Blog Tour (Book Spotlight): Ghostly Howls – Stephanie Hansen


Today I am joining the Escapist Tours blog tour with a spotlight for Ghostly Howls by Stephanie Hansen, a paranormal romance novella.

Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

Book Summary:

Irish folklore meets small town USA

A heartbroken half banshee, a cockle selling soul possessor, and a town haunted by mysteries…if they don’t find the killer, Orla and Molly might die before finding their soulmates.

Orla and Dave’s love has been unrequited for as long as they can remember. Cormac and Molly are used to drawing outside the lines. None of them are prepared for the new ghostly neighbors.

In a town that’s always ostracized them, can Molly and Orla finally use their powers openly in order to save the citizens?

The Review:


“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

 William Butler Yeats

    Being a soul possessor can be unpleasant. Everyone’s emotions cry out to me like children waiting to be found in a game of Marco Polo. At least Dave gets that I don’t like to be touched (it’s what triggers possession of the soul, but he doesn’t know that part). He keeps his distance though sometimes I wish he didn’t. He’s across the marina with his crew, celebrating a successful hoist net catch from earlier today. The setting sun paints every wave like an instant chocolate hard shell on ice cream.

    There’s been a steady stream of gatherings on Wharf Road downtown since fishing has been good. Our town is so tiny that any party spilling out of a house is noteworthy. Ethel, VA, isn’t known for its numbers, with a population under a thousand. The only people who realize Ben has the maritime museum literally in his house are all locals. Tourists are few and far between. Our parties may be small, but they are mighty. Blame it on our Irish roots and the bagpipes every now and then.

    The crisp fall wind whips through my hair as I stand dockside with a customer. She’s been looking at cockles for the past ten minutes like a lost puppy. I’ve waited patiently for her to ask me questions, but it seems I may have to approach her in order for that to happen. A look of relief washes across her face as I approach, and she goes to grab my hand, touching it ever so slightly. A tickle scurries its way up my arm, but I retract my hand until the final spiritual string reverberates back with a shock. I don’t want to pos[1]sess the spirit of this woman. I only want her to buy a few cockles.

“Orla, is that your name?” the woman asks, snapping me back to attention, to this world. “Did you hear me? I would like to know if the grit has been washed off of these.”

     She’s unfamiliar with the process. These are fresh. She’ll want to soak them in salted water overnight before she prepares them. That will remove the grit. Probably doesn’t even know to throw away the ones that open by morning. But perhaps she’s distracted. A bit of pain singed my arm when her hand brushed against mine.

“Have you ever prepared cockles before?” I ask her.

She rolls her eyes at me.

“I have a cockle recipe book with instructions available for only five dollars,” I say.

“Never mind,” she huffs and walks away. I notice a trifold pamphlet jutting out of her purse. All I can read is Cockles May Cure Cancer Naturally. That was the misery I felt when I had been so close to possessing her spirit. Cancer sucks.

“Ma’am,” I shout after her. “Please, this bucket of cockles and the book is on the house.”

    She turns back to me. Her forehead scrunches as she takes a deep breath. “Fine.”

    At her car door, she grabs the book from my outstretched hand and shoves it into her purse. As her Jeep drives away, I hope the pamphlet’s right. “You’re not going to make any money giving inventory away for free,” Dave says as he approaches. His broad shoulders block the sun out of my eyes. I smile wishing I’d done more than throw my thick, long hair up in a ponytail today. I might be wrong, but I think I see a hint of blush in his cheeks as our eyes lock.

“Yeah, what’s it to you?” I turn to close up shop like Dave and his crew have already done.

    He waits for me because he’s my ride home. We’ve been friends since we were kids. It’s not uncommon in this small town, but I wish we could be more. I wish I could touch others without possessing their soul. I would feel safe in Dave’s arms. There’s been a tension around us lately like he wants to be close too, but there’s a constant buffer, poking fun, and egging each other on, neither of us knowing how long it can last or if and when one of us will succumb.

“Have you caught the latest rumor?” Dave laughs. His dimples can’t help butshow when he smirks.

“What are they saying now?”

 “A few from Oliver’s crew claim to be hearing voices at night.”

“I’m surprised you don’t all hear voices at night, what with the hours of sun you get and only drinking whiskey or beer instead of water most of the time.”

“Hey, layoff, would ya? Anyhoo, I guess these voices have been asking for their papers—saying they shouldn’t have docked without them.”

“Sounds like they’ve been out at sea too long.”

“Whatever. Don’t believe if you don’t want to.”

    Only then do I recognize the shakiness in his voice. He rubs the back of his neck nervously. These rumors must really be getting to him. “Want to swing by the pub on the way home?”

    That brings a smile back to his face. The pub’s in the heart of downtown, where the roads are brick, and each store or restaurant has its own unique awning. In this small town, it’s where neighboring businesses get each other’s mail when someone’s away and where people watch out for one another like a family…most of the time.

    Beside me, his jacket is stretched across his shoulders, and it’s so easy, too easy, to remember what he looks like without a shirt on. I take a deep breath and try to steady my nerves as we walk to his truck. “Think Molly will be there?” he asks.

