Okay. Some books just "get me", where I have instant fall-in-love right away chemistry. This was one of those books that charmed me first sight, no questions needed later. Clearly it's not that perfect for every one, but it was so up my alley it needs to rent a permanent parking space in there.
The book has cute humor, but to me this wasn't overbearing - I generally dislike books that lean too far in the cutesy direction to where they become fluffy stories and lack any dark or realist appeal. The character brings humor with her thoughts but she has a serious side, and the story holds its own degree of darkness.
The world building is creatively done - I've never heard of "ghouls" like this. They don't haunt graveyards of cemeteries - they are pale sort of like vampires but they're living. They're beings there death rejects them time and time again, neither Hell nor Heaven will allow them entrance, so they are cursed to stay behind on Earth and live through others emotions. At first it sounded creepy to the main character, but I can see the benefit of having someone around to drain off a little grief when you're overwhelmed by the death of a loved one, or the stress when things become too much to handle. Stefan completely intrigued me - I have a feeling it will end happily for him but tragically for me by the time I've read the third, final book. We shall see, but for now I find him absolutely dreamy.
The protagonist is Daisy, a fun lead who takes life seriously but knows how to unwind at the end of the day with sultry soul music, her cat, and laying on the couch while reading and pondering. She's funny in her way, cute in another way, just plain awesome. I read so much UF that I need breathers from the stereotypical character who is so bad ass it's unrealistic and who has an attitude that's overbearing rather than tough. Daisy is none of that - she's kind of socially awkward, has a crush forever on someone who doesn't return it, is sweet natured, but also does what she has to when it comes to her job as Hel's liason.
As for Hel....the Norse Goddess isn't shown much but the scenes where she is are cool enough. Cody as the partner is fascinating as well - that elusive, hidden werewolf pack family. He was funny when it was needed and added that hot pheromone touch.
The author threw a lot of characters in this to make it feel like a little town to get absorbed into - besides the main Daisy, Cody and Stefan, we get the friend Jen and her bizarre family with the fist-heavy father, battered mother and fragile brother. You have the vamp-addict, abused sister who is draining her own life by her desires. Water creatures, their interactions, drag queen crossdressing shop owners, tarot card reading mothers, protective ex-erotica movie llamas, you name it. It's here, and it's awesome.
There's a mystery trail to sniff and follow too, something I didn't guess right away - there's some obvious whodunit culprits but that doesn't matter since it's meant to be more a find and seek police case rather than an puzzle to solve.
It's cute and quirky and fun, but it's also dark and addictive. I'm already on the second book in the series, couldn't resist, just a shame there's only three.
“By the way, if you're ever conversing with an actual vampire, do not refer to the House of Shadows as Twilight Manor. There's a reason vampires aren't known for their senses of humour."