Better Homes and Hauntings -- Molly Harper
I sat on this review for a while because I really can’t think of what to say about this book that I didn’t already say in my progress update post. All in all, Better Homes and Hauntings was enjoyable to an extent and had all the potential and makings for a great “Haunted Mansion Murder Mystery™” with a comedic, romance-y twist. And it took place on an isolated island and promised to delve into the historical happenings of the mansion that caused it to be haunted in the first place.
Better Homes is definitely Ani-bait. In fact, I could probably even say that this book was something I would have tried to write during my few years of “I would love to be a writer” phase when I was younger. I may have even started a story with the same premise at some point before realizing that I’m better off reading rather than writing.
But the book felt unbalanced to me. And while the century-old murder was a well-thought out background plot to spring the story from, everything else felt like insignificant side tangents that were merely fun to observe, yet lending very little to the main plot’s progression. Even the two love stories were a little bland and left much to be desired.
The Official Blurb:
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.
To be totally honest, the above blurb doesn’t really do the book any justice, but at the same time, it really DOES get to the point of the book’s main outline, even if it DOES leave out some things that I personally thought were significant to the book (even if not the plot itself). Ultimately, the official blurb leads you to believe that this book is more romance than paranormal... and it’s hard to say which is more true of Better Homes.
As I’d stated already, the book feels unbalanced in that it tries too hard to be both a paranormal mystery AND a contemporary romance, while juggling TWO romances at the same time, AND trying to insert a little bit of the self-revelation-esque character development for Nina and Deacon. In the end, everything just felt like they were loosely summarized rather than told as a story.
Nonetheless, it was enjoyable. I’m not going to say that Better Homes was badly written. Far from it. Molly Harper has a sense of humor and a natural style that I really love. But the story itself (progression, plotting, world-building) really just felt like it was missing SOMETHING.
And while I liked the refreshing “socially awkward” main characters with a side dish of crazy friends thing going on… there really wasn’t much else to it. And even the characters don’t quite exude the socially awkward personalities properly, really. Instead, Nina and Deacon just come off being portrayed too deliberately as attempts at socially awkward nerds with cult following tendencies. The entire thing where their relationship is based off of dropping random Star Wars or old-school pop culture references felt a little unnaturally forced.
I mean, once or twice is fine, but they do it in every conversation in almost every sentence during their awkward flirting phase. Then again, maybe the whole point of it was that they were trying too hard to impress each other with random movie fandom references ergo, the book itself came off as trying too hard to impress the reader with a refreshing couple of socially awkward love birds, because that's not typically mainstream in romances… I don’t know.
Anyway… I can say that I at least enjoyed the friendships, the witty and humorous dialogue, and some of the jokes that got thrown out there. But that doesn’t make me feel any less that the characters still felt flat and detached from their own story. Or that the story could've used a little more of... something.
This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):