Bernita Harris’ Dark and Disorderly did not at first impress me by its title. But as I thought the concept sounded fun, I made sure to pick it up when Carina Press went live earlier this year. Turns out, I was very glad I did. Dark and Disorderly turned out to be a lively book indeed.
Coming out of an imprint of Harlequin, you’d expect this book to lean more towards the “paranormal romance” end of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance spectrum. And while you could make a good case for that, for me as a reader it read more like pure urban fantasy, for two reasons: 1) good worldbuilding, and 2) way less emphasis on the romance between the leads, although of course there was one.
Let’s talk worldbuilding first. This is a universe where ghosts and the other expected batch of supernaturals exist, and our heroine, Lillie St. Claire, is essentially a city-employed ghostbuster. I quite liked the scenario Harris lays down, that supernatural incidents have been on the rise only in the last couple of decades, and that Lillie is one of a generation of children known as Talents–and in her particular case, maybe even something above and beyond. It was just the right blend of supernatural and real-world for me, with a city trying to work out its infestation of ghosts as a municipal problem; this felt very real and believable.
Props as well for the story starting off with a serious bang, when what Lillie thinks is the corpse of her recently deceased husband assaults her in her own bathroom. That seized my attention nicely, and once that initial punch was delivered, the arrival in the plot of police sergeant John Thresher made a great followup. And when Harris described her hero as “not ugly, exactly, just… rugged” and with “a face like a box of hammers and jaws like angle irons”, I was instantly charmed. I’ve had a surfeit of super-sexy heroes, not to mention overly florid description of heroine’s reactions to them, so this won me right out of the gate. So did the chemistry between Lillie and John, which was quite strong and yet never over the top. Major, major points for that.
This is Book 1 in a series, not terribly surprisingly, but I’ll definitely look forward to coming back for more. Intriguing questions are raised about Lillie’s background that hopefully will be answered in forthcoming books–not to mention the bigger picture of supernatural happenings in the world at large, and I’m quite interested in seeing how Lillie and John will play into that. My only quibbles with the story were minor ones indeed, and overall I found this highly enjoyable. Four stars.