ORDER A COPY: A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: May 28, 2013
Paperback: 368 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Nola Leary would have been content to stay in Kilcairy, Ireland, healing villagers at her family’s clinic with a mix of magic and modern medicine. But a series of ill-timed omens and a deathbed promise to her grandmother have sent her on a quest to Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky, to secure her family’s magical potency for the next generation. Her supernatural task? To unearth four artifacts hidden by her grandfather before a rival magical family beats her to it.
Complication One: The artifacts are lost somewhere in vampire Jane Jameson’s occult bookshop. Complication Two: Her new neighbor Jed Trudeau keeps turning up half-naked at the strangest times, a distraction Nola doesn’t need. And teaming up with a real-life Adonis is as dangerous as it sounds, especially since Jed’s got the face of an angel and the abs of a washboard. Can Nola complete her mission before falling completely under his spell?
Nola Leary has traveled all the way from the small Village of Kilcairy, Ireland to the small Town of Half Moon Hollow, KY, to find Gilbert Wainwright. On her deathbed, Nola’s grandmother, Nana Fee, confessed that as a young woman she had a passionate affair Gilbert Wainwright while he was searching for weredeer, which culminated in the birth of Nola’s mother. Not only that, but Fiona also gave over the family’s mystical treasures to Mr. Wainwright for safe keeping.
You see, Nola is a witch and centuries ago, Nola’s family used these objects to bind the Kerrigan Family from using their powers for harm. But as all mystical bindings go, the binding must be refreshed every 100 years on the night of the summer solstice. If the Kerrigan Family finds the objects first, they can use these Elements to bind Nola’s family powers for the next 100 years.
Now Nola is standing outside of the now deceased Gilbert Wainwright’s store, Specialty Books, hoping and praying that Mr. Wainwright hasn’t sold off her family’s treasures, where she meets the new proprietor, Jane Jameson-Nightingale, who isn’t ready to trust another previously unknown relative of Mr. Wainwright who shows up at her door.
With the help of Jane, Andrea and Dick Chaney, they will search the black hole known as Mr. Wainwright stock room to try and find the four rather unremarkable objects in time to bind the Kerrigans before they are freed to wreak magical revenge on Nola’s family.
It is always so much fun to return to Half Moon Hollow. To quote Jeb, “It’s a bit like the mafia, only with snarky insults instead of cement shoes.” I love the interaction between all the characters in this series. Molly Harper adds a lot of fun into her writing.
There is a love interest here in the form of contractor, Jed Trudeau who is sharing the two-family house with Nola, and it is fun and flirty, but there is a lot more interaction between Nola and Jane and the gang rather than Jed. So in the end the romance is just a bonus to the main story of finding the magic objects in Jane’s store.
Received an ARC from abovethetreeline.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“It’s like the magical Hatfields and McCoys,” Andrea marveled.
“You’re not entirely wrong,” I admitted. “We lost people on both sides, to violence and curses. About three hundred years ago, the two matriarchs of the families met and agreed that matters had gone far enough. They selected four objects representing each of the elements and blessed them with magic from both sides. These objects, which they called the Elements, were scattered to the winds, given to strangers, sold to tinkers, that sort of thing. The matriarchs agreed that the family that found all four objects first would be able to bind the other branch.”
“Like magical Pokémon?” Andrea asked.
“If I wasn’t under an enormous amount of stress, I would find that funny,” I assured her. “The potential of losing our magic was a considerable risk, a risk I can only imagine was inspired by desperation. It took decades, but we rounded up the Elements first and bound the Kerrigans from doing magical harm. For the most part, they’re no more powerful than the average disenfranchised teenage who has seen The Craft once too often. The most they’re able to pull off is a stirring of air, which, honestly, could be done with a strategically place fan, so it’s not terribly impressive. But every one hundred years, on the night of the summer solstice, the binding has to be repeated by the family’s strongest witch. This leaves a small window of time in which the Kerrigans have a chance to obtain the objects and undo the binding, reversing it onto my family. They tried it once in the early 1900s, and my Nana Fee’s great-grandmother laid down a witchcraft bitch-slapping of epic proportions. I also hear there was a mighty nonmagical slap involved. And now it’s my generation’s turn, and by some bizarre accident of birth, the so-called strongest witch in my family happens to be sitting here in front of you.”
