Strange Times in Northern Climes: BETTER HOMES & HAUNTINGS by Molly Harper


Better Homes and Hauntings coverby Molly Harper
Pocket/Simon and Schuster
June 24, 2014
Formats: Mass Market Paperbound — Pages 318, also e-book, and audio (8 hours, 58 minutes)


Print copy provided by publisher for review purposes. NO remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own unless otherwise noted.


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.

Molly Harper is the author of How to Run with a Naked Werewolf, A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses, and The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires as well as many other paranormal romances. She also writes the Bluegrass series of contemporary ebook romances, most recently Rhythm and Bluegrass. A former humor columnist and newspaper reporter, she lives in Kentucky with her husband and children.
Simon & Schuster

My Take!

I don’t think anyone does paranormal, romantic, feel-good, humor better than Molly Harper, and now, she is not content to have conquered Southern vampires, Irish/American Witches, Alaskan Werewolves and a variety of other magical creatures, she has invaded New England with a Mark-Zuckerberg-But-Nicer style Internet CEO Billionaire, landscapers, architects, crazy cousins, and family and financial ghosts.  If you take the mystique of old Newport’s legendary wealthy and mix it with the tabloid-fodder lives of a newly monied Yankee, you prove that the north is just as eccentric and potentially comic as the American South or the Alaskan Wilderness.

Not expecting a slew of Yankees in a Molly Harper story, this one took me a few minutes to figure out.  “Wait!” I said, startled, “We’re in Rhode Island? Am I reading Molly Harper or Marie Force?

It’s interesting that Molly took this Internet billionaire, Deacon Whitney and, although we might think he is a loosely veiled Mark Zuckerberg, he obviously is not. He had none of the past exploits that would prompt someone to creat a “The Social Network” style movie about him because, apparently, he was nice to everyone and continued to be nice after he got rich.   When I started reading I thought Deacon was at best a recluse and at worst a really rich computer programmer with no social skills.  While he and his friends say that is true, it does seem like he’s a nice, fiercely protective, and nice looking guy. These characters do not feel as accessible as her characters in other series.  His co-characters, mostly living on the island  with him to work on the house renovation, are:

  • Nina: a sweet. local woman who owns a landscaping company,
  • Jake Rumson: his bestie from childhood,
  • Cindy Ellis: a gorgeous and curvy blonde local who he hired to clean up the old family monstrosity on an island off Rhode Island, he is renovating,
  • Dotty: His eccentric, hippy-ish cousin who wants to uncover the secrets in the house.
  • Dead relatives who built the house a hundred years earlier,  Catherine and Gerald, and their architect, Jack.
  • Not living on the island: Rick, Nina’s former business partner and Regina, an old acquaintance deb turned decorator.

I caught on quickly to the plot that Dotty and Deacon’s grandmother is haunting the house she was murdered in. Everyone assumes it was her older, wealthy husband, Gerald who was angered over her supposed affair with the architect Jack.  Jack and Catherine possess, appear spectrally, attack, and invade the beds and dreams of the other characters. The characters are not paired one to one with the ghosts, which I found sort of confusing — I didn’t get which ghost was in which character, nor why the ghosts haunt everyone.

And, Molly shows you her characters, not with deep psychological revelations, but through how each reacts to the supernatural and to the other team players and non-so-team players. They consider the prosaic in the midst of crisis, the way real people do (oh damn, such and such happened but I have that meeting — really, I delivered drawings the day my Dad died because they were due to the department head – and I am not that weird).    There’s enough cultural difference between her usual casts of characters and location to make me believe she summered in Newport, went to a New England prep school and is secretly married to one of the guys who started Google.

And, even tough you’re pretty sure, according to the the genre’s standards that we’ll have an HEA, Molly is just different enough that you’re  not going to be sure: maybe everyone dies and the ghosts take over their bodies, or it is a bad dream ….?Any number of possibilities will sift through your head. It’s spooky, and scary, funny, romantic and there’s one scene that made me teary.

It’s a different side of Molly Harper, but I loved it just the same.


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