Title: Better Homes and Hauntings
Author: Molly Harper
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Audiobook Length: 8 hours, 58 minutes
Genre: Romance; Fantasy
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 24 June 2014
Bottom Line: Different from her normal story but still lots of fun
“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.”
Thoughts: In her latest novel, Molly Harper veers slightly from her traditional storytelling method to share a new type of story for her fans. Better Homes and Hauntings is not the paranormal romantic comedy at which she excels. It is humorous and romantic, but it is a haunted house story, one without quirky and adorable ghosts. These ghosts are out for blood, and they intend to get it.
This departure from the genre that made her famous is refreshing and will hopefully attract even more fans to her delightful writing style and fantastic snark. Her characters remain as fun and real as ever, and the romance unfolds quickly but plausibly. However, placing the paranormal elements on the periphery of the story, as an element of danger and seriousness versus humor changes the entire feel of the story. The danger feels more urgent. Not only that, but the entire story has an air of possibility about it that does not exist in her vampire or werewolf series. Those series are clearly meant to be tongue-in-cheek and boisterous. Better Homes and Hauntings may have a cute title, but it is clearly not as sarcastic as is her wont.
However, just because the danger seems more imminent and real does not mean that the story does not have its moments of lightheartedness and humor. Nina and Deacon’s banter, especially when it veers into geeky and sci-fi territories, is absolutely charming. Deacon’s cousin, Dottie, lives up to her name and provides some much-needed comic relief among all the sexual tension on the island. Deacon may be one of the richest bachelors alive, but Ms. Harper keeps the entire story grounded in realism as Nina and Cassie struggle with business ownership, bills, debt, and other very real expenses. The five of them have a great dynamic that is just a pleasure to watch unfold.
Amanda Ronconi can narrate every word Ms. Harper writes. She understands the characters and portrays that understanding through her performances. She captures the sarcasm and the fragility of the characters so well and delivers the glib one-liners as if she created them on the spot. It is as if Ms. Harper’s novels were made for Ms. Ronconi and vice versa. They remain one of the best audiobook team in the business.
Better Homes and Hauntings is Ms. Harper’s first foray into a more serious paranormal story, and she does it with the same skill and humor that one expects. The haunted island is surprisingly creepy, but this just makes her genre change that much more exciting. For, this story is less comedy and more thriller, less about the ghosts and more about the tragedy surrounding them. Yet, Ms. Harper balances this seriousness with her fantastic dialogue and great characters. There is a little something for everyone in Better Homes and Hauntings, making it the perfect book for new readers to try.