A Cheshire cat’s smile split Jane’s face. Andrea held up her hand and said, “No!”
“You don’t even know what I was going to ask!” Jane huffed.
“Whatever juvenile, ill-conceived test of her abilities you were about to demand could only end in tears.”
I stared at both of them. These were the people Mr. Wainwright had entrusted with his shop? They were the ones who were supposed to help me track down the Elements?
I was doomed.
“Sorry, Nola, you were saying?” Andrea asked, pouring me another cup of coffee.
“Under normal circumstances, the binding wouldn’t be a problem,” I said. “It’s just a minor incantation spoken over the artifacts. Around the time Mr. Wainwright visited all those years ago, Nana got rather worried about an increase in Kerrigan-related violence. She saw that he was trustworthy, that he was devoted to the pursuit of knowledge. So she took the objects out of the family vault and entrusted them to his care. She thought they would be safer with him.”
Both women winced, the corners of their mouths drawing back sharply. Jane said, “She probably should have rethought that. I don’t want to alarm you, but when I first got here, the shop looked like an episode of Extreme Hoarders: Book Edition.”
ORDER A COPY: The Undead In My Bed
Publisher: Pocket books
Publishing Date: September 25, 2012
Paperback: Approx. 416 pages
Rating: 4 stars (only reviewed Molly Harper’s story)
In “Undead Sublet” by Molly Harper, executive chef Tess Maitland is banned from her five-star kitchen in Chicago to recover from “exhaustion”. Choosing a random rental house in Half-Moon Hollow to spend time in, she’s unaware that the house comes with a strange man.
Even though Sam Masden’s ex-wife has rented the house out from under him, the divorce settlement allows him access to it for another ninety days. With Tess unable to go anywhere else, and Sam unwilling, a war of epic proportions is declared – and romantic sparks and heavy pots fly.
Chicago’s top chef Tess Maitland is taking a vacation. At least that’s what she’s going to call it. Maybe the stress and the long hours were getting to her and maybe the vegetables really weren’t singing showtunes—okay, they probably weren’t, but that was no reason the restaurant owners should force her to take a sabbatical, which is restaurant code for “breakdown.”
She rented a house in a little town of Half Moon Hollow to be near her old mentor. The house really does need some upkeep, but it might not be so bad for the month she plans to be here. Although it does creak a lot at night when it settles—wait, that sounds like the microwave. Maybe it’s a burglar…who wants a snack? There’s only one way to find out.
Well, her landlord mentioned the dishwasher, the washer/dryer, but didn’t mention that the house came with it’s own vampire, and Sam Masden doesn’t plan to leave until the divorce is final and the house is sold at the end of the month.
So now it becomes a battle of wills, and cheap tricks, to see who can force the other out of the house before the end of the month.
I enjoyed this as much as I did any of the other Nice Girl/Half Moon Hollow stories. I loved the tricks that Sam and Tess dreamed up against each other, some of which got a bit nasty. I also like that while Tess wasn’t with Sam at the house, she was around town hanging with Jane, Andrea and Jolene.
Unfortunately, because this was a short story, there just wasn’t enough time for a really decent amount of each and although I love Jane and the girls, this took away from the fun of watch Tess and Sam play tricks on each other, and also took away from the building relationship once they stopped bickering and started working together. It was broken down to a quick “so the days went by where we got into a routine…” So the romance part went from the trick playing part, to the staring longingly into each other eyes with little in between build up. So that felt forced and a little awkward at the end. You wanted them to get there, but there wasn’t enough there that you really feel it.
It was an enjoyable story. I just don’t feel it was the best one of her stories since it tried to do too much for a short story.
This is part of an anthology, but I received just this portion as a special Valentine’s gift from audible.com. The only thing that threw me was that I recognized the narrator, Sophie Eastlake. She narrated the Thea Harrison Elder Races series on audiobook. She does a good job, but since this was the only Molly Harper audiobook not narrated by Amanda Ronconi, the voices were different for Jane and the gang, and it kept making me go “Wait. Who’s that?”
