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?”
This is a reprint of a short story in the Jane Jameson series which was written between Books 3 and 4. Reprinted with permission of Molly Harper.
Make sure to check out our interview with Molly Harper. We’ll be talking about Nice Girls, Naked Werewolves and new her new novel, then enter our Fangs or No Fangs giveaway.
Nice Girls Don’t Sign a Lease without a Wedding Ring by Molly Harper
All of Gabriel’s boxes were marked, “Boring Crap.”
Moving Lesson Number 1: Never give the vampire Dick Cheney access to a Jumbo Sharpie.
“I realize that moving in the afternoon isn’t an option, considering the whole ‘burst into flames’ factor, but do we literally have to do this in the dead of night?” my best friend, Zeb, grumped, hefting a box marked “Even More Boring Crap” up the front steps of River Oaks.
“Zeb, as I’ve told you, three times now, we’re not moving Gabriel at this hour because of solar issues. This is a full-on covert operation.”
“Because you’re still afraid of your mother finding out that you’re ‘living in sin,’ you wuss,” Zeb shot back.
It was true. My mother had made her feelings about pre-marital co-habitation very clear in a series of lectures entitled, “Nice Girls Don’t Sign a Lease Without a Wedding Ring.” Subtitled, “The Cautionary Tale of Jamie Beth Hartwell.”
Jamie Beth Hartwell’s mother went to church with my parents. She dated Junior Murphy all through high school and community college. And while Junior couldn’t afford an engagement ring, he could afford a nice single unit in the Garden Ridge Apartments, as long as Jamie Beth moved in and paid half the rent. They lived together for four years, with Junior promising Jamie Beth that a proposal was just around the corner… until he met a girl who could help him afford a two-bedroom unit. Suddenly, Junior wasn’t sure about marrying her any more. And now Jamie Beth was living with her parents again. After talking about the impending Hartwell-Murphy nuptials non-stop for four years, her mother could hardly show her face at the church potlucks.
“So you’re afraid of your mommy,” Zeb said. “That’s a great reason for me to be out this late instead of, say, sleeping in my bed under my own roof.”
“Which we wouldn’t have if Jane hadn’t given it to us as a wedding present,” Zeb’s gorgeous werewolf wife, Jolene, reminded him. Zeb’s mouth twitched into an apologetic frown. I held my hands up as if to ward off his guilt.
“’Lose’ the hideous hunting print Gabriel wants to hang in the living room and we’ll call it even,” I told him. He shrugged, and jogged down the steps to retrieve more boxes from Big Bertha.
“We would help if we could!” my ghostly Aunt Jettie called from where she and her equally deceased beau, Mr. Wainwright, sat on the porch swing. “But we’re old and frail… and non-corporeal.”
Zeb grumbled and waved them off as he hauled a rolled up carpet to my den.
“Don’t mind him, Jane,” Jolene said, patting my back as her white teeth flashed in the darkness. “He always gets antsy when we leave the twins with his parents.”
“Because he doesn’t like to be away from them?”
“No, because we left the twins with his parents,” she said, shuddering delicately. “It’s took six months for them to prove that they wouldn’t intentionally put the kids in harm’s way. Now, we just have to worry about the danger they unintentionally put the kids in.”
“Sorry,” I told her. “I really appreciate your help.”
“Oh, hell, Janie,” Jolene huffed, using her werewolf strength to effortlessly lift a carton of Gabriel’s books . “I’m just happy to be out of the house. So far, no one’s peed or spit up on me. In my book, that’s a banner evening.”
“Your book is very sad,” I told her solemnly. She snickered and called me a “pain in the ass” under her breath while she hefted the boxes into the house.
I laughed as I mentally checked another item off my move-in checklist.
Recruit hapless friends willing to be paid in beer/blood and pizza. Check.
Schedule move during Mama’s REM cycle. Check.
Get rid of Gabriel’s ugly-ass hunting print? Check.
It wasn’t as if I wasn’t making compromises in this arrangement. I’d renovated two bedrooms upstairs so it could actually be called a sunproof “master suite.” I’d cleared out quite a bit of space in my library for Gabriel’s collection. It wasn’t that difficult a choice, considering that most of his books were valuable antiques, whereas most of mine were well-worn paperback versions of Jane Austen and Roald Dahl novels. I’d also packed most of my unicorn collection away in the cellar, threatening Gabriel with permanent sunburn if he so much as breathed a word about it to Dick.
