BETTER HOMES AND HAUNTINGS
by Molly HarperReady by Amanda Ronconi
Author of the beloved Half-Moon Hollow series of vampire romances (Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs), Molly Harper has created a standalone paranormal romance in which a dilapidated haunted house could bring star-crossed lovers together - if it doesn't kill them first!
When Nina Linden is hired to landscape a private island off the New England coast, she sees it as her chance to rebuild her failing business after being cheated by her unscrupulous ex. She never expects that her new client, software mogul Deacon Whitney, would see more in her than just a talented gardener. Deacon has paid top dollar to the crews he's hired to renovate the desolate Whitney estate - he had to, because the bumps, thumps, and unexplained sightings of ghostly figures in 19th-century dress are driving workers away faster than he can say "Boo."
But Nina shows no signs of being scared away, even as she experiences some unnerving apparitions herself. And as the two of them work closely together to restore the mansion's faded glory, Deacon realizes that he's found someone who doesn't seem to like his fortune more than himself - while Nina may have finally found the one man she can trust with her bruised and battered heart.
But something on the island doesn't believe in true love...and if Nina and Deacon can't figure out how to put these angry spirits to rest, their own love doesn't stand a ghost of a chance.
Molly Harper writes Southern charm like nobody's business in her snarky Jane Jameson series. However, her latest tale Better Homes and Hauntings, takes her readers north of the Mason Dixon line to the coast of New England. Do not be disuaded by the fact that this novel is a stand alone with no relation to her other stories...or that there are no vamps or shifters of any kind. It is, in fact, something of a departure from her previous writing altogether. And I think I kinda liked it!
The cast of characters in this quasi-paranormal mystery is the standard eclectic fare for Harper. Unlike other stories, however, the third person POV allows the reader to see what each character is experiencing. And on audio, this can get a little confusing - especially if there is a dream sequence or ghostly interference! Ronconi does a super job with voice and inflection to help with the range of all these characters. In fact, Amanda Ronconi IS Molly Harper for me - much as Loralei King is Charley Davidson and CJ Critt is Stephanie Plum (yes, I know Loralei King is Stephanie Plum as well, but I loved CJ Critt in the early novels!)
The story in a nutshell? Nina owns a landscape design business. Cindy owns a cleaning/organizing service. Both are hired by Deacon Whitney to restore the house and gardens of Crane’s Nest, a family home on Whitney Island that had been abandoned generations ago due to loss of life and funds. The house is said to be haunted and the family cursed.
Deacon Whitney made a fortune creating his own social networking site and is the inheritor of the house. His cousin Dotty shows up as she wants to write a book about the history of the house and the tragedy that occurred, and Deacon’s best friend Jake, who is working with the plans, all plan to spend the summer together on the island with Nina and Cindy to get everything done. Yes, there are ghosts, making the story a little more interesting.
Molly Harper write great snarky dialogue, fun characters, interesting relationships and quirky situations that never fail to delight. Parts of this novel lagged a bit and others got confusing when the mix of real life and paranormal influence merged or when past and present stories collided - perhaps that was just a glitch that happens when a novel is read aloud. For me, it wasnt enough to stop the story. If you enjoyed her other books, than you’ll enjoy this one as well. I liked the conclusion to the mystery and appreciated the epilogue style ending. I encourage readers to check out audio books, especially if they have a commute that needs help passing the time!
RATING: Four Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries. Many thanks.