A Conversational Review of Not Quite Dead (A Lowcountry Ghost Story # 1)

Cover_Not Quite DeadA broken engagement sends Graciela Harper crawling back to Heron Creek with her tail between her legs, but finds the sleepy little town too changed to set her life right. Not even her budding drinking problem can obscure her Gramps’s failing health, or erase the mental picture of her first love happily married to her childhood best friend. To top it all off, she’s having a heck of time convincing the town’s dashing young mayor of her unfit-for-dating status.

When the ghost of 18th century lady pirate Anne Bonny starts insisting on a near daily audience, Graciela has to confront something else she never expected—being certifiably nuts at twenty-five years old.

Her brand new “I don’t give a crap” attitude makes it easy to dismiss the mysterious threats that seem to be tied to her search for more information on the long dead pirate, but when her family becomes a target, Gracie knows she needs to find out why the ghost insists on being a constant, reeking companion.

If Graciela can put aside her prejudice against people without a pulse, she may discover that Anne Bonny’s problems are intricately linked with her own. The past harbors answers could help the cantankerous spirit find closure, but she is, after all, already dead. If Graciela doesn’t move fast, she might find herself doing the haunting, instead of the other way around.

 Not Quite Dead (A Lowcountry Ghost Story # 1)  by Lyla Payne


Read an excerpt from the book and learn more about the author from my earlier spotlight post:  Book Tour & Giveaway for Not Quite Dead


A Conversation with Myself about Not Quite Dead

When I write a review of a book, I try to think about what readers would really want to know, and then I incorporate my reactions into a more formal, organized essay-like response.  However, today, I’ve decided to stray from this format, and do a Q&A -style review where I’ve compiled a list of questions I would most likely ask someone who has read the book, so I could determine whether or not I would choose to read it. Since in this case, I have read Not Quite Dead, I will be the one providing the answers, and hopefully, by the end of the conversation, you will have greater insight into what to expect from today’s book selection.

So, Barbara Ann, what led you to decide to read Not Quite Dead

When I discovered the plot of the book involved the ghost of the infamous female pirate, Anne Bonny, I knew I wanted to read the book.  I’m a fan of pirate history and enjoy reading about the men and the few women, such as Anne Bonny, who lived their lives as buccaneers upon the high seas. Many of these individuals were drawn into this lifestyle by promises of adventure and fortune, and for them, the risks involved still outweighed  the drudgery of life on land and the limited freedoms many of them would have otherwise had if they had remained within the confines of society and the law.

Anne Bonny is one of, if not the, most notorious female pirate in history. However, after she and her crew were finally caught and arrested, only she and Mary Read, another woman on their ship were able to avoid execution, and only because both women were pregnant. There’s lots of speculation about what became of Anne afterward, but there’s no documented proof.

I’ve always been fascinated by Anne Bonny because she refused to be bound by the societal constraints placed upon women during her lifetime, and she chose a form of freedom that allowed her to be true to herself, even though she caused quite a scandal and was a major embarrassment to her plantation-owner father in the 1700s.  I even have my own Anne Bonny figurine I picked up several years ago during one of the numerous pirate festivals I attended.

Anne Bonny Figure

Does the book focus more on Anne Bonny’s story or on Graciela Harper who has returned to the lowcountry, where she encounters Bonny’s ghost who has supposedly been haunting the area for a long time?

What makes this book such an interesting read is that the author has created two parallel story lines:

  • Graciela has experienced some major setbacks in her life and has returned to the only place she has ever considered home to care for her ailing grandfather. Although her grandfather welcomes her with open arms, Graciela still struggles to reconnect with her estranged family and friends.
  • Whether the real Anne Bonny ever returned to S.C. remains to be seen, but in this book, her ghost still lingers in the area and refuses to let go of this world until Graciela helps her find the peace she seeks. In creating Anne Bonny’s ghost, the author provides her own version of what may have happened to Anne Bonny centuries ago.

The story begins by describing Graciela’s return home and her struggles with depression and alcohol.  When Anne’s ghost begins relentlessly haunting Graciela, the focus shifts to Graciela’s desire to know why Anne has chosen her for help and as the plot progresses, readers discover how and why both stories are entwined.

What’s the ghost of Anne Bonny like? Is she friendly or scary?