I’d even given my older sister, Jenny, several heirlooms I’d denied her for years, to make room for the pieces Gabriel was bringing from his family’s manse on Silver Ridge Road. It was the same house Gabriel was deeding over to Jenny, I suspected, to cement the tentative sororital ceasefire we’d established a few months before.
Moving in together was the last stop on the road to “Commitmentville” for Gabriel and me. With the recent passing of the federal Undead Marriage Act and the recent nuptials of Dick and Andrea, I was feeling the pressure to let Gabriel make an honest woman of me. We’d agreed to move in together because I’d told Gabriel months before that I wasn’t ready to be engaged yet. I was still adjusting to being a vampire. I was still recovering from Zeb and Jolene’s wedding from hell. And oh, yeah, Gabriel’s psycho-childe had just tried to murder me in my own home.
I needed a bit of a breather.
Gabriel proposed again, a few weeks later, and I wasn’t ready. And then again, on my birthday, and I still wasn’t ready. Then he promised not to ask me again until I was ready. And when he said that, I suddenly felt ready. And then I felt like an idiot, because by then, he’d stopped proposing.
This is what happens when you date a guy who saves you from a gun-shot wound in a muddy ditch. There’s a certain amount of drama expected in your relationship. Gabriel and I had the opposite of a meet-cute. We had a meet-casualty. The short version is that when I was (unfairly, unceremoniously) fired from the library, instead of getting a severance check, I got just enough of a gift certificate to get rip-snorting drunk at Shenanigans. I met Gabriel, sobered, and flirtation ensued. My car died half-way home. I was spotted walking home by the town drunk, who mistook me for a deer and shot me. I was left in the ditch to die, only to be found and turned by Gabriel.
But when I tell the story in public, Gabriel had to turn me because of wounds I suffered rescuing blind orphans from a flaming, totaled van.
So, here I was, on the edge of co-habitation, trying to figure out how to propose to my boyfriend, whose pre-Civil War gender sensibilities probably wouldn’t accept such a gesture. I trod down to Big Bertha to snag a few more boxes and realized Gabriel and his sensibilities were coming down the driveway.
I could practically hear Dick and Gabriel bickering, even with the car fifty yards away. Andrea, Dick’s recently turned wife, had her face pressed against the window and seemed to be trying to beat herself unconscious against the glass.
“I’m just saying,” Dick grunted, hopping out of the car as soon as Gabriel screeched to a stop. “Fixing a game’s not wrong if they’re the only ones losing out.”
“The game of baseball lost out!” Gabriel insisted, slamming the driver’s side door as he followed his childhood friend to the trunk of the car. “The Black Sox scandal made people lose their faith in the great American pastime! I was so shocked, I disavowed popular culture all together. Because of Chick Gandil, having a conversation with Jane is almost painful on occasion.”
“Hey!” I exclaimed. “I’m standing right here.”
Gabriel grinned at me, and I was instantly reminded that all of this moving hullabaloo was totally worth it. In the looks department, my new “roomie” had always left me simultaneously flustered and drool-y. Black hair that curled around the collar of his work shirt. Flashing silver eyes. A lush mouth equally skilled at reading sonnets aloud and saying filthy things I will never, ever be able to repeat without spontaneously combusting in shame.
I smiled back as Andrea tumbled out of the car and threw herself at me. I thought she was coming in for a hug, but she wrapped her hands around my throat and tackled me.
“Yipe!” I shrieked, tearing at her hands as she shook my head back and forth like a rag doll’s.
“They’ve been going round and round like this the whole damn drive!” she yelled. “Whether Lee would have won the war, if Vicksburg had held the siege a little longer. Whether the moon landing was a fabricated video. And I had to sit through all of it, because of you!”
“You’re strangling someone who doesn’t need to breathe,” I wheezed. “And you didn’t have to ride with them.”
