ARC Review: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

Better Homes and HauntingsTitle: Better Homes and Hauntings

Author: Molly Harper

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Pocket Books on June 24, 2013

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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.

When I was in the tenth grade I got my first job at a public library as a page, basically shelving books all evening and ogling them in all their glory. Since I worked in every section, I often came across books I never would have seen otherwise. Working in the romance section, I came across Molly Harper’s Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs: it’s a paranormal romance about a children’s librarian from Kentucky who gets turned into a vampire after she’s mistaken for a deer and shot. It’s hilarious, trust me. Anyway. There I am, 14 years old and furtively reading my trashy romance book feeling embarrassed and somewhat guilty. I was a smart girl, and smart girls didn’t read vampire romances! Let’s just say that I know better now: smart girls read whatever the hell they want.

And since they promise humor, wit, verve, and frothy fun, I’ll always want to read books by Molly Harper. Harper’s latest offering, Better Homes and Hauntings, is a departure from her recent work since it isn’t set in the fictional town of Half-Moon Hollow but on an island in New Hampshire. This island is home to the Crane’s Nest, a luxurious estate built by Deacon Whitney’s ancestors several generations before.

Harper’s signature witty repartee between characters makes up for some of the cheesier elements of this cute paranormal romance. In the past I’ve found that she usually sticks to one first-person narrator, but in this volume Harper switches it up: while landscape architect Nina remains the predominant voice, all of the major characters have narrative sections. Normally I’d find the sheer number of POVs to be overwhelming, but since many of them are little more than a few pages interspersed between Nina’s narration, I thought it worked beautifully. Much of the romantic plot of Better Homes and Hauntings hinged on the characters changing perceptions of one another so actually being able to see their understandings of one another grow was essential.

Each character had a distinct voice and I found myself charmed by them all (except for the super creepy Rick, but he was supposed to be a creeper). I was especially fond of Cindy Ellis, the slightly OCD owner of the Cinderella Cleaning Service. Relentlessly cleaning up after her co-workers and sassily asserting that there’s a rightful place for everything, she was a woman after my own heart. I confess that I’m a bit of a neat freak.

While characterization is the shining achievement in Better Homes and Hauntings, the hauntings aspect of was quite well done. There is clearly a malevolent spirit present at Crane’s Nest, but it’s unclear who that spirit was in life: Catherine Whitney, her husband Gerald, or her alleged lover Jack. The various members of the work crew become so entangled in this mystery that they take it upon themselves to solve it by rifling through the possessions of the late Whitney’s, uncovering all manner of family secrets.

Although the ending was decidedly heavy on the cheese, I only really had one qualm with this book, which was the treatment of the Whitney family curse. At one point Nina and Deacon’s cousin Dotty discuss the Whitney family curse and Nina questions its validity since Deacon is a billionaire, and Dotty gives a supremely unsatisfactory response. This entire plot thread seemingly does not apply to Deacon, the social media mogul, yet his cousin Dotty is cursed and unable to finish a single project that she starts. Maybe I’m just a dumb-dumb, but if Harper explained why the curse seemingly did not apply to Deacon, I missed it. And I was paying pretty close attention.

If you like paranormal romances and quick wit, Better Homes and Hauntings ­is the perfect way to wrap up a tough week. I read it in one sitting on a Sunday night, and I remain convinced that a Molly Harper book is all it takes to cure the “Monday’s coming” blues.

*Thank you to Netgalley and Pocket Books for providing this digital review copy. As always, I am not compensated for my reviews and my opinions are my own.

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