“The Dead Romantics” by Ashley Poston is our “GMA” Book Club pick for July.
Poston’s latest novel follows Florence Day, a ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry. But after a break-up, Florence said she no longer believes in love.
When her new editor won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. Around the same time, a phone call she receives forces Florence to return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.
Even though Florence has missed the town that she said has never understood her, including its warm Southern nights and her eccentric family, she can’t bring herself to stay. That is, until he meets a ghost at the funeral parlor’s front door, who is just as confused about why he’s there as she is.
“It’s a ghost story. Not only is it a ghost story, but it is a ghost romance. So it’s a little bit sexy and a little bit fun and a little bit swoony… and a lot dead,” Poston told “GMA.”
“It is my ode to romance novels -- all of them,” Poston added. “I am a connoisseur of romance and if you are too, I really hope you find some joy in ‘The Dead Romantics.’ Happy reading!”
Read and listen to an excerpt below and get a copy of the book here.
'The Dead Romantics' by Ashley PostonOriginal: $17
"The Dead Romantics" follows a disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home.
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Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from THE DEAD ROMANTICS by Ashley Poston, read by Eileen Stevens.
This month, we are also teaming up with Little Free Library to give out free copies in Times Square and at 150 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Since 2009, more than 250 million books have been shared in Little Free Libraries across the world. Click here to find a copy of "The Dead Romantics" at a Little Free Library location near you.
1. The Ghostwriter
EVERY GOOD STORY has a few secrets.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Sometimes they’re secrets about love, secrets about family, secrets about murder—some so inconse quential they barely feel like secrets at all, but monumental to the per son keeping them. Every person has a secret. Every secret has a story.
And in my head, every story has a happy ending.
If I were the heroine in a story, I would tell you that I had three secrets.
One, I hadn’t washed my hair in four days. Two, my family owned a funeral home.
And three, I was the ghostwriter of megabestselling, critically acclaimed romance novelist Ann Nichols.
And I was sorely late for a meeting.
“Hold the door!” I shouted, bypassing the security personnel at the front desk, and sprinting toward the elevators.
“Miss!” the befuddled security guard shouted after me. “You have to check in! You can’t just—”
“Florence Day! Falcon House Publishers! Call up to Erin and she’ll approve me!” I tossed over my shoulder, and slid into one of the elevators, cactus in tow.
As the doors closed, a graying man in a sharp business suit eyed the plant in question.
“A gift to butter up my new editor,” I told him, because I wasn’t someone who just carried around small succulents wherever she went. “God knows it’s not for me. I kill everything I touch, includ ing three cactuses—cacti?—already.”
The man coughed into his hand and angled himself away from me. The woman on the other side said, as if to console me, “That’s lovely, dear.”
Which meant that this was a terrible gift. I mean, I figured it was, but I had been stranded for too long on the platform waiting for the B train, having a small panic attack with my brother on the phone, when a little old lady with rollers in her hair tottered by selling cacti for like a dollar a pop and I bought things when I was nervous. Mainly books but—I guess now I bought houseplants, too. The guy in the business suit got off on the twentieth floor, and the woman who held the elevator left on the twentyseventh. I took a peek into their worlds before the doors closed again, im maculate white carpet or buffed wooden floors and glass cases where old books sat idly. There were quite a few publishers in the building, both online and in print, and there was even a newspaper on one of the floors. I could’ve been in the elevator with the editor for Nora Roberts for all I knew.
Whenever I came to visit the offices, I was always hyperaware of how people took one look at me—in my squeaky flats and darned hose and toobig plaid overcoat—and came to the conclusion that I was not tall enough to ride this ride.
Which . . . fair. I stood at around five foot two, and everything I wore was bought for comfort and not style. Rose, my roommate, always joked that I was an eightyyearold in a twentyeightyearold body.
Sometimes I felt it.
Nothing said Netflix and chill quite like an orthopedic pillow and a wineglass of Ensure.
When the elevator doors opened onto the thirtyseventh floor, I was alone, grasping my cactus like a life vest at sea. The offices of Falcon House Publishers were pristine and white, with two fluo rescent bookshelves on either side of the entryway, touting all of the bestsellers and literary masterpieces they’d published over their seventyfiveyear history.
At least half of the left wall was covered in books by Ann Nichols—The Sea‑Dweller’s Daughter, The Forest of Dreams, The For‑ ever House, ones my mom sighed over when I was a teenager writ ing my smutty Lestat fanfic. Next to them were Ann’s newer books, The Probability of Love, A Rake’s Guide to Getting the Girl (I was most proud of that title), and The Kiss at the Midnight Matinee. The glass reflected my face in the book covers, a pale white and sleepdeprived young woman with dirty blond hair pulled up in a messy bun and dark circles under tired brown eyes, in a colorful scarf and an oversized beige sweater that made me look like I was the guest speaker at the Yarn of the Month Club and not one of the most distinguished publishing houses in the world.
