Tag Archives: Jean Harrington

 Comedy and compassion fuel a fine new mystery series

Murder on Pea Pike, by Jean Harrington. Camel Press. 264 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

Jean Harrington’s new “Listed and Lethal” mystery series shares some features with her earlier, five-part “Murders by Design” mystery series (recently reprinted by Harlequin). The main similarity is that the protagonist in each series is a professional woman who is teamed up with a law enforcement officer. That is, teamed up romantically and unable to avoid being involved in his investigations.  

While the earlier character, Deva Dunne, lived and worked the interior design trade in upscale Naples, Florida, Honey Ingersoll is a real estate agent in rural, small town Arkansas. Differences in education and social class also distinguish the two protagonists.

As she pursues a real estate deal on the outskirts of Eureka Falls, chances upon the corpse of an attractive, flashy young woman whom she had seen at Ridley’s Real Estate just recently. Though Tallulah Bixby is dressed to kill, someone got to her first.

Soon after, the owner of property in the same neighborhood as Honey’s corpse discovery is also found murdered. You guessed it – discovered by Honey. Hmm. She might be a suspect, except for the fact that she is the narrator. Speaking of discoveries, Honey finds a couple of uncut diamonds near the crime scene.

The novel’s two main centers of interest are the murders and Honey’s love life. With respect to the murders, there seems to be an orchestrated buying-up of properties in the area surrounding the murders, suggesting the need to keep the purchases secret. Or maybe it’s the rumors concerning the diamonds lying about. Murder is one way of shutting someone up. When readers find out that a major casino project is being planned, they may surmise that some in the town are against it.

Honey’s love life? Up until now, a series of poor choices. But what’s an attention-needy, somewhat insecure girl to do? These days, Honey is idealizing her attractive boss, Sam Ridley, who is among those showing an interest in those rundown properties. Can he possibly be on Honey’s suspect list? She has imagined getting a dazzling kiss from him for a long time. Honey has been an invaluable employee, but he has plenty of cause to worry about her recent strange behavior. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 23, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 24 Naples, Bonita Springs, Collier Count, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Murder on Pea Pike

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The setting is Naples in Jean Harrington’s latest

“Designed for Death,” by Jean Harrington. Carina Press.   E-book. $4.99.

Naples, Florida is the setting for Jean Harrington’s latest adventure in fiction. After two exciting and carefully researched Irish historical romances set during the renaissance period, “The Barefoot Queen” and “In the Lion’s Mouth,” Ms. Harrington has shifted gears to the here and now. The here is the beachfront condo world of Naples, the fictional but probable Surfside condos where Interior designer Devalera “Deva” Dunne, recently widowed, has settled to restart her life. Little did she know what her new community had in store for her. 

The here and now also means e-publishing . Ms. Harrington’s connection with Carina Press puts her inside of the Harlequin empire. Carina is a division of Harlequin devoted to e-publishing on a large scale. Certain Carina Press titles may later be selected for print publication. 

Jean Harrington’s new protagonist, Deva, is trying to re-establish her interior design career by helping Surfside’s owner, Dick Parker, turn rental apartments into condos. She is also getting business from the new condo owners who are looking to individualize their homes. One of these clients is a tall, striking woman named Treasure, once a regular at the Foxy Lady Lounge on route 951. Deva and Treasure are getting along fine selecting the ingredients for the classic Hollywood décor Treasure desires. Before long, however, Deva finds Treasure murdered in the condo – a gruesome ending to a brief friendship.

Not satisfied with Lieutenant Victor Rossi’s official investigation, Deva begins her own sleuthing, much to the handsome policeman’s dismay. Emotionally vulnerable after the loss of her husband, Deva is suspicious of the advances of several Surfside residents: (supposed) bachelor Simon Yeager, Neal Tomson, and married man Dick Parker, who is Deva’s main source of income. Could either of the bickering partners Chip and AudreyAnn be guilty of infidelity and murder? And what about Faye LaBelle, drag queen extraordinaire, who was once Treasure’s roommate? Faye no doubt felt betrayed when Treasure, his gay lover once named Tom, underwent a sex change operation to become a woman.

Along the way, Rossi discovers that the blood trail on Treasure’s carpet was a woman’s. But does the blood belong to the murderer?

Jean Harrington

Notable scenes in the book include Deva’s visit to the Foxy Lady Lounge, where she picks up pieces of information and witnesses a colorful scene that includes drag queen Hedda Lettuce, Faye’s partner in the establishment.  Another enticing scene is Treasure’s funeral, more like an Irish wake, in which good memories and high spirits help friends and acquaintances cope with their loss.

