Series: ORDINARY MAGIC
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings: Violence—3; Sensuality—4; Humor—2-3
Publisher and Titles: Odd House Press
Death and Relaxation (6/2016)
> A Valkyrie who calls herself Bertie is the head of the community center and runs the town's four annual festivals.
> Zeus, king of the Greek gods, wears expensive suits and runs a high fashion and fancy decor shop that caters to tourists with lots of money to waste.
> Hades, Greek god of the underworld, is a happy, soft-hearted man who runs a bed and breakfast where each room is decorated in literary themes: romance, mystery, western, historical, and fantasy.
> Athena (aka Thena), Greek goddess of reason, runs the local surf shop.
> Travail Rossi (aka Old Rossi) is the head of the vampires. (All vampires have the surname "Rossi.") He does not like the heroine's boyfriend, Ryder. In his current form, Old Rossi is a New Age hippie/yoga fanatic who is obsessed with the flow of chi in his house and who collects carved eggshells.
Note: All quotations (in green) in the World-Building section are taken from Death and Relaxation.
NOVEL 1: Death and Relaxation
Monsters, gods, and mayhem…Police Chief Delaney Reed can handle the Valkyries, werewolves, gill-men and other paranormal creatures who call the small beach town of Ordinary, Oregon their home. It’s the vacationing gods who keep her up at night.
With the famous Rhubarb Festival right around the corner, small-town tensions, tempers, and godly tantrums are at an all-time high. The last thing Delaney needs is her ex-boyfriend reappearing just when she’s finally caught the attention of Ryder Bailey, the one man she should never love.
No, scratch that. The actual last thing she needs is a dead body washing ashore, especially since the dead body is a god.
Catching a murderer, wrestling a god power, and re-scheduling the apocalypse? Just another day on the job in Ordinary. Falling in love with her childhood friend while trying to keep the secrets of her town secret? That’s gonna take some work.
The plot begins to build in the first chapter when someone blows up Dan Perkin's rhubarb patch in the middle of the night. The town's tourist-attracting Rhubarb Festival is days away, and Dan (a human) is convinced that one of his rivals—Chris Lagon—has committed the crime. As Delaney tracks down leads, she discovers that one of Chris's alibi witnesses is her childhood crush, the handsome Ryder Bailey, who has moved back to Ordinary and back into Delaney's dreams. Delaney has stayed away from Ryder since he returned, but when she interviews him, she's once again hopelessly swamped with seemingly unrequited lust/love. Her lustful feelings are directly related to the fact that Ryder is stark naked when he answers her knock on his door. Soon, Myra and Jean sneakily hire Ryder as a reserve officer to help them out during the Rhubarb festivities, and Delaney's romance with Ryder begins to get serious.
The next event, which is foreseen by Jean, is the death of one of the gods, which means that Delaney absorbs the dead deity's god power—an uncomfortable experience that knocks her unconscious for awhile. Now, she has several tasks: solve the mystery of the rhubarb explosion, find the god killer, find a human to take the dead god's powers, and deal with her very complicated relationship with Ryder, who seems to be concealing some law enforcement skills that don't match up with his career as an architect. Clearly, Ryder is keeping some secrets. As if that's not enough, Delaney's ex-boyfriend, Cooper Clark, comes back to town ready to take up their relationship where he left it a year ago when he went off to "find himself."
The romance is weakened because Monk sabotages her heroine. As the police chief who deals with vampires, werewolves, contrary humans, and unpredictable deities, Delaney is portrayed as dependable, loyal, strong, intelligent, and competent. But every time Delaney is in the presence of Ryder Bailey, she turns into an ugly puddle of embarrassing, mindless lust-mush. Every single time they are in the same vicinity, Monk flips a switch in Delaney's brain that turns this mature, well-spoken woman into a stuttering, love-struck adolescent. It's hard to believe that this is the same author who created the fearless, feisty Allie Beckstrom. (Click HERE to read my review of that series.)
Although Monk sets up a suspenseful plot, I found it relatively easy to figure out the identities of both the god killer and the human who becomes the new god, because Monk drops so many clues into the narrative (most of which Delaney—implausibly—misses). SPOILER AHEAD IN NEXT SENTENCE: At one point, early in the book, someone leaves a threatening message of warning at the deities' Casino message box, but that message turns out not to have come from a deity or a creature—so how did the message writer know about the message drop? And why was the message even sent? None of this is ever explained. END OF SPOILER
For me, this novel wasn't as good as I expected given Monk's terrific writing in her ALLIE BECKSTROM series. On the plus side, though, she has created an interesting and detailed mythology and some quirky characters. If Delaney can pull herself together and be the heroine we know she can be, I believe that the series will be successful. But if she keeps melting into a love puddle every time she sees Ryder, I will probably stop reading the series. Click HERE to go to this novel's Amazon.com page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.
