The Grim Assistant by Jodi HutchinsThe Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins is a paranormal romance novel.

Sam Diaz is a postal carrier professionally, and a surfer for fun. She helps her sister as much as possible while the older woman is going through a divorce, with both money and child care duties for her 5 year old nephew. Sam also has a major crush on one of her customers/friends. Too bad Lauren is taken.

Fortunately for Sam, she finally gets the chance to make one of her dreams into a reality. Unfortunately for Sam, it’s after she dies in a freak surfing accident. Good thing the Grim Reaper brought her back. Now Sam just has to pace the price so she can move toward her happy ending.

The Characters

I really liked Sam. Despite her immense crush on Lauren for years, she never once acted on it or was inappropriate, rather she enjoyed the friendship she was offered. And when it came to making the deal with Margot, she didn’t make the decision for herself as much as she made it to help others.

I also liked Lauren though she didn’t feel as fully fleshed out to me as Sam. I empathized and even resonated with her about her past. Being cheated on makes you a lot less tolerant of someone screwing around down the road. It really messes with your self-esteem.

The Writing Style

Hutchins paints a really good picture of Sam’s life and her mental thoughts on the events that unfold over the course of the book. I do think it bogged down a bit here and there with excessive descriptions of the scene and day to day activity, enough where occasionally I’d skim a sentence. But overall the book itself was well done and kept me really interested from start to finish. I stayed up late to read it, despite my 5AM alarm.

The Pros

Hutchins painted a really interesting world that has a lot of potential. We get a small taste of the Grim organization, with little peeks here and there into other fantasy bits of the universe. Vampires, werewolves, and “other.” The Grim Assistant managed to be a sweet romance while also living up to its paranormal promise.

The Cons

Two things for me personally, and very minor ones at that. Again, the slight bog down with too much detail that Hutchins occasionally threw in. Could have used a little “cutting of the fat” by the editor. The details were good, but not all necessary to advance the storyline. Also, I was thrown a little by two graphic sex scenes fairly close together in the novel. There was no good reading recovery time between for me. Not to mention I had concerns that the intimacy happened a little given the circumstances.

One thing that other’s may not like is that there is cheating in the book, though not by the two MC’s.

The Conclusion

So despite the slight slowdown in a few places, when I finished this book late into the night I shut my kindle cover and thought “That was a really freaking cute book!” The premise was unique and interesting, we got enough of a taste of all the characters to definitively want more. It was mysterious without being annoying, and the secondary characters were cool as well. I can see real potential in this series and I’ll be excited to pick up the next book when it comes out.

Excerpt from The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

“Welcome, kid,” a gruff voice chimed from above her. Perched upon a large boulder covered in moss sat a woman. Nothing was outwardly peculiar; her denim jacket hanging open to display a band tee, blue jeans ripped in the knees, and Converse sneakers, which had seen better days, all appeared ordinary. But the fine hairs on the back of Sam’s neck lifted when she met her piercing blue gaze. The woman was attractive and couldn’t have been much older than Sam’s twenty-six, her jaw chiseled, a metal hoop dangling from her nose, lips pursed, and blonde hair pushed back, a swoop of the ash locks hanging over her forehead.

“Where am I?” Sam stood, wiping the grass and dirt from her wetsuit. What was she doing wearing her wetsuit in the middle of a meadow?

“Okay, here’s the deal,” the woman said as she hopped down from the boulder. Her feet thumped heavily on the ground as she landed. She pulled a soft pack of cigarettes from a pocket on the denim jacket with long fingers before bringing one to her lips and lighting it. Her next words came out on a stream of smoke. “You’re dead. I’m the Grim Reaper, Angel of Death, whatever the fuck you want to call me, preferably my name, Margo. This”—she gestured to the peaceful scenery—“is your in-between.”

Sam’s brows scrunched as the woman took another drag from her cigarette. “In between what?”

A long tuft of white smoke came out of her mouth as she cackled. “In between life and death. You decided to go play in the water, drowned, and got yourself as dead as a doornail.”

“You’re the Grim Reaper?” Sam asked. When Margo nodded, Sam burst into laughter as this couldn’t be real. Margo glowered, her expression unamused as she brought the cigarette to her lips again. Sam sobered. “Oh my god, you’re serious?”

“As serious as the plague,” she said. “You could say I’m dead serious.” Margo laughed raucously. Sam stared at her. “Okay, enough puns for now. I’ve got an offer for you.” Before Margo could speak further, Sam cut her off.

“Wait, if you’re the Grim Reaper, what’s up with the frolicking ponyville?” Sam surveyed the beautiful meadow again. “I’m sorry, but I would’ve expected something a little, well, darker I guess.”

Margo quirked an eyebrow, a dimple creasing at the corner of her mouth. “This is your mentally concocted illusion; it can be whatever you want it to be. Let me fix that.” She snapped her fingers, and the scenery transformed into a starkly different atmosphere. Black trees sprouted from the ground, their bare, burned branches raking an opaque sky. Knee-high fog wove between their legs, the smell of soot, ash and damp decay filling the air. Sam took in the acres of burned woods around them, a small murder of crows fluttering above their heads, cawing to one another. “Better?” Margo inquired.

Sam knew her mouth hung ajar, but she couldn’t help it. The woman before her wasn’t a normal person. Or, Sam was having an incredible hallucination. She hoped for the latter as she ran her fingers through her short hair and whispered, “Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“Don’t cut me off again. I don’t do this often, and if it weren’t for upper management being on my goddamn ass, I wouldn’t even be considering this,” Margo said, inhaling smoke from her cigarette. “But desperate times call for desperate measures. Like I said, you’re dead. I’m going to offer you two choices.”

Sam chewed her lip, confused about the entire situation. Was she dead or was this an elaborate dream her subconscious created? Oh, no. She remembered the storm coming out of nowhere, the riptide thrusting her into the jagged rocks of the black jetty, and her subsequent struggle to breathe. “This is a dream,” she whispered, taking a tentative step away from Margo. What about Katie and Ben? How could she make sure Katie was okay if she was truly dead? How would Katie manage without her? Her pride would keep her from reaching out to anyone. Fear bubbled in Sam at the thought of what would become of her family. Not to mention Lauren. Oh, Lauren. Why hadn’t she simply told Lauren about Bethany’s little visitor?

Margo rolled her eyes as she snapped her fingers together. The dark setting around them vanished, instantly replaced by the very beach where Sam had been struggling to swim. A loud commotion behind her caused her to turn and she gasped. Numerous people crowded around a figure on the ground, one person performing CPR, another above her head positioning a mask over the face of the victim. Another individual struggled with a stretcher, its wheels caught in the sand. Josh stood by idly, his hands on his head, tears streaming down his face. “Oh, shit,” Sam muttered. The prone figure was unmistakably her.

“Finally firing on all cylinders?” Margo’s cynical response had Sam nodding her head, brown eyes wide as they met the Reaper’s. “All right.” She cleared her throat. “You’re good and dead, bought the farm, etcetera. The thing is, I can bring you back.”

“Really?” Elated, Sam smiled but Margo held up her hand.

“On one condition—I need your help.”

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About the author

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Born and raised in Michigan, Kelly is a latecomer to the writing scene. She works in the automotive industry coding in Visual basic and Excel. Her avid reading and writing provide a nice balance to the daily order of data, allowing her to juggle passion and responsibility. Her writing style is as varied as her reading taste and it shows as she tackles each new genre with glee. But beneath it all, no matter the subject or setting, Kelly carries a core belief that good should triumph. She's not afraid of pain or adversity, but loves a happy ending. She's been pouring words into novels since 2015 and probably won’t run out of things to say any time soon.