Book Review: The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna

12995185Title: The Wedding Gift
Author: Kathleen McKenna
Genre: Paranormal Mystery, Supernatural Thriller, Horror, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Publication Date: October 3rd 2011
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Author Website
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

17 year old Leeann Worthier is the perfect girl in town – or so she says.

George Willets is the heir to a booming petroleum business.

When they announce their engagement, George’s controlling mother is unimpressed and Leeann absolutely refuses to live with her mother-in-law. So George gives his new wife a house as a wedding gift.

Thirty years before, the same house had hosted a grisly scene: George’s uncle and cousins had all been slaughtered, his aunt Robina accused of both murder and suicide.

The house is a gorgeous, well-maintained mansion but has stood empty since the tragedy. It’s intimidating, but who is Leeann to turn down a free house? When the ghost of Robina begins to haunt Leeann, she realizes she’s made a huge mistake…

The Wedding Gift wasn’t what I expected at all. For starters, I thought that this book was going to be a horror story based primarily on the ghost of Robina Willets as she haunts Leeann and George as they live in what Robina still considers her own home. I was convinced that Leeann would slowly discover more about Robina’s past and find out why exactly Robina killed her entire family thirty years ago and why her spirit still lingers on. I was expecting a horror story that would make shivers run down my spine, and a page-turner thriller that kept me breathless. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t contain a scary story that will make you look underneath your bed and search for the boogeyman, or terrify you to death when you notice your closet door is still open in the midst of night. In fact, I didn’t think The Wedding Gift was scary at all, which is particularly strange since it does deal with ghosts – my number one scary thing that goes bumping in the night.

The main character of this book is called Leeann and she’s supposed to be your typical southern Oklahoma girl and she talks exactly like a hillbilly. Talking like a hillbilly or whatever it’s called is one of my personal pet peeves in books. I would have liked The Wedding Gift a lot more if Leeann spoke like any other regular American girl, and not with an accent appropriate for people living a century ago. Moreover, Leeann is not a likeable character. She is extremely vein and continues to indicate her beauty to everyone who wants to her. Supposedly she’s the most beautiful girl in town. And poor George Willets, her husband-to-be falls in love with her based on looks alone, the perfect ingredient for yet another disastrous marriage in the making. Moreover, she has the brains of a mouse. No, scratch that. I’m pretty sure a mouse has more intelligence than Leeann has. The only thing she’s clever about is finding out that a ghost is haunting her new home, and what to do about the ghost. Apart from that, she spends most of the book being clueless about just about everything. She has no morals whatsoever and goes as far as to drink and do drugs while being pregnant. And sex without a condom? Of course Leeann isn’t bothered by that at all, because George makes up some lame-ass excuse no self-respecting young woman would ever believe. No, in terms of morality, Leeann definitely is no expert.

George Willets on the other hand, Leeann’s love interest, well he certainly got more respect for me than Leeann did. I actually liked him better. Sure, he’s not better than Leeann as in the fact that he allows her to use drugs or get drunk, but at least he steps up and does the right thing when he finds out she’s pregnant. Additionally, it’s quite clear to the reader that although Leeann certainly doesn’t love George the way she should when they get married, George does love her. Perhaps it’s not perfect, but at least he’s willing to commit to his marriage fully. Leeann threats George like crap even though he carries her on both hands. She even goes so far as to cheat on him with her childhood crush. Well Leeann perhaps it’s a bit late to think about your supposed true love when you’re newly wed to another man, and with newly wed I mean you’ve been together for two weeks.

I always thought that if the main character of a story had as many flaws as Leeann – to be honest, I can’t say one good thing about that girl except that she’s funny when she’s completely clueless, plus I have absolutely zero respect for her – I would never be able to like that book. The Wedding Gift proved me different. Although the narrative, told with a southern accent that is more than just annoying, is odd and annoying at first, it gets better as the story unfolds and you get used to it. At its core, The Wedding Gift offers quite a mesmerizing story, filled with intrigue and excitement. Not horror though, but still quite the enjoyable paranormal mystery. I couldn’t help but continue reading until the very end, so it must have been doing something right. Unfortunately though not enough to score highly on my rating chard, but I was impressed anyway.

As I already mentioned, I liked George Willets. Oddly enough, I liked the house as well. As the story progressed I began seeing the house more and more as a character on its own. I wouldn’t have minded getting a mansion as a wedding gift, even if it’s haunted. Moving on to the haunting…The haunting is, to put it frankly, over-the-top. The ghost of Robina is not your ordinary poltergeist or vengeful spirit. She is far more powerful than you could ever imagine – even so powerful that she would put the ghosts of Paranormal Activity to shame. She can kill people. Yes, she can actually kill people by stabbing them, clawing at them or throwing them out of trees. Actually she was the one who killed Leeann’s older brother Charlie, in what the police deemed a freak accident. Like that’s not enough, Robina can contact Leeann even when she’s not at the haunted house, she can pull Leeann’s soul out of her body when she sleeps, etc. That’s kind of the problem with this story. It starts out grand, with the right amount of tension and terror, but it turns ridiculous from that point on. I had to keep reading to solve the mystery and because I did enjoy the story, but the terror element dissapears completely as the ghost’s powers are presented as totally and utterly ridiculous. Robina’s ghost can do virtually everything. I’m more of a fan of a subtile ghost story, where things go missing, eerie noises can be heard in the middle of the night, doors open and close on their own, and eventually a phantom appears stalking the house’s owners. A ghost who just wants to rip your throat out right away? Hilarious, but not scary.

To its credit, the story is enjoyable and has enough twists and turns to keep me reading. But Leeann isn’t a likeable character at all, and her morals are questionable at best. The supportive cast is nothing special as well. Leeann’s father is a drunk who couldn’t cope with the death of his son Charlie, her best friend at least has an ounce of brain cells – she would actually make a way more interesting main character than Leeann – and Leeann’s crush is just as stupid as she is. The only character I really liked is George, and I felt terribly sorry for him. I don’t want to spoil this book for you, but at some point something happens to George and although it’s tragic, it’s also quite hilarious, because it doesn’t make any sense and gives our resident ghost superpowers.

The Wedding Gift isn’t a terrible read, but it’s not a wonderful book either. The writing, although annoying at first, was compelling as well, and the story was intriguing enough to make me read it in one setting. Although the main character is vain, stupid and lacking any morality whatsoever, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. At least it’s original, and an author needs to have a lot of nerve to present their readers with a main character with such a terrible personality, so I have to congratulate Kathleen McKenna for that. The story wasn’t necessarily scary to me, but it does make a good supernatural thriller and it offers some original elements. People who aren’t that experienced with the horror genre might even get scared while reading this book. In short, if you’re a fan of paranormal mysteries, you will probably enjoy this book. It’s definitely not the worst out there, but I would have enjoyed it more if the tension had built up slower and if the ghost didn’t have obvious superpowers. Overall a good read, but nothing extraordinary.

This book counts towards the Horror and Urban Fantasy Challenge, the TBR Reading Challenge and the Mystery and Suspense Challenge.

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