I picked up Josette the way I’ve picked up many other review books—on a whim. The blurb for the book didn’t provide any real hints, just a direct quote from the book describing a woman’s beautiful raven locks, dewy mouth, and so on. It’s a good thing I didn’t let that flowery prose stop me from reading what turned out to be a fairly good book.
Cameron Andrews, shipping executive and bereaved widower, is preparing to leave San Francisco when he encounters a little stowaway who just sailed in on one of his ships. Her name is Alexia, she’s a pickpocket/adventuress/wild child hailing from New Orleans, and she’s his daughter. Given that he hasn’t been to New Orleans in over 13 years and has never been told of Alexia’s existence, Cameron is understandably shocked and determined to get to the bottom of her claims, so that he can sail off to China in relative peace. He’s also unable to manage the precocious girl on his own, so he quickly marches her back to Louisiana.
Josette LeBlanc, née Thibodeaux, grew up loving Cameron Andrews from afar. They lived in completely different worlds within New Orleans—he in the Vieux Carré with wealthy parents, she in the bayou with a voodoo witch for a mother—but Josette always watched Cameron. When her older sister managed to win him as a client and get pregnant with his child, she was devastated. But then Cameron left without knowing about the baby, Josette’s sister died, and Josette herself married a wealthy older man… and somehow, fourteen years later, Josette is encountering her love again, only this time on equal footing as he returns her niece to her.
At least, Cameron thinks he’s just going to return Alexia and go on his way. Josette has other plans. She’s seen her mother’s growing interest in Alexia and, worried that Alexia will soon be on her way to becoming a voodoo priestess, she wants better for the girl. Unfortunately, her niece doesn’t listen to her—or anyone—terribly well, and so she hopes enlisting the aid of the girl’s father will solve things. Cameron, for his part, is swamped by lust the instant he sees Josette (refer to the aforementioned blurb for an example) and is slowly becoming attached to Alexia as well.
There are all sorts of interesting hijinks afoot in this book, what with Alexia keeping everyone always on their toes and Cameron and Josette smoldering at each other every chance they get. For about two thirds of it I was content to enjoy the action playing out in front of me, and didn’t have any real complaints. As I got toward the end, though, the main trio of Alexia, Cameron, and Josette began to annoy me a bit.
Alexia, for her part, is a charming but increasingly unrealistic thirteen-year-old. I liked her character a lot, but maturity-wise I felt she was closer to eleven rather than almost fourteen. Unrealistic children are one of my pet peeves in books, and so unfortunately the disparity between Alexia’s actual age and her wild behavior began to bother me in the end.
My major problem, though, was with Cameron and Josette. I liked them throughout the book, but they really did irritate me in the end when they began to dance around the issue of loving each other and committing to each other. Josette tried to play the martyr for a bit, loving and longing for Cameron when she “knew” he could never love her back. This, more than Alexia’s immaturity, is what made me downgrade the book a little, although happily it didn’t manage to sour the entire story. I’d definitely consider Josette a good read, even if it did get a little clichéd at the end.