I love Nora Roberts’ J.D. Robb books, I simply love them. But as for the books she writes under her own name, I find myself blowing hot and cold. Some of them (the Born In series) are on my keeper shelf, some of them (the Stars of Mithra series) I am indifferent to, and some of them (Montana Sky), I could not finish. I guess I’m just not a Noraholic. I always have a soft spot in my heart for books set in New Orleans, and when I heard that Nora Roberts’ new one was set there, I asked to review it. It turned out to be an atmospheric book with a very likeable hero and a touch of ghostly mystery.
The hero of Midnight Bayou is Declan Fitzgerald (have to have that Irish connection) a Boston lawyer, who fell in love with New Orleans and a beautiful old house called Manet Hall years ago. When he heard that it was available, he jumped at the chance to buy it. Declan has an independent income and experience in rehabbing old houses; he plans to fix up the place and settle down in the Crescent City.
While he is working on the hall, Declan is plagued by dreams, fuge states and noises. It is clear to us the readers what the source of the problems is. In a prologue, Roberts gives us the story of twin brothers, one good and one bad and how the bad one murdered his brother’s wife. The ghosts of Manet Hall are trying to get in touch with Declan.
Through his friend Remy, Declan meets Angelina (Lena) Simone, the descendant of the woman who was murdered. Declan falls in love with Lena at first sight, but she is skittish. As the book progresses, Declan and Lena fall in love and they also discover the truth behind the ghosts of Manet Hall.
First what I liked: Declan. What a dear, kind, good man! He has a heart as big as the Mississippi River, and the most tender nature. I just loved him. Nora Roberts has few peers when it comes to writing male characters. Declan and his friend Remy were so authentically male that I kept nodding my head as I read and saying “yes, yes that is so utterly guy!” (I have four brothers, three brothers-in-law, one son and four nephews – I know guys). Another thing I loved about this book was the dialogue. It was crisp and snappy and sounded just right, there wasn’t a stilted phrase to be found. I also loved the descriptions of Manet Hall, it sounded lovely. (Since this is a romance, Roberts wisely left out any descriptions of the havoc that the Formosan termite has wreaked on the stately homes of the Big Easy).
Now, what I didn’t like: Declan falls in love with Lena at first sight, and I kept wondering why. She was not all that likable, being flippant, brittle and guarded. Later on when we get to know her better, her behaviour is perfectly understandable and if Declan had fallen in love with her then, I could have better understood it. But not at first sight. Also, Lena is a Cajun and her speech is at first peppered with so many chers that I felt like Sonny. A few would have sufficed to give us a flavor of cajun-speak and they do diminish as the book progresses, but for a while there were so many I was counting them. Very distracting. Finally, while the ghost story was O.K., I felt it was tacked on and would have preferred a straight love story.
I fully expect to see Midnight Bayou perched comfortably atop the best-seller list. While it was not a keeper for me, it kept me happily entertained for a couple of days. But I guess I’m not ready to join the Cult of Nora – not quite yet.