Heat Factor: I would argue that it’s a somewhat slow burn? The heat simmers for at least the first two books and then it really takes off.
Character Chemistry: Jacinta’s chemistry with all of the odd crew mates she attracts is off the charts. And of course, her chemistry with Austin is immediate and deeply satisfying.
Plot: Jacinta is in her 40’s and divorced after twenty fairly routine years of marriage and child-rearing. With her child off to college and nowhere else to go, she accepts a position at a house she encountered as a child and felt a deep affinity with—only to discover the house is magic and in search of a new keeper.
Overall: This series was INCREDIBLE. So fresh, so funny, so riveting—it’s absolutely nuts.
Ok, so I read this series after I read Breene’s Demigods of San Francisco series, which basically single-handedly delayed my most recent move. I figured if that series could stir up that kind of good trouble in my life, this one would surely be worth a try. And boy…was it ever.
The book opens and Jacinta (Jess) is stuck in her parents’ house trying to figure out what to do as a newly divorced woman with a child freshly ensconced in college, when she decides to take her friend up on an offer to look after a house she had briefly encountered as a child. Although the house creeps out just about everyone else, Jess immediately felt at home there—which is why she decides to take the job and make a new start in a small town where she knows no one.
Except the house is magic, and is due to choose a new “heir”. The new keeper of the house also inherits a ragtag group of aging magic users who are meant to help Jess learn how to wield her immense power and protect the house.
Here’s the deal—Jess is a burst of fresh air. She’s not some moping, depressed, wounded divorcee—she’s READY. She’s full of life and humor, and she’s rock solid. So almost immediately upon inheriting the house, she’s wielding all the skills she learned as a wife and mother with ferocity and fearlessness.
The best part is that everyone in the crew is either middle-aged or older. They’re a hilarious hot mess. There’s Niamh, a salty old neighbor who is deeply loyal to the house and to Jess (and loves chucking rocks at passersby from her porch / getting her friends stumbling drunk. There’s a slightly emotional, ancient, cape-wearing butler. There’s a room full of possessed dolls. There’s an anxious vampire. Guys. It’s really funny.
Austin is her love interest and he’s what we’d consider “competence porn”. He gets the job done, he’s modest, he’s sexy, and he’s generous and kind. He’s not entirely sure he wants all the trouble Jess is bringing his way, but if it’s brought—then he’s going to handle it.
Throughout the series, Jess is forced to develop her abilities faster than she’s really ready for, all while trying desperately to protect the hodgepodge group of loyal friends she’s assembled, AND while trying to figure out how to deal with her growing feelings for Austin, who isn’t sure he wants the drama Jess’ arrival has brought upon his doorstep. It’s SO juicy. So juicy.
Just to give you an idea of how funny this book is, Jess discovers that the power she’s inherited and will transform into is that of a…GARGOYLE. You heard me right. And her teeth are so big she can’t figure out how to talk around them effectively so when she’s flying around trying to figure out how to handle herself, she’s also barely able to communicate with her team. Also, the house is extremely sassy and continuously gets Jess into various pickles…see episode where Jess’ parents come to visit and make the butler jealous. I tried reading while putting the kids to bed and ended up laughing so hard I had to put it down.
Anyway, I seriously can’t recommend this series enough…it’s so fresh and funny, and there are these whole sections where the author kind of unravels life as a non-young woman in ways that just made me feel completely valid and seen, and if that’s not kind of its own miracle, I don’t know what is.
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