Sunday, June 19, 2011

Comments on Leather Pants and Review of Janni Nell’s South of Salem

Lately I’ve been pondering trends in book covers, particularly Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance. Apparently all heroines for UF/PNR have long, dark hair that whips around in the breeze, while they stand around in super-duper tight leather pants, a bustier, and several strategically placed tattoos. I have to wonder how these women are able to fight in leather pants. Did none of them see that episode of Friends where Ross wears the tight leather pants, sweats in them, and then can’t get them back on because they’ve shrunk? That’s gotta create some embarrassing situations (and possible chafing) if you’re about to kick some werewolf/vampire/demon’s butt, and you’re waaaaay sweaty and your super cool-looking leather pants tighten up and your butt-kicking ability is seriously impaired. Also, they all wear stilettos. Really? I must have missed the class in school about how to walk in stilettos. I’m pretty sure they covered that topic while I was in band. So I can never be any sort of UF/PNR heroine, since I don’t have long dark hair, and if I did, I would NOT want it whipping around my face and sticking in my lip gloss, which is just gross. We’ve established that I missed the walking in stilettos class, and if you think I own leather pants, much less a bustier, you’re crazy. And how does one fight in a bustier? Wouldn’t it be safer to wear a bullet-proof vest and a sports bra that smooshes everything down so it doesn’t get in the way of your sword?  Clearly I’m not the target audience for these book covers.
So I was pleased when I saw that the cover of Janni Nell’s South of Salem (Allegra Fairweather Mystery #2) features a lovely red-head’s face. Granted, she’s wearing way more eyeliner than I would, but she can get away with it because she’s not buying groceries at Walmart in rural Ohio. Allegra is a paranormal investigator, and she’s returned to Salem to visit her mother and sister, only to discover her perfectly coiffed society mother desperate because Allegra’s stepfather is possessed. Since no one in Allegra’s family wants to admit that the paranormal exists, Allegra’s usually not the most popular member of the family, but when a cousin dies from sleepwalking and all signs point to possession, Allegra steps in to help.
I love gritty, dark PNR. This is not gritty. In fact, South of Salem is distinctly lighthearted (at one point Allegra sings Barry Manilow), but that was a nice change of pace for this reader. Allegra’s sister Lily and her mother are described as perfect society wives who find themselves frantically trying to save their husbands, Steven Richard Hampton the 32nd and Steven Richard Hampton the 33rd. Fortunately, Allegra has the help of Casper, her guardian angel, and her best friend Wanda, a witch, to help her find whoever is targeting the males of the Hampton family. Allegra isn’t like a lot of PNR heroines in appearance or disposition, but she does care about her family, and her sense of humor helps her deal with them.
I enjoyed the book, mostly because it was so humorous. The Hampton family was delightfully snooty, and their behavior once possessed was the complete opposite of how they would normally behave. The only criticism I have of the book is that Allegra’s rivalry with her sister seemed overdone. Both are adults, yet sometimes when Allegra would think about her sister, she went way past snarky and into indifferent and cruel. At one point Allegra’s actually surprised that she’s worried about her pregnant sister’s safety when Lily’s kidnapped by the villain, which seems a bit extreme to me. The book is somewhat light on the romance, since Allegra has a thing for her guardian angel, Casper, and acting on that attraction would mean that he couldn’t be her guardian angel anymore. However, I look forward to seeing how Ms. Nell resolves this issue in future additions to the series, because the light flirting between the two was fun to read. Allegra wasn’t the take-charge, kick butt type of heroine you often see in PNR, and that made her all the more appealing to me. If you’re looking for a fun, short PNR that’s on the lighter side, this would be a great choice. And frankly, the lack of a leather-clad, stiletto-wearing heroine on the cover was just icing on the cake.

I was provided an ARC of this book for review through NetGalley.

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