“No, I’m blaming you, because you got them together again. They’d been actively ignoring each other for decades before you started your meddling,” she hissed like an old-fashioned Scooby Doo villain.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Gabriel said blithely as he passed us, as if our friend wasn’t pinning me to the ground and throttling me. “I think this is the last load. Your sister’s already at the house, measuring for curtains,”
“How long have they been at that?” Dick asked Zeb, nodding toward Andrea and me. “And none of you had the presence of mind to video tape it?”
Jolene sighed and then smacked the back of Dick’s head.
“Thank you,” Andrea and I chorused.
Gingerly massaging the spot where Jolene had connected, Dick muttered. “I don’t like to throw these things up in your face, Stretch, but when I moved in with my lady love, I didn’t ask you for help.”
Andrea said, “Well, honey, I will remind you that you never officially moved in with me, you just slowly, over time, snuck your belongings into my house.”
Dick smirked. “Oh, yeah. Damn, I’m good.”
“Did you take Rhinehardt Lane?” I asked Gabriel. Andrea grunted as I shoved her off me and sprang to my feet. She landed in an undignified heap on the ground. Dick helped Andrea up and assured her that she would have had me if Gabriel hadn’t split us up.
Gabriel kissed me and gave me cheeky little grin. “Jane, I love you, but I will only do so much to humor you. Taking a twenty-mile detour around your mother’s house seems a little excessive.”
“Gabriel, I’m telling you, she has this bizarre sixth sense when I have something going on in my life that I don’t want her to know about.”
Andrea snorted as she brushed grass clippings from her slacks. “Well, you could always just tell her about your life, like a grown-up.”
I pointed my finger at her nose. “Shut it, you. Now that you have vampire strength, all bets are off in the ass-kicking department.”
“Five bucks on Jane!” Jettie yelled.
“Ten on Andrea!” Dick countered. When I glared at him, he shrugged. “I’ve seen you fight, Stretch… Wait, is that why we’re out here so late? Your mom doesn’t know Gabe’s moving in?”
“No, she doesn’t,” Gabriel muttered, rolling his eyes. “She knows that I’m giving Jenny the house, but Jane told her I’m relocating to an apartment complex nearby.”
“Somehow, I just don’t see you as a ‘communal laundry room’ guy,” Zeb said, shaking his head.
“Ohhh,” Dick groaned, his face somehow paler as he turned to me. “This is going to end in you hitting me. Again.”
I dropped the box marked “Gabriel’s Boring Breakables,” making Gabriel curse fluently in Mandarin. “What did you do?”
“Well, I sort of appointed myself the head of the refreshment committee for this shindig, so I went to the SuperSaver to pick up some beer.”
“Which he drank earlier tonight,” Andrea interjected,
“I told you, honey, I always have a beer when wrestling is on!” Dick cried indignantly. “Anyway, I get in line to pay-”
“Which I am now forcing him to do as more than just an occasional gesture,” Andrea said.
“Would you stop interrupting me, woman?” Dick demanded. Andrea lifted her elegant auburn eyebrow in a movement Jolene had deemed, “the bitch-brow.”
“Ignore her, Dick,” I insisted, which made Andrea scoff indignantly. “You can crash on our couch if you want, just finish the damn story!”
Dick blew out an unnecessary breath. “Anyway, I’m at the check-out line and who should appear, but Jane’s mama. And of course, being the nice young man that I am, I make conversation with her. To keep her from thinking I’m some sort of drunk- can it, Gabe – I explained that the three cases of beer were for all of us while we helped Gabriel move his stuff into River Oaks.”
“You drank three cases of beer?” Zeb exclaimed. “How are you still standing?”
“Years of practice,” Gabriel muttered.
“So she knows?” I shrieked. “She knows!” I grabbed Dick by his t-shirt and shook him.
“She seemed really happy about it!” Dick exclaimed. “She was smiling!”
“That’s her ‘I just got bad news in public face!” I yelled. “What’s she supposed to do? Wail ‘my daughter’s a scarlet woman!’ and gnash her teeth in the check-out aisle?”
Zeb seemed to be way-too-seriously considering what clearly was intended to be a rhetorical question until he caught my glare.
At that instant, a chill ran up my spine. My ears rang and my vision sparkled with a scary sort of clarity. “My mother’s on her way here.”
“You’re psychic range isn’t that good,” Gabriel chuckled.
