If you were to read them in order, you would first encounter Jane Jameson, recently laid off from her position (which she has an appropriate degree for) as children's librarian at the public library in Half Moon Hollow. Instead of severance, she gets a low value gift certificate at Shenanigans. The librarian has laid her off in order to give a job to a family member, a decision which over the course of the next few books she will come to regret, and eventually attempt to reverse. (And at some point, there is a reference to the librarian being in rehab, which just goes to show how badly that went for her.)
Jane takes her gift certificate and spends it on wildly colored alcoholic beverages at Shenanigans and some crappy pub grub. She is joined by Gabriel Nightengale (<-- no I don't want to hear about that spelling), who then follows her as she drives her aging vehicle -- left her by her great-aunt, just like River Oaks, the house she lives in -- home. Alas, the car breaks down, Jane staggers towards home and a drunken idiot thinks she is a deer as she falls and gets up. He takes a shot at her, thinks he missed and drives on. Gabriel stops and concludes that medical help will not be adequate to save her and instead turns her into a vampire. When she rises 3 days later, further shenanigans (er) ensue. (None of this is spoilers, actually.)
While vampires have been "out" for a while in the world of the series, substantial friction continues between vampires and humans -- and other supernatural creatures such as Jane's best friend Zeb's (HEY SPOILERS) girlfriend, then fiance, then wife and mother of twins Jolene -- are not out of the closet. The who-knows-what-and-how-much-do-they-really-believe is exploited for maximum plot and humor value throughout the series.
Jane and Gabriel's relationship develops across the four novels, culminating in their marriage and honeymoon in book four, after they have dealt with problems such as older adults' (well, not older than Gabriel!) expectations that Jane and her best friend Zeb should get married, instead of Zeb and Jolene. Other problems: Gabriel's (HEY I WARNED YOU) earlier childe Jeanine is a scary stalker. And she is just one (and not the first one) in a series of people trying to kill Jane. It takes a while for Jane's family to come around, some longer than others (and Grandma Ruthie -- I DID WARN YOU -- is a psycho not only right up to the end but well past it). I liked that Jane's father came around early, not only because he's generally one of the sanest members of the family, but because he saw the potential in vampires as a history buff.
The spinoff series takes side characters from the Jane Jameson books and develops them more fully. Andrea's back story and how she and Dick got together is developed in a novella. Iris gets her own book -- and her younger sister Gigi gets a book as well, both of which give a lot more insight into the inner workings of the council (also, you get to see more of Jane and Georgie interacting, which is always simultaneously chilling and hilarious). Ophelia going to college was a little disappointing, but part of that is because Ophelia is only starting to loosen up a bit by the end of the book -- it is really well constructed, but Ophelia is a problematic viewpoint character.
More books appear to be on the way. Not all of the viewpoint characters are particularly present in the original series. For example, Dick's line turns out NOT to have ended with Wilbur after all, and once his descendant has her book, she is around often enough to play a role in Geeg's life later on. And the violently puckish chef is just amazeballs, as is her paramour, the vampire contractor.
Sometimes, I get to thinking that I really don't care for reading as much as I once did. I'd really rather play Farmville 2: Country Escape most days. But then, I run across a new author like Molly Harper and diligently consume a dozen of her books in less than a month. I _really_ enjoyed these. I'm looking forward to more in these series. And I'm thinking of branching out into her more tenuously connected series (the Alaskan series seems to be mentioned as placing orders online at Specialty Books, for example). I have no idea if you would find these entertaining. But I laughed. A lot. Even in parts of the mom-with-leukemia-gets-turned-to-raise-her-son book, in which the protagonist has to deal with a truly epic level of bullshit from her father-in-law and various members of the PTA, but is rewarded by a relationship with a really great guy with awesome tats. Oh, and all kinds of weird family drama when it turns out dear old dad who she never knew is not only undead, he had a hand (sort of) in her raising. (ahem)
Reading order can be found at:
Ms. Harper refers to the Jane Jameson books as the "Nice Girls" series, and the Half-Moon Hollow series as the "Nice Girls Spinoffs".
ETA: Oh, I should mention. My sister bought the Iris Scanlon book for $1.99 based on a SBTB rec. She didn't get very far in it. I later read the same rec, went to go buy the book, and was confronted by that lovely message saying I already owned it. I saw she'd stopped, went back to the beginning and rattled right through the whole book. So, it really is not a sure thing whether this will be your kind of trash or not. SBTB liked it, my sister liked the review but found it dull. And I loved it. It looks like I started the series on or around my birthday at the end of May and am just now wrapping it up.