This book starts off incredibly strong and entertaining.
LaShaun Rouselle has just come back to her home-town of Beau Chene, Louisiana and already she is in trouble. Hauled into the local sheriff's office because of a busted tail-light and 'suspicious looking weeds' in bags, the locals are on alert, LaShaun is back in town can trouble be far behind?
Apparently LaShaun left town under the suspicion of being an accessory to murder of a prominent local citizen. But her family is an old one with roots deep in the town. And her grandmother is well respected as well as a practitioner of the old ways, Voudon, that she has passed on to LaShaun. Madame Rouselle is very,very sick and LaShaun is back to help her get her affairs in order.
However, the past isn't really in the past. The whispers that chased LaShaun out of town have grown into a loud buzz as another murder close to home occurs soon after she returns. LaShaun and the sexy new-to-town deputy Chase Broussard knows she's innocent they just have to prove it.
This book should have been like catnip to me. It has all the elements that I generally enjoy in a book: Characters who are a little mussed up, a touch of Southern Gothic, family drama and old secrets, romance that felt just bit forbidden, and great secondary characters.
However I can't say that it all completely worked.
The entire time I was reading the book, I felt like I was reading a second book of a series and missed all the background that happened in the first book. There is a lot of back-story and history of LaShaun, her town and the her family. Her involvement with Quentin Trosclair, son of the most prominent family in town and the murder of his grandfather that left him a lot of money is mentioned several times in the book. Yet the story of it is just a tantalizing outline. None of the blanks were filled in. We don't know exactly what happened. How she got involved with Quentin in the first place? How was she even implicated in the murder?
Ditto with the background of her family. Her family is large and they are fighting over her own grandmother's will. It is clear that she is the favored grand-daughter and she has two resentful cousins, but like the other story, we get just the barest outline of what is going on with the family. I would have loved to have gotten some flashbacks, something that goes into the family dynamics a bit more. For instance, there was a scandal with LaShaun's mother and a suitor that spurned her. That story too is hinted around, referred to obliquely, but not really fleshed out.
So I could never shake the feeling that I was missing necessary details and it made for some frustrating reading. The book was chock full of atmosphere, but it needed more to hang onto it. The bones of a great, really interesting story was there, it just needed more flesh.
I did like LaShaun as a character. She was charismatic and likeable. I also enjoyed her interactions with her child-hood nemesis the whip-smart lawyer Savannah (yet another story that needed to be filled in...). Actually I enjoyed Savannah as a great break-out secondary character.
Since I love family drama I enjoyed all the busy, sometimes combative scenes of the large and loud Rousselle family.
The romance was also well integrated into the story. Chase made for a suitably sexy romantic interest for LaShaun.
I was less impressed with the denouement of the story. The voodoo/magical element did not feel like it was woven into the overall story very well. It felt tacked on like it was simply a plot device. Honestly I don't think it added anything to the narrative.
Most of the time when I have an issue with story length it is the feeling that there should have been 50-100 pages less
. However this time, where you have a story that included murder, decades old secrets, voodoo, romance, heirs fighting, and police corruption I think it would have greatly benefited from more.