“Does a fish swim?” I joke. “Yeah, it’s her shift.”

“Think she might be in the mood to hand out inventory for free too?”

    I move to swat his arm with the back of my hand but catch myself before I do. I’ve never had so much trouble keeping my hands to myself. There’s an awkward tension in the air between us again. Luckily, we have to step away from each other as I enter the passenger side and he enters the driver’s side of his old, rusty pickup but then we’ll be close again.

    We pass by the lighthouse during our seaside drive. It’s on a small island just off the mainland. As kids, we called it Alcatraz. Air escapes my nose as I silently laugh, but Dave’s too into finding music on the radio to notice. We used to pretend we were going to swim there and release the prisoners by mapping out the best escape route and guard shift changes.

    Now the sun is setting behind the structure. It’s white and tall, looking like a space shuttle ready to depart from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That was another fun game. I would disappear, and Dave would radio directions as if he were ground control. I look at the lighthouse one last time before it’s out of view and notice a shadow in the lantern room. It’s almost like someone walking across, but that can’t be. The lighthouse hasn’t operated in a long time. I lean forward to get a better view through the truck window.

    The truck comes to an abrupt stop as Dave pulls over to the side of the road. Sea droplets spray in through the window, sprinkling against me, dampening my arm.

“You saw it too,” he proclaims.

“Saw what, Dave?”

“You can’t make fun of Oliver’s crew’s rumors anymore.”

I raise my eyebrows and nod.

“You have to believe the ghost stories now.” He points to the lighthouse.

“Perhaps an animal has finally made its way in there.”

“You’re unbelievable,” he says while pulling back onto the road. “You never believe in anything supernatural.”

      The rest of the drive is devoid of conversation. What would he do if he knew that a supernatural was sitting right next to him? While Dave’s alwaysread that I have an aversion to touch, I’ve never flat out told him why and he’s continued to respect my privacy. Maybe he’s a supernatural with an abnormal power to resist temptation.

     I continue my staring out the window, now free of ghostly disturbances. Docks and the beach, pass but before we make it into town, I catch sight of a group of kids racing their model sailboats. Dave and I exchange a wistful look. So many memories float around this town, like the attic of a grandparent’s house. It’s easy to feel at home here no matter where you go. And yet, I’ve never really felt that I belonged either. I give Dave a closed- mouth smile before turning away so he can’t see the look of isolated pain.

    We pass by green, striped, and even metal awnings before arriving at Shabby Tabby. There’s a long table for large parties as you walk in to the right of the bar. Then four-person tables litter the somewhat open area. The arched ceilings have led me to believe Shabby Tabby was not always a pub. Outside are more four-person tables under a deck glittered with globe lights above and below.

    We take our normal stools at the bar. I notice the outdoor light glint off of Molly’s red hair. I wave to get her attention, but before I’m able to tell if she saw me, Russ, a regular, stumbles into my back. The connection’s automatic. I’m in his mind, and he’s in mine, but I’m the only one who has a clue of what’s going on and any ability to control things in our space now. His thoughts bounce around his head like a pinball machine. Is this what it’s like for Russ when he’s drunk? The thoughts are of doubt and despair. I know he’s had it rough losing his job and going through a divorce. I project thoughts of my own before pulling away, ones of positivity about how he’ll rebuild himself and be there for his daughter.

“You okay, Russ?” I ask as he rights himself on the stool next to me. “Yeah.” He pauses, scratching the stubble on his cheek. “Yeah, actually, I’m good. Haven’t felt this way in ages.”

    Oh, Russ. Hopefully, the positive thoughts can help him and turn his thinking in a better direction than it has been.

     Dave clears his throat. “Be careful where you walk, would ya, Russ.” The knuckles holding his mug of beer are white due to his grip being so tight.

“It’s not a big deal,” I say under my breath to Dave, hoping he hasn’t spun Russ back to a place of negativity while also trying to ward off the splitting headache attempting to take residence in my head.

    But Russ doesn’t seem to be bothered at all. In fact, he gets up and practically skips out of the pub.

“What’s that guy’s problem? Did he hurt you?”

 “No, I’m fine. Did you order my usual?”

     Kyle, the bartender, brings me a Jameson on the rocks, answering my question. I’ll just have the one. That’s all I ever have, and tend to drink a lot of water at the same time. I never want to lose my composure again. Not like I did a few years ago at age twenty-two. It was awful when Molly had to take care of me while I was drunk. She had to hold me up, and we were in each other’s minds, but I was without my usual control and clarity. It was almost bad enough that neither of us could surface. Thank goodness we did. I learned my lesson to never be drunk again. But it’s nice to be able to take the edge off. Just a little bit of alcohol allows me to sleep without the thoughts, dreams, and nightmares of those I’ve possessed haunting me each night.

