So let’s start of by saying, generally, Alice winters makes me laugh out loud. I mean her humour is my humour. Sexual innuendos and all. I loved Happy Endings, and the sequel, have not read the third book. But they were hilarious. I’ll admit in the second book it didn’t have as much hilarious magic as the first but my favourite was the minotaur and the detective. I don’t know if they have their own series but those two deserve a spin-off. Even though I also found this book hilarious, there’s something about her brand of humour that doesn’t fit in all situations. I could not finish this book based on plot choices that were awkward. Much like how I finished the first in How To Vex A Vampire but bailed out in book two for the same reason. Weird plot choices and the humour I love somehow not landing correctly.
Really awkward plot choices and good jokes at the wrong time ultimately take me out of her books and as much as I love her writing style beyond the three books I actually finished I’m starting to get the sense that her approach and delivery are just not my cup of tea.
Let’s talk Natalie. The adult humour just didn’t work with her. Mostly because there was nothing else about her going on. She never spoke, in the entire half of book I read, in any terms beyond sexual innuendo or harassing Maddox. He couldn’t see her, but it was just annoying. It was hard to place because in theory what she did was comedic and I did get the humour and sometimes, when it was placed correctly, I laughed. However, the more time she spent on page the more annoying she became. They are in the middle of a police investigation that involves Hiro’s dead brother and every time Hiro talks to her she responds sexually. Every single time. Her inability to have one single decent, helpful plot moving conversation was annoying. The only time it was fun was when she is flirting with Hiro’s ghost brother. That shit was hilarious. Beyond that it was meh.
Hiro, who can talk to ghosts, gives off serious adolescent vibes. He gets weirded out talking to his brother about sex which is nuts at whatever age he is. Don’t know, I just know he’s old enough to be sexually active and get an inheritance from his birth parents and is running a bookstore. So early to late twenties at best. It doesn’t end there, whenever Natalie says something, he always gets all prudish about it. The jokes would’ve landed better if he did just repeat what she said. What does he care? Maddox doesn’t believe in ghosts anyway. Also, why doesn’t he just come out with it?
When he gets arrested at the beginning of the book, Natalie legit goes up to Maddox’s desk and peeps at the stuff on his computer then floats back down to the room he’s held up in. Clearly if he wanted to prove he could see ghosts he could. So later when he finally decides to admit it, he’s all crestfallen when Maddox didn’t believe him. What did he think was going to happen? You’re just going to walk in, to a world of people who don’t believe in the supernatural and not even bother to have a plan to attempt to prove it? Did he honestly think Maddox, someone who has a genuine distrust of him would believe him? It didn’t make sense. Then, to prove how easy it is, the author has Natalie tell Hiro what is on Maddox’s phone screen as he types it which begs the question, why didn’t he go into the prescient prepared to prove it a few pages earlier? Then the author wouldn’t have needed to fabricate the whole scene with the mayor and his dead wife just to force Maddox’s hand and get Hiro on the case. And this scene with the phone had Natalie sitting on Maddox’s lap being extremely inappropriate and not telling Hiro what is on the phone. Like this is a serial murder investigation why isn’t she helping Hiro to help find his brother’s killer by answering his questions directly? Like I said, this is her entire MO which just made her annoying.
Also, why isn’t Hiro charging to find people? All the fake mediums and ghost whisperers out there and he’s just ‘oh I will contact the dead for free and run my just breaking even bookstore cause I can afford to have this lifestyle’. Everything about how he was living life was strange.
Then there is his brother. Didn’t like him much. The author tried to play the ‘I don’t want you to get killed angle’ of the overprotective brother but it fell flat. Hiro can see ghosts, has helped save more than his share of people and three humans are now dead. As the first victim, him intentionally choosing to not be helpful basically said he was okay with more people dying. As far as I know, there are three more people on the hit list. His uncooperativeness read more stubborn and selfish than concerned older brother. It was just odd behaviour when actual lives were at stake. I couldn’t get on board with that choice in plot either.
