REVIEW: Happy Medium by Sarah Adler

Posted April 23rd, 2024 by in Blog, Contemporary Romance, Review / 6 comments


In Happy Medium by Sarah Adler, Gretchen Acorn grew up to become a con artist like the rest of her family before her. Not that what she does nowadays is anything like the grifts her father taught her as a young girl. Nope. After life knocked her around a few times too many, she decided that she would only con someone if it turned out to benefit both of them in some way, as with one of her recent clients, Mrs. Van Alst. She convinces Gretchen to go to her friend’s rural goat farm and rid the property of the ghost that’s been haunting it for decades. But little did Gretchen know that the farm’s owner, Charlie Waybill, isn’t an elderly man as she first thought, and that there also truly is a ghost residing there. And she can see and communicate with him.

“I have one Rule I live by, so I don’t wind up doing anything I’ll regret in the pursuit of money. I always have to leave people better off than I found them.”

Gretchen is oddly enough pretty smitten by Charlie from their first unfortunate meeting. Charlie, though? He’s not too keen on her at all, making it known that he’s on to her sneaky cons. So, when she attempts to explain that there really is a ghost (named Everett) wandering the farm and a real curse that could end Charlie’s life if he sells and leaves the property, you can imagine it doesn’t go over well. Gretchen is on a mission, though. She’s determined to save Charlie’s life, save the adorable goats, as well as help Everett move on. But it seems like the only way to do so is to put her heart and herself out there. Something she’s not been willing to do in recent years after being burned badly. Gretchen will have to figure out if she has it in her to be one hundred percent honest and risk getting hurt in order to help Charlie and Everett.

“I’d rather not have pictures of me on the Instagram.”
“Oh, there are definitely going to be pics of you on ‘the Instagram,’ babe. A tattooed and bearded goat farmer? It’s gonna be a virtual panty-dropping spree.”
“I hate everything you just said.”

Happy Medium was a fun literary adventure. Part ghost story, part rom-com, Sarah Adler created a trio of characters that will be sure to capture readers’ hearts with their hilarity, humility, and genuine connection.

‘This is all getting wilder and wilder. First a ghost, now a family curse with life-and-death stakes? Gretchen pinches her arm again. Ouch. Nope, still not dreaming.’

CW: View Spoiler »

I was honestly a bit nervous to start reading Happy Medium. Not because of Sarah Adler’s writing style as I thoroughly enjoyed her debut novel, Mrs. Nash’s Ashes, last year. Nor was it about the ghost part of the story. I’m all about reading magical realism and paranormal. It was the fact that our heroine, Gretchen, was a con artist. I wasn’t sure I could warm up to someone who was grifting wealthy elderly women posing as a medium, supposedly talking to their relatives who had passed on.

Thankfully, though, Adler positioned this at a time when Gretchen was already questioning her profession. And it was explained that she had a Rule she lived by: she would only ‘work’ with people knowing she could leave them better than when they met, like helping people overcome grief or believing in themselves and their future. That went a long way to smooth over Gretchen’s chosen job. It was also interesting that the skills she learned over the years helped her at the goat farm, in dealing with Charlie’s family curse and financial woes. It was complicated–and I got perturbed with Charlie a few times–but it was easy to see he and Gretchen were a match made in heaven.

Right away I realized that somehow the ghost of the story, Everett, was going to be my favorite character. While I also loved Gretchen and Charlie, it was the mischievous specter who had me routinely laughing out loud and shaking my head at his antics–same as Gretchen was doing in each comical scene. It was when Everett showed his more thoughtful side, letting on how lonely he’d been with no one to talk to or who could see him for almost a hundred years that my heart went out to him. And that theme–loneliness–was one that permeated all three main characters’ lives at some point. So even though there were more laughs than sad moments, there was still enough depth woven in to make this a well-rounded novel.

QOTD: Have you ever visited a medium or been to a seance before?

Book Info:

Publication: Published: April 30th, 2024 | by Berkley |

A clever con woman must convince a skeptical, sexy farmer of his property’s resident real-life ghost if she’s to save them all from a fate worse than death, in this delightful new novel from the author of Mrs. Nash’s Ashes .

Fake spirit medium Gretchen Acorn is happy to help when her best ( wealthiest) client hires her to investigate the unexplained phenomena preventing the sale of her bridge partner’s struggling goat farm. Gretchen may be a fraud, but she’d like to think she’s a beneficent one. So if “cleansing” the property will help a nice old man finally retire and put some much-needed cash in her pockets at the same time, who’s she to say no?

Of course, it turns out said bridge partner isn’t the kindly AARP member Gretchen imagined—Charlie Waybill is young, hot as hell, and extremely unconvinced that Gretchen can communicate with the dead. (Which, fair.) Except, to her surprise, Gretchen finds herself face-to-face with the very real, very chatty ghost that’s been wreaking havoc during every open house. And he wants her to help ensure Charlie avoids the same family curse that’s had Everett haunting Gilded Creek since the 1920s.

Now, Gretchen has one month to convince Charlie he can’t sell the property. Unfortunately, hard work and honesty seem to be the way to win over the stubborn farmer—not exactly Gretchen’s strengths. But trust isn’t the only thing growing between them, and the risk of losing Charlie to the spirit realm looms over Gretchen almost as annoyingly as Everett himself. To save the goat farm, its friendly phantom, and the man she’s beginning to love, Gretchen will need to pull off the greatest con of her being fully, genuinely herself.



6 Responses to “REVIEW: Happy Medium by Sarah Adler”

  1. psu1493

    No, I haven’t visited a medium or attended a seance, but they do sound interesting. Thank you for the review of this story.

  2. erahime

    I enjoyed reading this lovely review, Team HJ. And no, hadn’t interacted with a medium or attended a seance before.

  3. Glenda M

    I’m going to have to read this book! I have never been to a seance or visited a medium, but I’ve got friends who have multiple times