“She’s coming,” I whispered in a high, breathy voice straight out of Poltergeist.
Dick shuddered. “Damn it, Stretch, I’ve told you not to do that voice.”
“Everybody!” I yelled, grabbing a large blue pottery vase and a random throw pillow. “Pick up whatever you can get your hands on and just throw it in the house!”
Gabriel wrapped his hands around my arms. “Jane, calm down. It’s going to be alright.”
“You don’t know what we’re in for. The nagging. The guilt trips. The questions. ‘Why are you doing this to me?’” I said, mimicking Mama’s martyr tone. Gabriel did his own creeped-out shudder. “’Don’t you know what people are going to think about you two living together? Why aren’t you two getting married? You don’t think it’s hard enough to see your daughter die and not have the chance to bury her. Now you’re going to deny me the chance to see my youngest child married?’”
Gabriel shrugged and pulled me close, so my face was tucked against his collar. “We’re not getting married because you’re not ready yet.”
“But I am ready!” I wailed, my voice muffled against his chest.
Gabriel’s arms instantly went lax around my shoulders. “What? NOW? You’re telling me this now?”
“Yes!” I cried, ignoring Dick’s loud guffaw from across the lawn.
“I thought you were excited about moving in together? I thought we were doing this because you weren’t ready to get married!”
“But I am!” I cried. “I’m ready now. And I haven’t known how to tell you, since I made such a fuss of not being ready. But I trust you. You’ve stopped carefully editing information for me, and treating me like a child. You actually tell me when something’s bothering you or you’re angry or you just need a hug or your hair won’t do what you want it to. Frankly, I kind of wish you’d share a little bit less with me, but I don’t want to regress. I know that you love me. And I love you so much, I don’t think I could stand not being with you every day-”
Gabriel spluttered. “But- but, you’re telling me this now?!”
“Maybe we should go inside,” Zeb whispered.
Andrea shook her head, her eyes fixed on us. “It’s like a car wreck, I can’t look away.”
“Well, what if I’m not ready?” Gabriel countered.
It was my turn to splutter indignantly, “What!”
“Maybe I’d like to sow my wild oats for the next decade or so, stretch out my remaining bachelor days,” he said, his lips twitching into a smirk.
“Those days are dwindling, even as we speak,” I deadpanned.
Aunt Jettie snickered behind me. “That a boy, Gabriel. Give her hell.”
“Whose side are you on?” I shot back.
“So, just to clarify – because our conversations practically need subtitles – I’m free to propose again, at any time?” Gabriel asked.
“Well, yeah, but don’t feel like you have to do the whole down-on-one-knee, candlelight and roses thing.”
“Fair enough,” he agreed, nodding.
“Or the whole ‘scoreboard at a sporting event’ thing. I’ve always thought that’s kind of tacky.”
“When have we ever gone to a sporting event together?” he said, arching an eyebrow.
“I guess, it would be rude to mention my aversion to rings hidden in food products of any kind.”
“Jane, a lesser man would interpret this as you being a control freak.”
I threw my hands into a surrendering gesture “Shutting up now.”
He shot me a speculative look. “So just so I understand, the dangerous inner workings of your brain- we’re not engaged, in any official or unofficial capacity, but I’m free to press my suit at any time.”
“As long as you mean proposing and not pressing an actual suit of clothing, yes.”
“Thank you, I was confused for a moment,” he said.
“What are going to do next, call a damn notary?” Dick yelled. “Kiss the girl!”
Gabriel threw the box of boring breakables in Dick’s general direction and was about to do just that, when I heard my mother’s car pulling into the driveway. I could feel her brain vibrating at the sight of catching us “in the act” of moving Gabriel in.
“Not one word about proposals, no matter how much she pushes,” I told my friends. “No matter what she says or how loud she cries, don’t try to throw that up as a distraction.”
Gabriel’s lips twitched. “I don’t think it’s going to be that bad. It’s one woman against five supernatural creatures… And Zeb.”
“You laugh because you haven’t heard my mother’s thirty-minute verbal dissertation on appropriate seasonal flower choices. We’re better off letting her yell at us for being dirty, premarital fornicators.”
Before Gabriel- or Dick, mercifully- could respond to that, my mother screeched to a halt and cut her engine.