    As Molly approaches us, I think about how she’s the only one who can truly understand that side of me. She has powers of her own. It’s similar to the old Irish folklore tale of the banshees but opposite because she’s a halfling. Instead of screaming out awful noises when death is near, Molly hears them. Sometimes it’s specified to when certain people are near, those within weeks of dying. Other times it can be more generalized, meaning all she knows is that there will be a death nearby soon and nothing further. Her ability can reach miles out, which is why being in a small town is beneficial to her. Otherwise, if she were in a large city, she’d probably hear ringing all the time. Her gift plagues her just as much as mine plagues me. Which is one reason why we’ve been best friends for so long and are now roommates.

 “You two need to hit the showers,” she says to Dave and me. “You reek of fish.”

“This whole town smells of the sea, silly,” I quip back.

“Oh, the odor of stale Guinness and cigar smoke is better?” Dave raises an eyebrow.

She playfully jabs him in the arm.

“You hear from Cormac yet?” I ask.

“No,” Molly kicks up some dust from the floor. “It’s been radio silence.”

“Hey, wanna shoot some pool?” Dave asks. “That will keep your mind off it.”

“Thanks, but my shift’s about up.”

“I can walk home with you,” I offer to which Dave curls his lip in a mock pout.

“Yeah, you wouldn’t want the ghost to get her,” Dave says.

“What ghost?”

“Don’t listen to him.”


    Silence descends upon us as Molly helps clean a few glasses, and then turns in her portion of the tips to the kitchen crew. She’s rushing through everything and I’m not sure if it’s simply that her shift was subpar or if, like me, she’s experiencing a strange foreboding.



“We learn from failure, not from success!”

Abraham (Bram) Stoker

     It feels bad taking Orla away from Dave, but I need to talk to her.

“What ghost was Dave talking about?” I ask Orla as soon as we’re outside.

“Don’t listen to Dave,” she says while running a hand through her hair. “We just saw the shadow from an animal in the lighthouse lantern room.”

“Really? He’s usually not one to be easily spooked.”

“Yeah, but I guess Oliver’s crew has been hearing voices or something.”

    A shudder runs through her, and she quickens her step. I have to lengthen my strides to keep up. Thoughts bounce around in my head as we walk in silence while I try to distract myself and, of course, images of Cormac invade my mind.

   Cormac’s perfect, in my humble opinion. Her eyes crinkle when she smiles, and her face is full of light despite the broodiness she tries to exude. I can’t believe I got mad at her last week. Once again, my demon self appeared, thanks to my good ol’ friend Jameson. Not the person but the Irish Whiskey! Sometimes I wonder if being half banshee means the banshee side always wins. I just wish Cormac would text me back already.

    To move my desperate thoughts to something, anything else I think of my other plans. I can’t wait to get home and add my tips to my savings. Pretty soon, I’ll be able to afford the next piece of my sleeve tattoo. It’s a mix of roses and Celtic symbols. Orla seems to have a glow about her even though I can tell she’s trying to hide it from me as we walk home. I hope she will tell Dave about her ability. He would totally work with her to make a relationship happen. I think he’s loved her since he found out what love is. It’s probably why he’s had a rebel streak, unrequited love.

“Sell a lot of cockles today?” I ask Orla.

“It was decent,” she responds. “Gave some away free too.”

“Hey, we need to pay rent. You can’t be doing that.”

“No, this lady, she has cancer.”

“I didn’t hear any piercing ringing today. She’ll be fine…at least for now.”

“Maybe cockles really do cure cancer. See, you should be eating them more often.”

“I live near them. Their smell permeates my pores. They’re not getting more than that.”

    As we approach our home, I take it all in yet again. Never did I think I’d be in a house of my own, well, mine and Orla’s. We did have a third roommate for a very short time. Jenny never does stay in one place for long. It even has a second story. Sure the paint is chipping here and there, but the entry is through an arched doorway. How badass is that? The windows have shutters. The first thing viewable once inside is the massive staircase screaming just how gigantic, at least to me, this place is. Orla and I have split the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the living room. Her half is full of romance and fantasy, while my side is full of thrillers and horror. There are hardwood floors throughout. The only thing I haven’t been able to determine is the concealed door at the end of the hallway upstairs. Where does it go? We haven’t been able to locate its key.

“Boomer,” Orla says as we enter, and our border collie beagle mix runs up to greet her. She bends over so she can pet him. It’s good for her to have a pet, something she can touch without possessing its soul. I’m not sure why dogs and cats are safe from her power, but I’m glad she can at least have the outlet free of obstacles.

“He needs a bath.”

She nods in agreement. “Wanna work on our puzzle in a bit?”

Stephanie Hansen is a PenCraft and Global Book Award Winning Author. Her debut novella series, Altered Helix, released in 2020. It hit the #1 New Release, #1 Best Seller, and other top 100 lists on Amazon. It is now being adapted to an animated story for Tales. Her debut novel, Replaced Parts, released in 2021 through Fire & Ice YA and Tantor Audio. It has been in a Forbes article, hit Amazon bestseller lists, and made the Apple young adult coming soon bestsellers list. The second book in the Transformed Nexus series, Omitted Pieces, releases in 2022. She is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community so she tries to incorporate that into her fiction.

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