One last thing: The sisters play a game they call "No-goes" when faced with a task that they don't want to do. I never heard of it before and was slightly confused by the reference, so I did some research. If you need some background on this little game, click HERE.
NOVEL 2: Devils and Details
But with the first annual Cake and Skate fundraiser coming up, the only secret Delaney really wants to know is how to stop the unseasonable rain storms. When all the god powers are stolen, a vampire is murdered, and her childhood crush turns out to be keeping deadly secrets of his own, rainy days are the least of her worries.
Hunting a murderer, outsmarting a know-it-all god, and uncovering an ancient vampire’s terrifying past isn’t how she planned to spend her summer. But then again, neither is falling back in love with the one man she should never trust.
This story begins several months after the end of book one (in which three deities took up their powers in order to assist Delaney in resolving a major problem), and the other two gods (Hera and Thor) have both followed the rules. In fact, Thor is demonstrating his anger at being kicked out of town by soaking Ordinary in a never-ending series of thunderstorms. Why on earth did Delaney allow Crow to break the rule and remain in town? At the time, she believed him when he said that his trickster nature allowed him to "bend" the rules, but now that he has lost all of the god powers—including his own—Delaney is on his case, as are all the rest of the deities.
The second problem—which turns out to be completely unrelated to Crow's problem—is that Sven, Old Rossi's newest vampire, is found dead with a bullet in his brain and mysterious symbols written on his body in blood—Ryder's blood. Delaney is shocked by the crime and stunned when Rossi tells her that it was the bloody symbols that killed Sven, not the silver bullet. Rossi calls this "ichor techne"—blood art. The fact that Ryder's blood was used in the crime reaches back to some foreshadowing in book one in which Delaney suspected that Ryder, who claims to be a full-time architect, was much more familiar with guns and police procedures than one would expect an architect to be. Did Ryder murder Sven? Is he trying to undermine Delaney and damage her town? What deep and dangerous secrets is he hiding? Who is the mysterious (and obnoxious) man that Ryder brings to Rossi's house? Much of the plot deals with Delaney's attempts to get answers to those questions. By the end of the book, all of Ryder's secrets are revealed to Delaney and her allies, and all of Ordinary's secrets are revealed to Ryder. As part of that process, Ryder makes an extremely risky decision that will change his life forever. Part of this story thread involves the introduction of a new god—Mithra, the Zoroastrian god of contracts and justice. Mithra was mentioned in book one, but in this book we get to meet him in all his scowling, menacing god-glory.
Another foreshadowing from book one also comes to fruition: Hera's prediction that war is coming to Ordinary. By the end of the book, we learn who is bringing the violence to Delaney's town and in what form.
Basically, the story follows Delaney as she searches for clues to Sven's murder, investigates the mystery of the vanished god powers, and deals with the repercussions of Ryder's mind-boggling revelations.
And one more thing: We are forced to suffer through yet another silly town festival: the Cake and Shake fundraiser, in which teams of ice skaters compete to deliver food packages. According to Delaney, Ordinary has four festivals each year, so I'm guessing that each novel will include one of them. Thankfully, we only have to suffer through a few pages of Cake and Shake action, but even that is too much. Monk probably includes the ridiculous festivals to provide comic relief in these dark plots, but really, the novels would be stronger without them.
Simmering along in the background is the mostly untold story of the mysterious death of Delaney's father, the previous police chief, who died in a suspicious auto accident. Back in book one, Than (god of death) hinted that there was more to it, and in this book Delaney gets a bit more information from Odin—not enough to solve the mystery, but enough to keep her wondering.
Delaney is still going all weak-kneed and wobbly every time she is near Ryder, so that situation still hasn't improved. And that's too bad, because in every other way, she is a stalwart, intelligent, logical woman who handles the supernatural and human problems of Ordinary quite efficiently and effectively. But if Ryder is on the scene, Delaney turns into a lust-addled nitwit without a brain in her head. What a shame to waste a terrific heroine on such a lame "hero." I was hoping that Monk would allow her heroine to be an independent woman, but I guess that's not going to happen.
There is one stylistic oddity: In the first novel, Delaney constantly referred to the deities and the creatures as deits and creats, but in this novel, she drops those nicknames completely and just calls them gods and creatures.
Still, even though the romance subplot is predictable (and icky), the action scenes have plenty of suspense and they move along at a crisp pace. So...if you ignore the mushy stuff and concentrate on the action, you may enjoy the book. Click HERE to go to this novel's Amazon.com page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.