Jun 17 2014 9:30am

First Look: Molly Harper’s Better Homes and Hauntings (June 24, 2014)

Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly HarperMolly Harper
Better Homes and Hauntings
Pocket / June 24, 2014 / $7.99 print / $7.99 digital

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.

In Better Homes and Hauntings, Molly Harper gives us our own grown-up episode of a Scooby Doo mystery. Deacon Whitney, billionaire and creator of the social-networking website, EyeDee, has just inherited the mansion known as The Crane’s Nest located on Whitney Island off the coast of Rhode Island. It is better known for the murder of Catherine Whitney by her husband Gerald just after it was completed a hundred years ago. They say that Catherine was having an affair with the architect and that Gerald killed her in a jealous rage.

Left to fall to ruin for the last century, Deacon wants to prove there is no family curse and reclaim the estate from the ghosts that supposedly haunt the mansion. Having the money to rehab the mansion isn’t the problem; the problem is finding people who are willing to work on the old house since there isn’t anyone within 100 miles who haven’t heard stories of the Haunted Whitney Mansion. Being a smart businessman, Deacon knows that he has to have his crew agree to stay on the island to work or else he risks their not returning once the old house’s creaks and moans scare them off.

Jake was wandering around the lawn, trying to find cell-phone reception, although Nina suspected he was just trying to distract himself from staring up at the house. Every time he looked up at the huge structure, a What have I gotten myself into/I want my mommy expression fell across his boyishly handsome face.

While we are noticeably missing Shaggy and Scooby in this adventure, Deacon Whitney has convinced talented landscape designer, Nina Linden, to come to the island with an architect, Jake Rumson, as well as a professional organizer, Cindy Ellis. The three of them attempt to convert the aging mansion back into a showplace while trying to ignore all the things going bump in the night.

“You realize that as the blonde, I’m probably going to be picked off first,” Cindy muttered.

“Picked off?” Nina asked.

“Did you not hear me mention the soul-eating ghoul in the basement?” Cindy teased. “In the movies, the blonde always gets killed first, to establish the rules on Certain Death Island, such as ‘Don’t wonder off on your own to the bathroom’ and ‘It’s not a great idea to wear a negligee to investigate spooky noises armed only with a flickering candle.’”

As the only successful Whitney in a century, Deacon might have inherited the house, but there are plenty of down on their luck Whitneys who want their share of the antiques, valuables and Catherine’s missing jewelry collection. Jealousy is like a poison on the island, both in the Whitney family and outside of it. For a secluded island, there are suddenly a plethora of uninvited guests stopping by, many of whom aren’t happy with the renovation project and want to see it stopped and want to see Deacon return to the city.

As the crews work to restore the house to its former glory, none of them want to talk about the odd happenings, strange banging or the shadowy figures that are seen moving about the house. No one wants to be the first to be called crazy, but once the sharing starts, there is no doubt that something is trying very hard to get their attention.

Jake shook his head. “No, for a second there, I thought I heard someone calling my name.”

Cindy turned toward the house. “Maybe someone on the construction crew?”

“No, it was a woman’s voice.”

“Isn’t that how Clue starts out?” Nina asked. “And House on Haunted Hill? And the Haunting?”

Try as they might to pretend that all of the happenings in the house are just in their imagination, whatever is truly haunting this house doesn’t like being ignored. Whether by supernatural means or otherwise, someone wants them away from the house and off the island and these meddling kids better figure it out quickly or else Catherine won’t be the only victim of Whitney Island. Zoinks!


Learn more or pre-order a copy of Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper, available June 24, 2014:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog http://ebookobsessed.com. Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.


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