As Deva’s investigation advances, she is always butting heads (figuratively, though she wouldn’t mind if it happened literally) with Rossi. There are signs that he may be attracted to her and that his gruff warnings for her to leave the police work to him are motivated by something other than professional policy or pride. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 23, 2012 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly and the February 29 Fort Myers edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Jean Harrington pdf

Note: Jean Harrington’s work is reviewed elsewhere on this site. Enter her name in the search box and you’ll find reviews of her first two books.

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Jean Harrington’s “Lion” of a Book

Published in the Sept.-Oct. 2009 issue of Fort Myers Magazine.

Click here: Ft.Myers magazine – Jean Harrington

What Naples author Jean Harrington does so well is provide a fully-textured sense of place.  In the Lion’s Mouth (from Highland Press) is set in Ireland, England, and the colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the late 1660s. As we follow Harrington’s colorful characters, we encounter the details of clothing, diet and food preparation, rural and urban dwelling places, weaponry, and sailing vessels. We can’t be sure that Harrington is accurate, but she does create verisimilitude.  The abundance of consistent detail makes the world she builds credible. Her characters inhabit it plausibly, and as we believe in them, we believe in their experiences and vicariously share the sensory dimensions of their lives. On these grounds alone, In the Lion’s Mouth is worthy of commendation.IntheLion'sMouth-HighRes

However, much else is accomplished. Harrington dazzles us with the lure of the New World – its vast expanse, its promises of freedom, self-reliance, and opportunity. She also gives us the historical realities of European encroachment on the lands of others, pettiness and greed, and the long arm of English rule.

Against this background, Harrington continues the story of Grace O’Malley and Owen O’Donnell , whom readers first met in The Barefoot Queen. The plight of these two lovers, now married, grows out of the English exploitation of the Irish and particularly the English usurpation of Irish ancestral lands. The haughty and villainous Lord Rushmount is the local landholder in Grace’s and Owen’s corner of Ireland. Grace, like her father before her, has defied him in many ways. When family and friends were perishing from lack of food, Grace took it upon herself to become a deer poacher – and thus a criminal. It’s one thing for a young woman to be at the mercy of a tyrant; it’s something more when that tyrant is obsessed with that shapely woman’s beauty and fire. Grace’s copper-red hair is the symbol of her fiery spirit, both of which Rushmount is driven to possess. Grace has rebuffed his advances and given herself to the handsome, though crippled, Owen. Like Grace, Owen seeks justice for his people. But he and his wife are outlaws, or at least enemies of authority, who must escape Rushmount’s mixture of lust, wrath, and vengeance. They must put Ireland, friends, and family behind them.

As they journey from home to Galway, Cork City, and Dublin, hoping to book passage across the Atlantic, Grace and Owen are regularly threatened by Rushmount. They discover that Liverpool is the closest place to embark on such a journey, and though they don’t wish to spend time in England (the “Lion” of the title), it seems a necessity.  They are delayed there for many months, during which Rushmount puts Grace in a compromising position that she feels she must not reveal to Owen.

Harrington’s narration of the Atlantic crossing aboard the “Seafarer” is masterful. Her verbal art breathes life into the character of the vessel, the living conditions, the ravages of bad food and severe storms, the ebbs and flows of despair and determination, and the ecstatic and bewildering arrival of the young couple to Newport harbor. Of course, the demonic Rushmount is there as well, having made the crossing to serve as a Tax Collector for His Majesty.

Finally, Grace and Owen reach their desired destination – the combined colonies of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation. Harrington involves them with her versions of the historical Roger Williams, founder of these colonies, and Canonchet, the legendary Narragansett chief. Harrington’s treatment of these relationships emphasizes Williams’ respect for the Native Americans and his insistence that their lands may not be taken: they must be fairly paid for. Jean Harrington imagines that a man with Williams’ philosophical pedigree would fully honor the concept of religious freedom and offer the utmost hospitality to the Irish Catholic newcomers.

Before reaching Providence, the young couple meets Absalom, the Narragansett leader who is an adopted son both of Canonchet and Williams. His upbringing has shaped him to be the ideal bridge between the two peoples, leaving him at the same time a man divided. He is also the Noble Savage par excellence, extremely helpful to Grace and Owen in their land clearing, planting, and other pursuits in their new environment. Absalom, however, is no exception to the rule that a man with a pulse will fall for (and maybe from) Grace.

The strains on the marriage, the delights and hardships of Providence, the contrasts developed among Owen, Rushmount (always nearby), and Absalom propel the later chapters of the novel through many suspenseful twists and turns.

Like any good writer of historical fiction, this former college teacher of literature and writing is a good researcher. Using the internet, Harrington found information on the chronologies of English rulers, key historical events and issues in successive reigns, period dress, the evolution of Irish law, and much else.

