Thursday, May 1, 2014
"Undead Sublet" by Molly Harper
Executive chef Tess Maitland is banned from her five-star kitchen in Chicago to recover from "exhaustion". Choosing a random rental house in Half-Moon Hollow to spend time in, she's unaware that the house comes with a strange man.
Even though Sam Masden's ex-wife has rented the house out from under him, the divorce settlement allows him access to it for another ninety days. With Tess unable to go anywhere else, and Sam unwilling, a war of epic proportions is declared - and romantic sparks and heavy pots fly.
Where to Buy*
*This story is no longer available separately. All links are to The Undead in my Bed, the anthology this story was originally published in
I'll admit up front that I haven't read the previous Half-Moon Hollow books as yet, so perhaps I was missing something coming into this story that might have made it sparkle for me a bit more. As far as the immediate story here, I didn't feel like I was missing any pertinent information about the setting or characters that I'm sure are from the previous novels in the series, so I'd say this really can stand alone in that regard. Knowing the other characters better may have added to the experience, however.
Tess is a snarky, independent chef who is obliged to take a vacation after having a rather public and humiliating breakdown in the kitchen of her Chicago restaurant. I loved the recounting of that event with all of its caustic wit and creatively profane descriptions. It was easily one of the funniest passages in the book and firmly establishes Tess's personality and wicked sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed her voice throughout the story, often laughing out loud at some of her descriptions and epithets. Still, as much as I liked the spunky, sassy, slightly insane big city woman that she is at the beginning, I was also pleased to see how she developed throughout the story. Though some of the realizations she comes to may seem a bit abrupt, that is mainly a side effect of the nature of short stories and the lack of sufficient time to build up to things.
In contrast to the vibrant portrayal of Tess, Sam's characterization seemed rather flat to me. Perhaps that's just because we're hearing the story from Tess's POV and she isn't really spending much time with him for the first 2/3 of it thus Sam doesn't get a lot of "screen time" for much of the story. We're also limited to Tess's observations and impressions of him, and she doesn't have a very favorable opinion of him for a long time. Still, we get to see bits and pieces of his character along the way and he seems like a pretty decent guy. Not quite as assertive and alpha as I'd prefer maybe, but still a nice guy and one I wouldn't mind meeting.
Overall I found this story to be quite enjoyable, with many LOL moments. Despite the relatively short length, Ms. Harper manages to pack in a very complete story that rarely seems rushed at all. Still, though I did like it, nothing about it truly "wow'd" me as I listened, and thus I've rated it a bit lower. I'd definitely recommend it though, particularly to fans of Molly Harper or those who enjoy snarky, irreverent heroines. Perhaps once I've had a chance to read the other Half-Moon Hollow books I'll feel differently about this one. 3½ stars to an enjoyable, but ultimately slightly flat story.