Maddox, he actually enjoys being a sceptic. Revels in judging and mistrusting everyone. It’s so hard to like him when he makes no qualms about enjoying it and intentionally going out of his way to find reasons to not like people. And, honestly, that’s pretty much all I got from him. His dead ex though… hate is the only word for that. Everything about his attitude stinks. The author tries to make it funny and create some sort of war between him and Hiro as comedic relief but it’s just a hot mess. Everything from him sitting on the pizza so Hiro can’t eat it to blocking his view at the dinner table, to touching him at the wrong times. Like when he slaps Hiro’s face while driving. He could’ve killed him for real if he caused an accident. Or the time he for real tried to strangle him with the seat belt in the car and it’s supposed to be funny, but it was assault. Maddox even says he doesn’t want him to have malicious spirits in the car with him as it made him uncomfortable. And he even alluded to what type of ghost would try to kill Hiro while they were on the road. He was right on all accounts and even after all this his malicious ex tried to justify it. It gets worse.
During the whole sitting on the Pizza box incident when Hiro went to Maddox’s home, they talk about the case. The entire conversation is about the case and it’s clear Maddox knows Hiro can see ghosts. He even asks him about his dead brother and if he could get him to the second crime scene. He has to trick him to come by not telling him it’s a crime scene for fear that he wouldn’t come. Not touching that as I already said his refusal to help doesn’t stand up plot wise. The point I am making is the jealous ex was in that room, he was close enough to hear the entire conversation. There is no way later at the crime scene he’s all ‘I didn’t know the same killer killed your brother’ the urge to throw my kindle, okay phone, against a wall. And even then, he’s still all smug with a fake apology and still talking some shit about Hiro coming in to steal his man. All of this, even though I don’t have much to go on in character development for Maddox, makes me not like Maddox.
How could he have been engaged to someone so vindictive? He’s a dog person and now owns two cats that this ex wanted. He does not like these cats at all, but he still keeps them and it’s supposed to be some sweet reminder of the ex that forced him to get them and is now being a complete ass to Hiro. How could Maddox not see the signs of this before getting engaged to him and how could he still care enough about someone so inherently awful to want Hiro to contact him and then chicken out of asking once Hiro was there. There weren’t enough sparks with Maddox and Hiro to care about their budding romance but there was enough to be annoyed by such juvenile antics and then having it explained like some ghosts don’t want their partners to move on so I should just accept this bad behaviour was a bad choice. The same way I have to accept that Natalie is incapable of adult conversation. The same way I have to embrace Hiro thinking adult thoughts but being so juvenile and awkward about talking about them when he’s a fully functional sexual being trapped in an Alice Winters world. How is he not on the inappropriate bandwagon?
All of the characters in this book hit one note and stayed there. Never adjusting or moving based on what the scene and story required. Unlike with Happy Endings, there wasn’t enough of the actual case happening to even justify a serial killer was out there. The balance in that book was brilliant. The romance took a funny and decidedly back seat to the plot and I loved it. In this book, the case isn’t really going anywhere. Halfway through the book and the first victim, Hiro’s brother is disappearing from the crime scene and offering no help. And the relationship isn’t obvious. They are both clearly not trying to see each other that way while little hints are being dropped that they do but it never lands.
With all the awkward plot choices, both in character development and situations that should be moving the case forward, weird scene placements, and awkward placement of otherwise fun comedic moments, this book just felt wrong. I had to draw the line at the jealous ex. Natalie almost made me quit but the combo of her, the reluctant brother and then him was too much forced humour from an author I find naturally funny without the extras.
I might, even though I said I love her writing style, just have to embrace that her brand of comedy only works when her timing and the plot mesh perfectly. When it doesn’t her stories grate on me the wrong way even though, in theory, they are written exactly the same way as the first book, Happy Endings, that I read and loved. And the second one too. I dunno what happened here but the characters were just uninteresting and yes, I did laugh mad crazy at some points. Winters is funny to me. But this book was a miss in so many ways. I’ll try another one of her books but for me, the magic might be gone. I dunno if her books will ever meet the perfect balance of the first two books I read by her. Which is a shame. This is two books of hers now I couldn’t finish for similar plot and character development choices and humour that loses its spark when overdone and misplaced. I expected so much more from this book, but it was a let-down for me