Technically, I wasn’t the guest here. Ann Nichols was, and I was what everyone guessed was her lowly assistant.
And I had a meeting to get to.
I stood in the lobby awkwardly, the cactus pressed to my chest, as the darkhaired receptionist, Erin, held up a finger and finished her call. Something about salad for lunch. When she finally hung up, she looked up from her screen and recognized me. “Florence!” she greeted with a bright smile. “Nice to see you up and about! How’s Rose? That party last night was brutal.”
I tried not to wince, thinking about Rose and I stumbling in at 3:00 a.m. “It sure was something.”
“Is she still alive?”
“Rose has survived worse.”
Erin laughed. Then she glanced around the lobby, as if looking for someone else. “Is Mrs. Nichols not going to make it today?”
“Oh no, she’s still up in Maine, doing her . . . Maine thing.” Erin shook her head. “Gotta wonder what it’s like, you know? Being the Ann Nicholses and Stephen Kings of the world.”
“Must be nice,” I agreed. Ann Nichols hadn’t left her small little island in Maine in . . . five years? As long as I’d been ghost writing for her, anyway.
I tugged down the multicolored scarf wrapped around my mouth and neck. While it wasn’t winter anymore, New York al ways had one last kick of cold before spring, and that had to be today, and I was beginning to nervously sweat under my coat.
“Someday,” Erin added, “you’re going to tell me how you be came the assistant for the Ann Nichols.”
I laughed. “I’ve told you before—a Craigslist ad.” “I don’t believe that.”
I shrugged. “C’est la vie.”
Erin was a few years younger than me, her Columbia University publishing certificate proudly displayed on her desk. Rose had met her a while back on a dating app, and they’d hooked up a few times, though now from what I heard they were strictly friends.
The phone began to ring on her desk. Erin said quickly, “Any way, you can go ahead—still remember the way, yeah?”
“Perf. Good luck!” she added, and answered the call in her best customer service voice. “Good morning! You’ve reached Falcon House Publishers, this is Erin speaking . . .”
And I was left to my own devices.
I knew where to go, because I’d visited the old editor enough times to be able to walk the halls blindfolded. Tabitha Margraves had retired recently, at the absolute worst time, and with every step closer to the office, I held tighter on to the poor cactus.
Tabitha knew I ghostwrote for Ann. She and Ann’s agent were the only ones who did—well, besides Rose, but Rose didn’t count. Had Tabitha passed that nugget of secrecy to my new editor? God, I hoped so. Otherwise this was going to be an awkward first meeting. The hallway was lined with frosted glass walls that were sup posed to be used for privacy, but they provided extraordinarily little of that. I heard editors and marketing and PR shadows talking in hushed tones about acquisitions, marketing plans, contractual ob ligations, tours . . . reallocating money from one book’s budget to another.
The things in publishing that no one ever really talked about.
Publishing was all very romantic until you found yourself in publishing. Then it was just another kind of corporate hell.
I passed a few assistant editors sitting in their square cubicles, manuscripts piled almost to the top of their half walls, looking frazzled as they ate carrots and hummus for lunch. The salads Erin ordered must not have included them, not that editorial assistants made enough to afford eating out every day. The offices were set up in a hierarchy of sorts, and the farther you went, the higher the salary. At the end of the hall, I almost didn’t recognize the office. Gone were the floral wreath hanging on the door for good luck and the stickers plastered to the frosted glass privacy wall that read Try Not, Do! and Romance Isn’t Dead!
For a second, I thought I’d made a wrong turn, until I recognized the intern in her small cubicle, stuffing ARCs—Advance Reader Copies, basically rough drafts of a book in paperback form—into envelopes with a harried sort of frenzy that bordered on tears.
My new editor didn’t waste any time peeling off those decals and tossing the good luck wreath in the trash. I didn’t know if that was a good sign—or bad.
Toward the end of her tenure at Falcon House, Tabitha Mar graves and I butted heads more often than not. “Romance believes in happy endings. Tell Ann that,” she would say, tongue in cheek, because, for all intents and purposes, I was Ann.
“Well Ann doesn’t anymore,” I would quip back, and by the time she turned in her resignation and retired down to Florida, I’m sure we were both plotting each other’s demise. She still believed in love—somehow, impossibly.
And I could see right through the lie.
Love was putting up with someone for fifty years so you’d have someone to bury you when you died. I would know; my family was in the business of death.
Tabitha called me crass when I told her that. I said I was realistic.
There was a difference.
I sat down in one of the two chairs outside of the office, the cactus in my lap, to wait and scroll through my Instagram feed. My younger sister had posted a photo of her and my hometown mayor—a golden retriever—and I felt a pang of homesickness. For the weather, the funeral parlor, my mom’s amazing fried chicken.
I wondered what she was cooking tonight for dinner.
Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t hear the office door open until a distinctly male voice said, “Sorry for the wait, please come in.”
Excerpted from The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2022