Format Read: eGalley
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: June 24, 2014
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Blurb from goodreads:
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 nineteenth-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.
I enjoy Harper's urban fantasy books; they're fun, witty, and a welcome relief from all those dark, intense, angsty urban fantasy and paranormal romance books that flood the market. That said, her books tend toward fluffy and not a lot of depth. That combined with her humor made for a less than stellar mix with the Gothic story she was telling in "Better Homes and Hauntings" (though I do like the title).
I tried to stay away from reviews before reading the book but even so I heard mixed buzz about it - wonderful! meh! couldn't finish it! So, one the one hand I was looking forward to the book and on the other hand, I was worried. Below you'll find what I found to be the good and the bad in the book.
1) Humor. Harper's humor, while sometimes over the top, works for me. It can be snarky, silly, smart, or absurd and she uses it well to defuse tensions between characters or to make them more real.
2) Geekiness. One of the couples, there are two romantic couples, are a pair of geeks and I loved it. I am happy as a Horta that geeks and nerds are trendy and getting the loving they deserve. I love that Deacon has a collectible collection, is socially awkward, and needs someone to help him with his outfits. He may be awkward, but even so he's a good friend and a good relative, and his nerdy tendencies actually allow him to play a heroic role towards the end of the story.
3) The characters. Harper does quirky well and all of the characters are quirky in one way or another. They are fun, interesting, and never dull. Nina, Deacon's love interest, is smart, strong, seems quiet but is snarky and resourceful, and can usually recognize when she's being an idiot. Cindy holds a grudge but eventually realizes she's as classist as the people she despises and Jack is just sweet in his flirting and courting attempts.
1) If you like Gothic stories and Gothic romances, this is more like Gothic Lite. I read a steady diet of Gothic romances in high school and Harper doesn't quite hit the mark. There are some scenes that are a bit eerie or mildly suspenseful but they just aren't dark enough. This is also where Harper's humor can be a disadvantage; it detracts from the suspense and the horror.
2) The characters. Yes, I put them in the pros section but they needed some work. None of the characters had a lot of depth and that may have been because the were so many of them and Harper tried to give them all page time. Additionally, our villains, both living and dead, were cliches and stereotypes. There was nothing to distinguish them.
3) Story overload. Harper tried to do too much - we have two romances, Deacon and Nina and Jake and Cindy; what is essentially a coming of age story for Deacon's grown cousin Dotty; someone stalking Nina; the mystery of who murdered Deacon's many times great-grandmother Catherine and why; and the ghosts who are currently haunting the house, plus a treasure hunt. It's a well stuffed turkey and I love both turkey and stuffing but there was too much stuffing and not enough turkey.
"Better Homes and Hauntings" is Gothic lite; heavy on the humor and witty dialogue, moderate romantic elements, cliched suspense, and mild Gothic elements. It's a solid 3 stars, nothing special. I enjoyed the humor, it was a fast and easy read, but it needed more story and less quirkiness.
Some fave quotes:
"I love you too much to strangle you." "Aw, that's so sweet."
"You seem to be afraid of expensive jewelry. So making your life a little easier is going to be how I show you I love you, all day, every day, for the rest of our lives." "You're proposing to me with a cell phone?" she said, her eyebrows raised. "If you think about it, they're both long-term contracts." "Well, how could a girl resist an offer like that?" she asked, taking the phone out of the box.
Dotty ran her fingers through her hair and gave a forced, cheerful smile. "We're playing Vodka Pursuit!" Nina asked, "What is Vodka Pursuit?" "It's like Trivial Pursuit, only with more vodka. It will cheer everybody up, trust me. It will help."
"Oh come on, I've seen the two of you together. It's like watching a nature documentary on scientists trying to get the two most socially awkward people in the world to mate."