“Jane Enid Jameson!” my mother cried, stepping out of her sedan as her face turned an unnatural eggplant color. “What do you think you’re doing?!”
“Forget the engagement,” Gabriel whispered, “We’re going to tell your mother we’ve already eloped. She’ll have nowhere to go from there.”
“We’re going to lie to my mother?”
He cringed as she stomped toward us, her huge Aigner pocketbook flapping against her arm. “I think that would be for the best, yes.”
I nodded, kissing him just before I whispered back, “I’m OK with that.”
ORDER A COPY: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: February 22, 2011
Paperback: 371 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Northern Exposure Even in Grundy, Alaska, it’s unusual to find a naked guy with a bear trap clamped to his ankle on your porch. But when said guy turns into a wolf, recent southern transplant Mo Wenstein has no difficulty identifying the problem. Her surly neighbor Cooper Graham—who has been openly critical of Mo’s ability to adapt to life in Alaska—has trouble of his own. Werewolf trouble.
For Cooper, an Alpha in self-imposed exile from his dysfunctional pack, it’s love at first sniff when it comes to Mo. But Cooper has an even more pressing concern on his mind. Several people around Grundy have been the victims of wolf attacks, and since Cooper has no memory of what he gets up to while in werewolf form, he’s worried that he might be the violent canine in question.
If a wolf cries wolf, it makes sense to listen, yet Mo is convinced that Cooper is not the culprit. Except if he’s not responsible, then who is? And when a werewolf falls head over haunches in love with you, what are you supposed to do anyway? The rules of dating just got a whole lot more complicated.
When Mo’s fiancé breaks off their engagement without even an attempt at an excuse, she knew she needed a change. Maybe going from Leeland, Mississippi to Grundy, Alaska seems like a long way to go just to get away from prying family members, but you haven’t met Mo’s hippie parents or sat through one of their lectures on the evils of processed sugar.
Grundy is like any other small town in the lower 48, just that it’s only one street long and summer means that you can strip down to only one layer.
She doesn’t even mind the black wolf with the striking blue/green eyes that is always hanging around her property, although she has no intentions to going out and petting him anytime soon.
Mo finds a job at The Blue Glacier Saloon, part restaurant/part bar/part general store and brings new life to the boring diner menu, earning her a place in many of the hearts of the Grundy residents. Especially the single men of Grundy, including very attractive U.S. Forestry Ranger, Alan Dahling.
In fact the only man Mo wants to avoid is that surly Cooper Graham. Even though her friend Evie says his good morning grunt is more conversation than Cooper has with most people, Mo is not interest in someone who sees her as only a temporary annoyance…if only she could get her hormones to agree. Stupid hormones!
Mo starts to wonder if she is suffering from a case of cabin fever when she starts to think that it’s more than coincidental that Cooper and her black wolf have the same blue/green eyes. That is until Cooper shows up on her doorstep quite naked, except for that bear trap on his ankle.
Everything is going well for Mo and her wolf, until hikers start disappearing and locals are being attacked by a wolf and Cooper admits that he can never remember what he does in wolf form. When the locals start pulling down their hunting rifles to go kill the wolf, Mo will do anything to protect her wolf, even from himself.
Although I don’t think it tops her Jane Jameson series, it is still a great story and very funny. I do think that Cooper is so surly and such a loner that he should have been a werebear and not a werewolf.
Mo leaving Mississippi to get away from her hippie parents is hysterical and very clever when you think how true it is that all those 60′s rebellious, free-love kids are now just your wacky parents with their weird ideals.
I am listening to this on audiobook. Molly Harper has such a great writing style and I get so into the story that I hate getting out of my car.
I would still say grab her Jane Jameson/Nice Girls series first but then start the Naked Werewolves series.
“Don’t mind Lynette,” Evie said, rolling her eyes. “She convinced herself a long time ago that she is always the hottest thing in the room, and she lives to prove it. It actually makes her a pretty great waitress. She knows how to go after the tips. But having every guy in the bar talk to you just to hear your accent must be annoying the hell out of her.”
“Is that why the kept asking me to say ‘ice?’” I asked, a little irritated. I’d worked for years to downplay my accent, a mix of my mother’s faint Texas twang and my classmates’ slow Delta drawl. I thought I had it down to where I only “got Southern” when I was upset. I grumbled, “Y’all sound Canadian to me, by the way.”
