Kate Connor has the perfect life. Her kids, Allie and Timmy, are great. Her husband, attorney and would-be politician Stuart, is loving – if a little preoccupied. And, she has a fulfilling (albeit difficult) job. But, like any modern woman, Kate is having a little trouble balancing her home life and her career. And, since her job is demon-busting (and an ultra-secret from her handsome hubby,) at times things can get a little hectic.
The Vatican recruited Kate, along with her previous husband Eric, from a young age to be a demon hunter. But during her first pregnancy, they decided to “retire”. Although Kate has been off the call list for the Vatican for years, when the Unholy staged an attack on San Diablo, she finds herself back on the front lines. While she doesn’t want to admit it, demon-hunting still appeals to her. She’s spent the last fifteen years hosting sleep-overs, baking cupcakes, and marshalling the forces of the PTA. Granted, those things are fulfilling to Kate, but there’s really nothing that satisfies like taking Evil down first hand (and usually with an ice-pick.)
Kate’s reactivation as a demon-hunter does have a few drawbacks. Firstly, her husband and children have no idea what she’s up to lately. And, her recent investigations into a new cabal of demons in town that seem centered on her daughter’s high school, make her look like an overprotective (and slightly deranged) parent. While fifteen-year-old Allie rolls her eyes over the mother’s too-frequent appearances at school, Kate scours the basement and hallways of the staid institution for clues. Just why are demons zeroing in on San Diablo High School and the surfing club? What secrets do a mysterious book crammed into a basement nook hold? And, just what is physics teacher and surfing club coach, David Long, up to?
Kate can’t quite decide if David is friend or foe. He doesn’t “seem” to be a demon, but then not all is what meets the eye in the demon-busting game. David could be in league with the forces of darkness or he could just be a really dedicated (and hot) teacher. As Kate tries to figure out David’s role in demon occupation (and deny her attraction to him,) she also has to deal with over-zealous retirement home volunteers, ditzy teens, and a husband running for office. And, that’s not to mention all the usual teen and toddler mommy woes! With grace and a good deal of humor, Kate is able to save the day and still get home in time to fix a nutritious dinner.
Julie Kenner’s California Demon manages to be cute and cozy without losing its edge. The characters, if a little stereotypical, are compelling. Kate, Allie, Timmy, and Stuart are all likable, as are the cast of side-kicks. Kate’s woes are reminiscent of every work-a-day woman’s (sans the demon-hunting, of course,) and watching her balance life, love, and her war on the paranormal is entertaining and hilarious. I certainly don’t remember Buffy Sommers ever worrying if she had time to pick up the cheerleading squad and whip up a batch of cookies for the charity drive. Kate takes demon-hunting to a new extreme, stripping it of its glamour and making it seem just as ordinary (and practical) as changing the sheets. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it! And, Kate does it with good nature and great skill.
This is a wonderful lunch break book. As an endorsement, I have to admit that I skipped a birthday party just to finish the last few chapters and I wouldn’t do that for just any book! There’s a good deal of sweet romance between Kate and Stuart as well as some interesting tension between Kate and David, but overall the book is sweet rather than steamy. Still, it’s a good mystery and a great way to pass a few hours in the summer sun or over a lunch break. If you are a fan of Kenner’s earlier novels, you won’t be disappointed. And, if this is a first Kenner read for you, you’re in for a treat.