Allegra FairweatherAllegra Fairweather is a paranormal investigator, and although she has no special powers of her own save for a big toe that itches when something spooky is near, she still manages to rock a 99.5% success rate for solving cases (including one involving a female big foot with a shoe fetish!). Allegra is assisted by her guardian angel, Casper. Well, assisted isn’t the best word, since he’s not allowed to actually help her solve cases, but he is there to keep her alive when she finds herself in one life threatening situation after another. Casper (not his real name, Allegra made it up when she was little) is not your typical Michael Landon angel (does anyone remember that show?), he’s more like a winged version of Leo from “Charmed,” but without the white lights. He lived many centuries ago, when raping and pillaging was all the rage, and now guards women to atone for his sins. The catch- he cannot be romantically involved with them. No sex, no kissing, and probably so much as no impure thoughts at all.

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When the Dedfield Rose, also called the Flower of Death, pops out of the ground in a small town in Scotland, Allegra hops a plane from her home in San Diego and crosses the Atlantic to lend a hand. After all, the rose only blooms when disaster is about to strike- and strike it does. On Allegra’s first night in town, the wail of a banshee heralds the first death and the body of a local man (a heavy drinker) turns up on the shore near the rose, only to vanish before the cops arrive. Allegra sets out to solve the mystery of the Dedfield Rose’s appearance, stop more deaths from occurring, and perhaps get in a little quality time with her guardian angel that, unfortunately, can never return her obvious affections without getting himself permanently banned from heaven.

Janni Nell writes beautifully, and had me hooked from the first sentence. Her dialogue flows as naturally as a good conversation should and her characters jump off the page and spring to life in your head. The story is engaging and about as unique as one can get these days, when just about everything has been written already. While reading, I was a little concerned that one of the paranormal mysteries she introduces towards the beginning was going to be left hanging in the wind, and I wondered why she even bothered to introduce it in the first place, but by the end her motivations were clear and it made sense. The only thing that bothered me is that I figured out the answer to the mystery at about 49% of the way through during one specific scene that screamed “this is what you’re looking for, Allegra! This is why your toe is itchy! Think, woman, think!” It took out paranormal investigator slightly longer to put the pieces together.

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This book is straight-up paranormal mystery. While there is a slight attraction between Allegra and Douglas, the man who hired her to solve the mystery (more on Douglas’ part), as well as an obvious attraction to Casper on Allegra’s part, romance only makes up a few paragraphs of the book. With a very likable lead character, a back story with bits and pieces that leave me wanting to learn more,  I’ve already added her next book to my Amazon Kindle wish list.