This was another offering from the new Carina Press. This looked like an interesting urban fantasy (it was really more of a paranormal mystery) so I requested an eARC from Harlequin.
The Premise: Allegra Fairweather investigates paranormal happenings and solves problems related to them. In her newest case, she’s been called to the village of Furness, next to Loch Furness in Scotland, by pub owner Douglas MacGregor who wants her to investigate the appearance of a very rare rosebush that suddenly sprung up. Douglas has some interest in Allegra, but Allegra is interested in her Guardian Angel Casper, who she knows she can never have. Unfortunately Allegra has other problems besides men when a day into her visit, a death changes her trip from pure research into a full-blown investigation.
My Thoughts: This story had a lot of elements that reminded me of a amateur sleuthing story, so I’d categorize this as a paranormal mystery instead of what my first impression of it from the cover was. It was like an episode of Rosemary and Thyme: set in a small idyllic country town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, a newcomer is invited to investigate a rare plant when suddenly there’s a murder and whispers of secrets and more death to come, except in this story, all the secrets are related to the paranormal. There is sort of a stereotypical portrayal of village life with familiar characters like the kindly old lady, a trio of foolish drinking buddies, even a local mansion run by an unlikeable rich owner, with his equally unlikeable butler and cook. Dinnae’s and cannae’s pepper the text (I am never fond of them, though their inclusion was not unbearable).
I thought that this story had a pretty straightforward style. Allegra comes to Furness, chats with Douglas and then just sets off in her investigations. Along the way she interviews the locals and has to figure out what’s going on. I think that the mystery isn’t immediately obvious but you do begin to figure out pretty easily who the bad guys are, just exactly what they did and how to fix it takes longer. Casper shows up when there’s the possibility of danger so he can do his Guardian Angel duties and protect her. At first the writing has a sort of choppy feel with short, almost abrupt dialog and sentences but as the book hits it’s stride, I didn’t really notice that awkwardness anymore. It’s pretty light fair and an easy read with the mystery as the main entertainment in the story.
The love triangle is not really a strong one – it’s clear who Allegra likes best and any attraction with another man is half-hearted. Allegra and Casper’s back story is largely inferred as she’s known him since she was six, so there is no getting to know him as she does, rather we see them in a sort of uncomfortable impasse since any type of physical touch that is sexual in nature will set back Casper’s entry into Heaven. I thought that the characters were rather quick sketches – not quite superficial but I didn’t really feel like I got to know them enough to really connect with them. I was OK with that because the mystery kept me relatively interested.
I thought much of this story had a sort of cheery charm, although at times I found my tastes at odd with the blithe nature of the book. Some of the tongue-in-cheek humor I found a little on the silly side (for example a reference to Allegra helping a female Bigfoot get shoes in her size), and I questioned how seriously Allegra took why Casper was a Guardian Angel. I mean, the man pillaged and raped when he was alive. I also thought she was rather cavalier about death because of her Guardian Angel, something the rest of us can’t be. Warning: rape is mentioned often in this book as a violence that happens to females, and one side character is a victim of repeated rape. It is not explicitly described.
Overall: An entertaining paranormal mystery story that I think fits the bill for a light and short beach read. I had minor reservations with it but overall I think it had a sort of cheery charm that may not linger afterward but keeps you pleasantly occupied in the moment.
Reading with Tequila – 4 shots out of 5