"I'll stay as long as I can. I want you to believe that. I really want you, Nell. I think I need you."
- Review by Kazza K
Once Upon a Time in Bliss may be Nights in Bliss, Colorado #8, but it is a prequel to the other relationships and books in the series. Nell and Henry Flanders are one of the backbone couples of Bliss, with their protests of anything that could cause harm to the environment, animals, or people. However, Henry has had a number of ....interesting interactions with bad guys in Bliss that makes you think "hmm, what were you before, Henry?" And that question is answered very well in this terrific addition to the series.
John Bishop is a nihilistic creature. He works as an operative for the CIA and he sees the worst that human nature has to offer - drug cartels, jihadists, wars, revolutions - you name it he has been there and done it. He feels it's time for a break and heads off to see his old friend Bill Hartman, who now runs the local nudist or is that naturist? colony in Bliss. Bill sets him up in a room, tells him to relax and unwind....and take his clothes off. Bill has been in John's shoes and understands how a little Bliss magic can change a man's heart.
Nell Finn's mum has terminal cancer she lives with her in a cabin in the valley. Someone has broken into their Finn women's cabin, messed it up and written die bitch on the wall. But which 'bitch' are they talking about, Nell or her mother Moira? It doesn't take too much to work out that the message is for Nell, as Nell protests all manner of environmentally unsafe practices and companies. Someone must hold a grudge. While she is at the naturist colony she meets tourist John Bishop who has used a false identity, yep, Henry Flanders, mild mannered history professor on leave.
Bishop decides that Nell is quite lovely but an idealist with all kinds of crazy notions on how to make the world a better place. Bishop thinks that's laughable, the world is a disaster and people like Nell don't know what the heck they're on about. That people like him really fix it up for people like her to protest their hearts out about stuff that's not so important or real, that they'd run a million miles away from the real stuff. But the thing is, Nell is a true believer. She believes in the good fight, she believes in a good cause, and she believes in love and a better world. She just doesn't talk a big game she backs it up.
Initially Bishop, stays a few days longer than his original intentions as he wants to protect her and her mother by finding out who is behind the threats to Nell. He enlists(?) the aid of some unlikely allies - alien-hunter Mel, boy computer hacker extraordinaire, Seth, and his best friend, deputy in waiting, Logan, both still rather young and wet behind the ears -
He'd worked with the top SEAL teams and with the very best intelligence operatives from across the globe. Now he was stuck with an insane alien hunter, a kid who would either take over the world or spend a lot of time in jail, and Logan, who just didn't want his mums to find out anything.
This was his team.
And Bishop's thoughts were always...interesting -
He was going to have to kill someone and then Nell would get all pissy about nonviolence and she would probably give him a long lecture on why it was wrong to shove a barstool up someone's rectum
|Henry and Nell were nice together.|
There are many cameos by the wonderful residents of Bliss, most pre-relationship as this is the prequel to the series. The characters are wonderful and, as per usual, they are all on-song for who they are throughout the series. There is a little homage paid to Beauty, a trilogy of Ms Oak's. I loved seeing a bit more of Teeny and Marie the fabulously devoted lesbian couple who are one of the Bliss originals. They love their son Logan, even though his catch cry is "don't tell my mums." I thought it was a lovely and respectful look at the fact that love is love no matter the gender. There is always a little message in these books if you look. It doesn't whack you over the head, but it's there.
There is a wonderfully delicious bar fight at Hell on Wheels, the sort-of-local bikey-bar, which involves some locals and some soon to be locals -
Everyone got in on the action. Almost faster than his eyes could track, the entire bar erupted in pure chaos. Bishop sighed and eyed the door, hoping for a clear path out. The truth was none of this was his problem. Holly had come to the wrong place looking to get laid. The blonde chick was obviously in some sort of trouble, likely on the run from something she'd done. The two kids were obnoxious, and a near-death experience would just toughen them up. Max Harper seemed to have found his nirvana, and the dude behind the bar was a baby criminal with the patch to prove it. Not his problem.
But of course you know it will be 'his problem.' You can't be in Bliss without being in the middle of trouble of some description - kidnappings, bar fights, shootings, protests, alien probing...the list goes on.