This was copied off of the audiobook so I apologize for paragraphing and formatting issues.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Do you have any decency? You wanna hide my stuff. Fine. Use sleep deprivation to drive me into a psychotic episode. Allrighty then. But when you mess around with my pans, that’s going just on step too freaking far.”
“Really? This is what pushed you over the edge?” he asked blandly as he poured his warmed blood into a mug. “I messed around with your cookware.”
“You don’t touch a chef’s pans!” I shouted as he took a long drink, wincing as the blood rolled down his throat. I smiled sweetly pulling a carefully wrapped dropper bottle from my pocket and placing it on the counter in front of me.
“What the—“ he asked, clearing his throat and pulling at the collar of his plaid workshirt. By now he was feeling that tickle of discomfort near the back of his tongue. That feeling that something was definitely not right with his evening meal.
“Ever hear of something called ‘The Ghost Chilli’?” I asked. Rolling the plastic wrapped extract bottle between my thumb and forefinger. “In the pepper family it’s basically the crazy cousin who just got out of prison. Around a million units on the scoville heat scale.”
He gave me a confused frown and if I wasn’t mistaken there was just the hint of sweat popping out on his upper lip. I didn’t know vampires could sweat.
“That’s about 400 times hotter than the average jalapeño pepper.”
“What did you do?” He demanded, rubbing at his throat. With the rush of spicy blood to his cheeks, I could see what he had looked like as a human, ruddy and viral. Like something out of a hunky farmhand of the month calendar.
I cleared my own throat forcing myself to focus. This was war damn it. Dirty. Nasty. Non-sexy war.
“Well. I called my friend, Sikar, who works in my favorite spice shop and asked him where I could find something special.” I grinned nastily. “for my roommate. He just happened to know a story about 40 miles from here that carries extract of ghost chilli.”
“You put it in my blood bag?” He grunted, coughing and spluttering as the capsaicin set flame to his tongue. He reached into the fridge, tore open another bag and dumped the still cold contents into his mouth. I snickered.
“Not just that bag.”
“Uhh!” he cried. Dropping the doctored bag and running for the faucet. He stuck the sprayer into his mouth and turned it on full blast. When that failed to quell the heat raging through his mouth, he ran for the shower.
“Did I mention that water only makes the oil spread around?” I called.
I dropped the bottle into the trash. Thinking better of it, I fished the bottle out, emptied it and buried it in the backyard so he couldn’t use it against me later.
When I came back into the house, a very wet, very red Sam was practically vibrating with rage. His fangs were down and he looked every inch the dangerous vampire. I suddenly wondered about the wisdom of this weird little war, and it occurred to me that I should have had those worries before I pranked someone with superstrength.
“So? No yelling?” I asked, faking bravery as he glowered down at me. “No calling me names or making empty threats?”
“No.” He scooped his hands under the lines of my jaw and dragged me to him. I squeaked as his mouth clashed with mine, pulling my tongue into his mouth to dance with his. I braced myself against his bare chest, fingertips digging into the cool flesh. His lips dragged across mine and his tongue rippled over every ridge and bump of my mouth. He bit harshly down on my bottom lip, drawing just the tiniest bit of blood to the surface. I could feel my nipples blossoming into little points through my shirt as he pulled the blood from the wound. It was like some warm thread was running directly from my thighs to the flow of the blood and every time he pulled on it, that thread drew across my nerves with a luxurious tension. I was panting as if I’d run a marathon by the time he pulled away.
“What the hell was that?” I demanded. He leered, halfway between self-satisfied smirk and impish grin.
“I just wanted to share.”
And that’s when the tingling started. “Oh. Mother—“ I gasped as the chilli oil that now coated my lips and tongue began to burn.
ORDER A COPY: The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: July 31, 2012
Paperback: 356 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Iris Scanlon, Half-Moon Hollow’s only daytime vampire concierge, knows more about the undead than she’d like. Running all their daylight errands—from letting in the plumber to picking up some chilled O neg—gives her a look at the not-so-glamorous side of vampire life. Her rules are strict; relationships with vamps are strictly business, not friendship—and certainly not anything else. But then she finds her newest client, Cal, poisoned on his kitchen floor, and only Iris can help.