“Just enjoy it. It’s a little harmless flirting. You don’t have to worry about serious intentions until they start offering you meat.”
I arched my eyebrow. “Is that some sort of gross double entendre?”
Evie’s dark eyes twinkled. “No, actual meat. It’s sort of a tradition in Grundy, a macho provider thing. They want to show you that they can feather your nest, so to speak. It’s pretty Neanderthal of them but sweet at the same time. When a Grundy man offers you a rump roast, it’s the equivalent of asking you to go steady.”
“Wow,” I said. “And on that note, please excuse me.”
I hopped off the bar stool and was heading for the bathroom when my foot caught on an uneven floorboard and sent me pitching into the wall of a man standing behind me. It felt like my whole body burst into flame. My cheek tingled where it had brushed against his chest. I could feel the heat from his steadying hands searing through the sleeves of my shirt.
I exclaimed something like “Oof!” and looked up. It was the eyes that stunned me into silence—the same electric blue-green that had stared out at me from the woods the night before. I shook off the sleep-smeared memory and tried to smile politely.
“Mo, meet Cooper Graham. Cooper, this is my new friend, Mo,” Evie said in a bemused voice.
With a gulp, I swallowed the drool puddling in my mouth. You noticed the eyes right off the bat, wide and bottomless blue over sharp cheekbones, and a slim, long nose that had obviously been broken when he was young. His hair seemed both dark brown and black, not long enough for a ponytail but too long to keep under that faded maroon baseball cap he was wearing.
Cooper was exactly the type of guy I would have sex with before the first date back home. Dark, rough, athletic. Here I was faced with my own personal sexual kryptonite, and I’d abandoned my contraception.
Cooper offered me a brief view of brilliantly white teeth as he set me on my feet. He had the biggest hands I’d ever seen. I wondered how they would feel on my skin, whether his fingertips would touch if he had both hands on my hips. Whether he was that big everywhere—
I was snapped out of my subconscious ogling when Cooper looked at Evie. “Vacation?” he asked in a husky, no-nonsense tone.
Apparently, he wasn’t bothering to address me directly.
“New blood,” Evie said wryly, shaking her head. “Mo’s renting the Meyers place. With an option to buy.”
“I’ve heard that song before,” Cooper rumbled. His smile was sharp and not terribly friendly. He pressed his lips together and exhaled. With lips quirked, he told me, “Try Evie’s apple-raisin pie. It’s a life changer.”
My eyebrows shot up as he turned and walked toward the end of the counter without another word.
“Evie’s a disaster in the kitchen,” Pete explained to me, a conspiratorial note in his voice. “She stared a fire boiling eggs once.”
“But Cooper said to try her pie,” I whispered. Evie was too distracted with Buzz to pay either of us any attention. “He said it was a life changer.”
“Well being trapped on the can for a week probably would change your life,” Pete conceded. My jaw dropped, and I glared at Cooper. Well, that cinched it. He was an asshole. I was definitely going to end up sleeping with him.
ORDER A COPY: Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publishing Date: March 9, 2009
Paperback: 355 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Maybe it was the Shenanigans gift certificate that put her over the edge. When children’s librarian and self-professed nice girl Jane Jameson is fired by her beastly boss and handed twenty-five dollars in potato skins instead of a severance check, she goes on a bender that’s sure to become Half Moon Hollow legend. On her way home, she’s mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead. And thanks to the mysterious stranger she met while chugging neon-colored cocktails, she wakes up with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood.
Jane is now the latest recipient of a gift basket from the Newly Undead Welcoming Committee, and her life-after-lifestyle is taking some getting used to. Her recently deceased favorite aunt is now her ghostly roommate. She has to fake breathing and endure daytime hours to avoid coming out of the coffin to her family. She’s forced to forgo her favorite down-home Southern cooking for bags of O negative. Her relationship with her sexy, mercurial vampire sire keeps running hot and cold. And if all that wasn’t enough, it looks like someone in Half Moon Hollow is trying to frame her for a series of vampire murders. What’s a nice undead girl to do?