Anne’s ghost sure isn’t the beauty I envisioned, even with her red hair and green eyes. Graciela always knows when Anne is about to make an appearance because of the awful briny smell that precedes her.  For some reason, only Graciela can see her, and Anne is a scary ghost you don’t want to cross. If you’ve read the rumors about Anne, she was known to have a temper and didn’t hesitate to inflict violence, and her ghost also has those same attributes.  Over time, though Graciela and Anne become accustomed to each other and form a tenuous partnership to find answers about Anne’s legacy.

Why does Anne’s ghost think Graciela can help her when Graciela’s own life is spiraling out of control when she first arrives home? What exactly is the connection between them?

Anne has a very good reason for choosing Graciela to help her, but I can’t tell you about their connection because it would spoil the book for you.  However, I can guarantee that by the end of the book, you will know why Anne’s spirit is in a state of unrest and why she specifically needs Graciela’s help.

Let me also add that Graciela is similar to Anne in more ways than you might expect.  Yes, Graciela is a mess when she comes back to S.C. because, like Anne, she’s struggling to find her own identity.  Although it seems likely that when a depressed woman who drinks heavily begins seeing a ghost, she would just go right over the edge, this isn’t the case for Graciela. Ironically, Anne’s ghost gives Graciela a reason to get her act together, to have a purpose, and to grow stronger.  Both Graciela and Anne have similar struggles in their efforts to stand up for themselves and not be boxed into roles someone else has defined for them.  Just like Anne once did, Graciela gains more self-confidence and begins to transform into the independent woman she has always longed to become.

What’s the romance like between Graciela and Beauregard?

Well, Graciela and Beauregard don’t exactly get off to the best start when they first meet. Although the chemistry between them is there, their relationship is more of a friendship with just a touch of romance. Gabriella just isn’t ready to be in a romantic relationship at this point in her life. Even knowing about her past and the gossip her neighbor loves to spread about her, Beau still wants to get close to Gabriella. He also scores some huge bonus points with Graciela (and me as well) because he really does believe her when she finally gets the nerve to tell him she sees Anne Bonny’s ghost.

Would you recommend this book to others?

Yes, I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy a spooky ghost story that blends a bit of history, local legend, and the paranormal into an engaging and suspenseful read.  The resolution of the story occurs in the epilogue, which wraps up the plot of this story very well, but does leave some of the story threads that are introduced still hanging.  I expect the author will continue to develop these unresolved aspects  in the next installment. The author also foreshadows the plot of the next book in the series, and it seems Graciela may just wind up having a career as ghost whisperer.

Source: I received an ecopy of this book from the author to provide an honest review.




Purchase from Amazon: Not Quite Dead (A Lowcountry Ghost Story)


Related Links


The lowcountry area of Charleston is one of my absolute favorite places to visit. The area is rich in historic significance and steeped in local legends and ghostly tales.  Here are some links that might catch your interest:

South Carolina Lowcountry


I really like this particular image of Anne Bonny from web.fantasy.net


“Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.” –(what Anne allegedly said to Jack Rackman before his excecution)

Learn more about Ann Cormac and how she evolved into a legendary pirate and the numerous speculations about her notoriety from the following  websites:

“Anne Bonny” from Encyclopedia Britannica

Biography Anne Bonny from Humanities 360

“If There’s a Man Among Ye: The Tale of Pirate Queens Anne Bonny and Mary Read” from Smithsonian.com

“Scandal: Anne Bonny” – from Unusual Historicals Blog


In the book, the author mentions  a restaurant favored by the locals called “The Wreck of Jack and Anne” – a reference to the infamous pirate couple: Calico Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny. In reality, if you visit this area, you will find an actual restaurant right outside of Charleston, in Mount Pleasant called The Wreck officially known as The Wreck of Richand & Charlene. If you ever get a chance to drop by there, I highly recommend the She-Crab Soup.

Other Links:

Historical Female Pirates

Biography of John “Calico Jack” Rackham


 additional books you might like

Related Historical Fiction based on the life of Anne Bonny I’ve Added to My Reading List 

Click on the book cover pics to learn more at Amazon

Anne Bonny: The Legend of a Female Pirate by Karena Vantana (novel inspired by the screenplay Anne Bonny and the Pirates of Providence by Seth Foreman)

Heart of a Pirate: A Novel of Anne Bonny by Pamela Johnson

Pirate Spirit: The Adventures of Anne Bonney by Jeffery Williams

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