She writes, “One of the most interesting research sites was the Narragansett Indian web site.  It was a mine of information about sachem succession, planting, food preparation, clothing, house construction, marriage customs, tribal lore. For basic information, or to check facts found on the web, I often turned to the library for verification.  For example, a book on jewelry design there helped me to describe how Owen might have crafted the ring he gives to Grace.   And believe it or not, the children’s section of the library with its illustrated cutaway line drawings of sailing vessels made the internal workings of an ocean-going ship of the period clear to this land lubber.”

 Since most of the available material on clothing and furnishing concerns the aristocracy, Harrington needed to dig deeper to glean similar information about the peasant class. She sought out “tales of descendants and Irish buffs who had much to tell of their forebears’ hardships.”

photo by Martin Miron

photo by Martin Miron

In blending research, imagination, and a nuanced yet highly accessible style, Jean Harrington has fashioned a compelling, earthy, and exciting romance that never flags. In the Lion’s Mouth brings us vigorous, passionate characters leading their lives against the perfectly realized backdrop of a changing world.

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BOOK BEAT 65 – Jean Harrington

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   March 6, 2008

by Philip K. Jason

Jean Harrington has been a stalwart member of the Southwest Florida chapter of Romance Writers of America for many years. In fact, she served two terms as president. The glow of success has shown brightly on many members of this productive chapter. Now it is Harrington’s turn to shine. This Naples resident (since 1993) has come up with a rip-roaring, feisty heroine in her first novel, “The Barefoot Queen.” Fiery Grace O’Malley should have a long life ahead of her in fiction. Great granddaughter of a pirate queen who once “savaged the whole English fleet,” young Grace has inherited her ancestor’s rebellious streak and courage, as well as her Irish pride. 

We meet the gorgeous teenager, with her “mane of gold-red hair,” immediately after the death of her father, who has just been hung by Lord Rushmount’s men for poaching deer. The scene introduces us to the conditions of late seventeenth century Ireland, suffering under the exploitation of England and of English landholders who have usurped Irish property rights. A vain and cruel landlord, Rushmount stands for the unabashedly ruthless English ruling class. Grace’s father had found the courage to risk his life so that others might have food.

But Grace’s brother, Liam, a man only too practical and sensible, will not cut him down from the hanging tree for a proper burial and thereby risk his own life. Grace is outraged at her brother, but finds solace in the actions of the village blacksmith, Owen O’Donnell, who defies Rushmount by cutting down Grace’s “Da” and secretly burying him. 

Such timely heroism only supercharges Grace’s admiration and attraction for Owen, who over and over (with a few notable exceptions) rebuffs her bold advances. Because his self-esteem in matters of romance has suffered from the consequences of an accident that has left him with one leg crippled and withered, Owen fights down his longing for Grace and tells himself that he cannot be a proper mate for her. Grace herself feels quite otherwise, and a major interest in the story grows out of this troubled romance.

Grace, of course, has been pursued by many suitors. Among these is “Young Con” Mann, son of Rushmount’s estate manager. The elder Connor Mann had renounced his Catholic faith during the Puritan Commonwealth in order to maintain his holdings, but he is now (in 1665) dependent on the good will of Rushmount during the Restoration period that followed Oliver Cromwell’s purges. The dull-witted “Young Con” would provide a relatively safe situation for Grace, who cannot as a young woman live on her own and who is being pushed out of the tiny family home by Liam’s marriage to Brigit, who is soon pregnant. But Grace is not one to seek only safety and to deny her heart.

To complicate matters even further, Lord Rushmount himself, frustrated in his recent marriage and dazzled by the village beauty, has his eyes on Grace. He would seemingly do anything to have his way with her – and she would be helpless to resist.

But wait, there is more:  Grace herself has followed in her father’s footsteps and turned poacher in order to relieve the excruciating poverty and hunger that devolves from Rushmount’s abuses of power.

In the end, it is Grace’s fearless sense of justice that dominates Jean Harrington’s achievement. Not always mindful of consequences, Grace’s bold actions threaten to bring more harm than good, but she cannot – as her brother Liam can – weigh things in the balance when her heart is committed to a sense of righteous action.

Jean Harrington has done a fine job of bringing knotty historical issues down to the flesh and blood lives of individuals. And with Grace O’Malley, a young woman whose adventures often find her lifting her skirts to her knees or getting them tangled in her legs or washing away the blood of butchered deer, she has devised a vital spirit ready to challenge any influential young actress prepared to buy the film rights.

“The Barefoot Queen” is published by Highland Press. More about the author is available at her website: jeanharrington.com.


See also: https://philjason.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/jean-harringtons-lion-of-a-book/

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