy away from answering her suspicions of him and demanding that she stop mistaking him for her ex.
Hero sets out to make sure that she knows he's the only one she's aware of.
Heroine was ready to bury her past for a future with him.
Until she saw an old picture of him and her deceased lover together.
Was all of it a lie? Who was this man she was with?

I can be quite nitpicky about flawed characters and often look for a good grovel when a major betrayal occurs. In this one, I thought the Hero was a hypocrite, demanding heroine to meet a standard (i.e., complete honesty) that he did not meet. He didn't even grovel for it. And I actually didn't mind. It's a testament to Kery's writing that I forgave him for his hypocrisy & putting heroine through a lot of angst and to still like him despite of it. There are 2 reasons for this. One, I really wasn't sure about the Hero's identity until it was disclosed at the end. Two, his reasons for being dishonest seemed valid and rooted in his concern for heroine's well-being.

I thought it was going to be pretty easy to figure out who the Hero was by chapter 3 but it ended up not being so predictable. Heroine often confronted Hero about his true identity and he was consistent with his answers, which befuddled me. He not only denied being her deceased lover but was jealous of him. He made sure she knew who she was with by making her say his name when they were intimate. He demanded that she stop confusing and accusing him of being her former boyfriend. The pictures showing both men together threw a big wrench on my guess. I empathized with heroine's plight. I felt confident in pegging Hero's identity during times when she seemed to deduce what was going on and felt confused as she when she was proven wrong. Although we got both main characters' 3rd-person POV, we got to know heroine more. Part of it was due to story following heroine's life since meeting Hero. Another was due to her frequent introspection & openness with Hero. The emotional tone in this book was often set by her emotional state. Hero was harder to figure out, although I could feel his tension at keeping things controlled & not be waylaid by his intense feelings for heroine. Their sexual tension leapt off the page, which is pretty typical of Kery's books. It was driven by their increasing feelings for each other and the barriers that kept them from being fully together. It made their plentiful sex scenes more tingle-inducing. My only grievance about the sex scenes was that there was a little too much backdoor details.What made the mystery enticing and Hero's dishonesty forgivable to me were his motives. Finally knowing what they were at the end answered my questions about his feelings for heroine & the merit of the emotional pain she endured.

         ------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details---------

Hero's big secret:

Hero was the man named Sean heroine was in love with and secretly dating for 3 months more than a year ago. But he now has a different face and identity that exactly matches Sean's best friend (BFF), Jack. Hero underwent facial surgeries to look like Jack after his BFF Jack had a car accident that severely injured him and killed his wife and his bodyguard the same day that Hero missed the car explosion set for him due to his involvement in prosecuting a known terrorist leader. He completely assumed his BFF Jack's identity & had himself Sean declared dead. He didn't tell heroine or anyone else that he was still alive. And he never planned on ever doing so.

His motives:

1. Hero sacrificed his old life & identity to protect heroine & his BFF Jack's family from further danger. He believed that the timing of the car explosion meant for him and his friend's fatal accident was deliberate. He believed both were connected to the high-level terrorist he was prosecuting at that time. 

He didn't take his sacrificing his relationship with heroine lightly. In the 15 months that he'd been separated from her, he remained celibate. He couldn't stomach being with another woman, even though the opportunities were certainly there with his new face, new identity, & the fact that heroine thought he was dead. He kept track of her. And, when he found out she started dating another man, he became even more obsessed with her and possessive of her to the point that he risked his well-oiled plans to stay hidden by personally following her and then, soon enough, "meeting" her at the park. It got more out of control from that point on, when he then rushed into claiming her from the man she was seeing for 2 months. 

2. Seeing his BFF Jack grieve his wife and watching him eventually die in the hospital pushed his resolve to not experience this with heroine. Ironically, his deceiving heroine about his death caused heroine much grief and loss. But he'd rather lose heroine this way than getting her killed because of her relationship to him. He believed that her grieving his fake death was worth it if it meant saving her life.  

3. His dying BFF Jack requested that Hero assume his identity, agreeing to a face transplant that would physically transfer his own face on to Hero's. His BFF's request was in conjunction with the US secret-service agencies' recommendation to have Hero assume another identity for his & his loved ones future safety. His BFF wanted him to spare his family the grief of losing him too. Jack's family had become Hero's family after his parent's death. So, sparing his BFF's family from more grief made sense to him too. And assuming his friend's identity was the easiest new identity he could assume since 1.) his BFF was dying 2.) he knew his BFF's character very well and, 3.) he & his BFF were similar in many ways (i.e., their physical build, their professions).

       ------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS----------------------------------------------

They both went through a lot and much of it was due to external factors out of their control. They both had to make some big decisions that entailed big sacrifices personally & for their relationship. It showed the depth of their characters & their love for each other. I had no doubt that they loved each other greatly. It helped to see Hero get possessive & obsessive over heroine. I loved how he got stalkerish on her & scared off her boyfriend of 2 months. I loved how the strength of his feelings for her made him break out of his firm plans & act uncharacteristically out of control. Although Hero was the dominant alpha male & heroine a willing submissive, both were well-matched in their inner strength, caring, and intelligence.

I recommend this book.

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