Three things happened that resulted in a multiday binge of the Mystic Bayou series, narrated by Amanda Ronconi and Jonathon Davis. One, some reader friends have been talking positively about the series for a while. Two, the entire series is included in my Audible membership. Three, I needed a long break from reality because sometimes reality sucks. The Mystic Bayou series is 5 novels and 2 novellas (so far). That’s about 39 1/2 hours of bingeing.
Mystic Bayou is a small town in Southern Louisiana (New Orleans is “in the north”) in which humans and the supernatural live together (mostly) peacefully. The human denizens of Mystic Bayou know about their not so human neighbors, but the rest of the world is still in the dark. Also in the know are the employees of the League for Interspecies Cooperation, a not entirely benevolent shadow government-ish organization. Just outside of Mystic Bayou is a tear in the fabric of reality called the rift. The rift calls the supernatural to it. But something is changing with the rift. It’s energy is starting to become erratic and humans in the area are starting to develop supernatural powers, even as adults. The rift is the first of the series story arcs and is eventually resolved.
The heart of the series is the Mystic Bayou mayor, Zed Berend. Zed is not the reason that new people are arriving in Mystic Bayou, but he draws people into his orbit, adopts them, and turns them into a family. He particularly likes smart, competent women and in every book he falls in love, platonically except when he meets Dani in Love and Other Wild Things, and expands his chosen family. It is confirmed by other characters as they meet him that he is motivated primarily by love for his community and is a cinnamon roll of a bear shifter. In case I have given you the impression that this is a polyamory series with possible orgies, it is not. It is decidedly heteronormative. I am still enjoying it even though it seems statistically unlikely that there are no queer people in a whole town or international organization.
The second heart of the the series is Bathtilda’s Pie Shop. Pie is serious business in Mystic Bayou and is an all day kind of food. Though Bathilda Boone owns the shop, the baker is Siobhan, a Brownie who serves you the pie you need, not the pie you want. The refrain in every book is “it’s better if you let her choose.” Harper gives Mystic Bayou the comfortable familiarity of a small town series with it’s reoccurring residents and locations, while also bringing in an influx of new people sure to stir things up.
Kicking the series off, Dr. Jillian Ramsay, a junior researcher for the League, arrives in town to study how the human and supernatural have come to live together in peace. While there, Mayor Zed and Sheriff Bael Boone try to keep her from learning about the instability in the rift. When she stumbles on a murder scene, the secret comes out. Eventually, she writes a handbook, “Mystic Bayou: A Wholehearted Approach to a Blended Community” and becomes the League’s permanent Community Liaison. How to Date Your Dragon was a fun read. Zed is immediately adorable, and the pairing of Jillian and Bael works well. She is not shy about teasing him and making him work for her. I was only disappointed that when Bael realized he would have to change his wooing strategies he didn’t actually create charts and graphs.
Without giving away spoilers, the rift drives the action until it is resolved in Always Be My Banshee, but a new series arc is comes in to replace it by the end of that book. Over the course of the series, more people begin arriving in the town, making it necessary for it to grow. All growth spurts are uncomfortable, and I liked the way Harper dealt with the mixed feelings from the community as well as Mayor zed’s determination to do what’s best for his growing town and all it’s residence – magic and human.
There are things I don’t love in the series beyond the extreme heteronormativity. My jaw clenched at the occasional “apologies to feminism” and the rather gender essentialist language. I suspect that scientists and people more familiar with Southern Louisiana will eye roll at the “science” and accents. All that said, the series is bursting with friendship, kindness, and acceptance. I enjoyed it.