Last week I talked about Somebody To Love by Jude Deveraux which had a depressed Hero seeking the truth about his girlfriend's suicide and along the way he buys an old haunted mansion, meets a local, falls in love and they solve the dead-ex mystery and set the ghosts free. It was ok. I was left wanting to read something else right away so I went to the library and scanned the sparse shelves for something that grabbed my attention. Upon reaching the R's, I found about ten Nora Roberts books. Ten! My small library has a virtual shrine to Roberts. So I randomly grabbed five books and checked them out. The first one I decided on, because I liked the purple foil of the title, was Midnight Bayou.
Well, I don't know how I did this, but I managed to pick up almost the exact same book! How could that happen? This time around we have Declan, who's just run away from Boston to escape the fury of the families he's disappointed by deciding he didn't want to marry after all and called off The Society Wedding Of The Year three weeks before d-day. Besides, he also doesn't want to be a lawyer anymore, he wants to be a master Carpenter. He has warm fuzzy memories of drunkenly breaking into a broken down mansion in New Orleans with his best friend and ever since he's known he must have that house.
The house is full of angry ghosts and it's a ruin but Declan doesn't care - he ain't afraid of no ghosts! But he does get queasy and fall down on the floor in a faint if he goes into the third floor nursery. He'll just decorate that room last.
He falls in love at first sight with Lena. She's Cajun, confident sexy and smart. A self-made woman who runs her own bar. She is her own pride and joy. A pessimist in Realist's clothing. She falls in love with no man, they are her toys until they run away. they always run away. (sigh)
What I'll say is, this book flows so much better than Deveraux's. The description is better, the writing is much more polished and easy. It gave me the escapism I absolutely needed. However, it goes down a route I didn't really like.
Declan and other folks too can see and hear the ghosts. They slam doors, throw vases and sometimes if you go into one of the rooms you can see it exactly as it was a hundred years ago when a terrible murder took place in Manet Hall. A clock chimes midnight, a baby cries. Declan in particular is absorbed into this mess as not only does he see them, they come into his dreams, and he sleepwalks. He's found himself in the nursery, on the front lawn, almost in the pond and in the old bedroom that remains freezing cold.
I don't mind ghost stories, but I get a bit frustrated when opinions are made into facts. No one knows for certain about ghosts; real, fake, imagined whatever. So when the last quarter of this story leaps into the whole reincarnation angle; that Declan and Lena are the reincarnated souls of Abigail and Lucian Manet - she being the murdered new mother and Lucian the grieving father who commits suicide, it's just a bit too much for me. The baby is Lena's Great-Great-Grandmother. There was a chapter where Declan is having full recall of his previous life and he's so pissed off at Lena for being a disappointing Husband...oh yes. They swapped. Isn't that a funny trick of Fate? (And to Nora's credit, I never saw it coming.) He has to endure his memories (as Abigail) of giving birth, being raped and then being strangled to death - thankfully not all on the same night! I know women say that men don't know what it's like to be pregnant and give birth to the point of cliche, so I found this storyline a let down. Lena doesn't have the recall Declan does, but that doesn't stop her apologizing to him/her all the time during his recall. It was weird. It pulled me right out of the story and ruined the magic. My suspension of disbelief was stretched to capacity.
What I did like about it is how very well plotted it is. Supporting characters are enjoyable and very well fleshed out. I love the small town feel. I love when I can a read a book and feel a welcome part of the action to the point that I kept thinking, I should see New Orleans! Then I remember this is pre-Katrina and then I feel sad. Then I remember they have gators there and I'm petrified of gators so I'm not going there.
That was something that freaked me out in the book, Lena walks her Grandmama's dog, Rufus, and throws a ball into the pond for him to swim after! Are you sick in the fucking head? Gators?! Gators are going to eat your dog! Don't throw the ball into the water for the love of Rufus, you sicko! So I may not have bonded as well to Lena as I could have due to her obvious leans towards animal cruelty. They never say the gators are in the pond, but in the bayou and I honestly have no clue what the difference is but still...gators can walk across land and slip into ponds. I've seen them! on TV.
I still give it a B- with points off for reincarnation - I would rather there have been no answer and the ghosts were just erased with the burgeoning love from the living people or some shit. I mean voodoo and a gris-gris is stupid but reincarnation is fact? And for gator bating with a chocolate Lab.
Nora's obvious skill as a writer saved her. I have four more to get through. Going to start Face The Fire this afternoon and I have no clue what it's about. Like I said, I just took the books off the library shelf. Each will be a complete surprise.