Cal – who would be devastatingly sexy, if Iris allowed herself to think that way – offers Iris a hefty fee for hiding him at her place until he figures out who wants him permanently dead. Even though he’s imperious, unfriendly and doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “employee” and “servant,” Iris agrees, and finds herself breaking more and more of her own rules to help him – particularly those concerning nudity.
Turns out what her quiet little life needed was some intrigue & romance—in the form of her very own stray vampire.
When her parents died leaving Iris Scanlon to take care of her younger sister, a very ambitious Iris decided to open a business as the daytime assistant to newly burgeoning vampire population. Her new company, Beeline, gave Iris a chance to show off her organization skills and the flexible hours are great so she is available to be there for her teenage sister, and she filled the growing need that Vampires had with dealing with things that can only be handled during daylight hours.
When she goes to meet her newest client, Mr. C. Calix, and drop off her service contract for his review, she immediately falls for him…I mean, literally falls over him when she finds him passed out on his floor. Someone has tried to poison Mr. Calix, the new investigator for the vampire counsel. It appears Cal’s investigation is getting to close for someone’s comfort.
Now weakened from his attempted poisoning, Cal convinces Iris to take him to her house so he has time to recover, and like it or not, Iris is drawn into Cal’s investigation since the sooner he solves the mystery of who is tampering with the vampire Faux Type O blood supply, the sooner she can send her stray vampire packing. Living with a vampire can be nerve-wrecking, especially when he looks like a Greek God—and he could even be one since he’s old enough to remember fighting in the Trojan War.
Molly Harper certainly writes some great characters. We first met Iris as the coordinator for Jane and Gabriel’s wedding in Nice Girls Don’t Bite their Neighbors. Now we get to meet Iris’s younger sister, Gigi, and the dynamic of the two sisters is wonderful.
Now throw in a several century old Greek warrior/vampire, who, of course, starts out with that “I’m a really old vampire” pompous attitude and it’s great to see the changing attitudes as he recovers and starts to blend into the household with Iris and Gigi and becomes part of their family dynamic, including warning Gigi’s date about curfews and proper use of seatbelts. There is not just the romantic interaction with Iris, but the surrogate father role he slides into with Gigi. I just love this grouping.
Iris does go over to Jane’s bookstore to find some books to help Cal’s investigation so we do get to spend time with Jane, Andrea and Jolene. Yay!
Once we got into it, I just loved the dynamic of Iris, Cal and Gigi, so much that I was sorry to finish their story.
I tilted my head to the side and studied my charge. Although his feet dangled over the end of the sofa and his head was bent at a weird angle, his face was relaxed. He looked sort of sweet and untroubled…when his mouth was closed.
The nearly drained blood packet rested precariously against his chest. At that angle, it was in danger of dripping onto my upholstery, so I reached over him to take it away. His eyes snapped open, and he hissed at me, fangs in full play, as his fingers circled my left wrist and squeezed. Even in his weakened state, the crushing force of his grip dropped me to my knees. I braced my feet against the chair legs and tugged frantically as he pulled my arm toward his mouth. I threw all my weight back, hoping to knock him off balance, but he didn’t budge. Finally, I bopped him on the end of the nose with my other hand, shouting, “No!” in my sternest voice.
His grip loosened as he stared up at me, dark eyes boring into mine as if there were secret codes scribbled on my corneas. He blinked rapidly as my face came into focus.
“Did you just slap me on my nose like a mischievous dog?” he asked incredulously as I tried to rub circulation back into my wrist.
I nodded, cringing away from him. “I think I did.”
His tone was at once menacing and amused. “And am I mistaken, or did you poke me in the eye earlier?”
“I saw it on Shark Week,” I murmured.
“What was that?” he asked, although I knew good and well that he could hear me.
“I saw it on Shark Week,” I repeated in a louder, irritated tone. “The narrator said that if you’re attacked by a shark, you should jab it in the eye, and it might distract the shark long enough to let you go. I figured as another apex predator, it might apply to you, too.”
He chuckled, a hoarse noise that rattled in his chest like a cough. “So I went from shark to dog in a matter of hours? That’s a considerable demotion. Do you always apply animal-behavior techniques to interactions with clients?”