Librarian Jane Jameson is having a really bad day. She was just fired from her job from the Half-Moon Hollow’s Public Library, to be replaced by her boss’s alphabetically challenged daughter, and instead of a severance check, she got a $25.00 gift certificate to Shenanigan’s. The day was starting to look better after a plate of potato skins and a pitcher of mudslides, she meets a dark and gorgeous stranger who found her delightful and charming instead of the usual “odd and quirky.”
Well, her day was looking up, that is until she was heading home and her car broke down on the side of the road, and if that’s not bad enough, Bud McElray drives past and mistakes her for a eight-point buck and shoots her in the chest, leaving her to bleed to death in a ditch on the side of the road. Aww, crap!
At least that was the last thing she remembers before she woke up in the said dark, gorgeous stranger’s bed. Oh, no, did she actually just become an unemployed, drunken, one-night-stand floosy? No, wait–she died…
That’s how Jane figured out Mr. Tall, Dark and Yummy was a vampire, and now she was one too. Gabriel Nightengale, vampire sire, was following Jane home to make sure she arrived safely after her Shenanigan’s bender and saw her get shot and left in the ditch.
Life changing though this was, oddly enough, this had a lot of competition for the weirdest thing in Jane’s life.
Her best friend since grade school, Zeb, finally had an actual date…with a woman, and not just any woman, a werewolf.
Her Grandma Ruthie a/k/a Black Widow Ruthie has just killed off another Grandpa. Grandpa Fred just died of an unfortunate Viagra overdose.
And now that she’s a vampire, Jane can see her that her Great Aunt Jettie never went into the light, and her ghostly form is still hanging around Jane’s house and is now dating Jane’s recently deceased Grandpa Fred.
And Mama…oh don’t get her started on Mama…
Then Jane realizes that there is something worse than being fired, mistaken for a prize buck and being turned into a vampire…telling her Mama she’s now a vampire
Take vampires, werewolves, ghosts and add a whole lot of snarky humor and you have Molly Harper’s Jane Jameson series. I don’t believe I have ever laughed out loud as much as I have while listening to this series. That crazy woman in the car next to you laughing like a loon is me…*smile and wave*.
Jane is the perfect blend of the well read librarian, with a real Jane Austin obsession, and the queen of snarky comments. I love snarky heroines.
Her friends are crazy, but her family is absolutely insane, from the overbearing southern mother, to the jealous, former cheerleader sister who wants Jane’s house and all the family collectibles, and the grandmother who keeps killing off husbands.
Gabriel is sexy, overprotective and mysterious as all good vampire boyfriends should be, and Jane’s new vampire friend and Gabriel’s old enemy, Richard “Dick” Chaney is a riot.
Since this is a first person perspective story, you get a full dose of the quirky character that is Jane Jameson.
This a hysterical series and I am breezing right through it. If you like your paranormal romance with a great deal of fun, you need to take a trip with me to Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky where crazy is just the same old-same old.
“All my life, I’ve wanted to be more interesting than I am, special,” I said, turning to Gabriel and, I’m sure, grinning like an idiot. “And now it seems I’ve got ‘special’ out the ying-yang. I don’t know if I can handle it.”
He made an inscrutable face. “I’ve been a vampire for a long time, and I’ve never it described quite like that.”
“I do have a way with words,” I admitted.
I crossed my arms. “OK, lighting round. Real or fake: Werewolves”
“Real, but he’s actually a were-ape.”
I decided to explore that later. “Aliens?”
“I don’t know.”
“Real.” He shrugged. “Some work real magic, and others are deluded children in black makeup and ill-fitting clothes.”
“Good to know,” I said soberly. “Wait, what about zombies? I couldn’t even get through the preview for Dawn of the Dead without covering my eyes.”
“You don’t want to know.”
I made a little small distressed sound. He chuckled, something I noticed was becoming more frequent.
“I know Dracula was a real person, but is he still, you know, around?” I asked.
“No one knows for sure. He’s a bit like our Elvis. Lots of vampires have claimed to see him, but there’s never been documented proof. You ask a lot of questions.”
“I’m a librarian. The learning curve is steep,” I said, ever so sassily jutting my chin forward.
“You’re going to be an interesting person to know, Jane Jameson,” he said, leaning forward and brushing his mouth across mine.