Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil
I know some folks are a little burned out on vampires, but I still enjoy a good vampire book now and again and the cover blurb for Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil made me curious. It’s part of Dorchester’s Publisher’s Pledge program, a program designed to promote books it considers particularly special and which offers readers a money-back guarantee if they’re not satisfied. I like the idea, but while this book had promise, it didn’t quite do it for me.
This novel reminds me a bit of Charlaine Harris meets Lynsay Sands and here’s why. First of all, we have a small-town Louisiana setting complete with wacky, eccentric townspeople. Sound familiar? There’s quite a bit of humor to the story as well, which made me think of both authors.
The heroine of the book, Ophelia Beliveau, is a vampire who emits a glamour that attracts men whether she wants it to or not. This quality is the bane of her existence, and as a result, she leads a rather reclusive life. She does landscaping and is absolutely devoted to the garden she has created on her own property. Ophelia comes by her vampirism genetically, and her descriptions of the “vampire gene” reminded me of the nanos talked about in Lynsay Sands’ vampire novels. The somewhat wacky and humorous tone taken by characters in this story reminded me a bit of Sands’ humor as well.
However, once the story gets moving, Monajem’s work takes on a style all its own and at times it is very entertaining. As the story opens, Ophelia discovers that someone has destroyed her beloved garden. Convinced that an unusually unpleasant neighbor has done it, she calls the police. She only plans to scare the neighbor, but the detective sent to investigate, Gideon O’Toole, takes it more seriously than Ophelia intended. This will turn out to be not such a bad thing because not only does Gideon feel attracted to Ophelia, but it soon becomes apparent that Ophelia has a terrible enemy.
Not surprisingly, Gideon is also gorgeous. Ophelia doesn’t want to get mixed up with him or any other man, but Gideon somehow gets under her skin in a way that other guys just have not. For his part, Gideon is initially bowled over by Ophelia’s man-attracting powers, but even when he is away from her, he finds himself thinking about her quite a bit. And it being a small town, they can get thrown together rather often.
At its best, this story is a fun read and I basically enjoyed it. However, the middle portion of the novel sagged terribly for me. The book just didn’t seem to have a real identity. I can enjoy a good book that defies genre categorization, but this one seemed to contain a hodgepodge of cozy mystery, vampire tale, and contemporary romance with some YA subplot thrown in. Had it flowed, it would have worked. However, the constant jumping between scenes and characters and subplots, as well as the somewhat muddled tones of the various plot pieces did not fall together smoothly, dragging the book down. It took me days to get through some of these middle chapters. In addition, the romance between Gideon and Ophelia gets a little lost in the maze of truly wacky plots.
A word about the characters – there are a ton of them and most are pretty colorful. After all, Ophelia and company live in a town with vampires who run fetish clubs that allow them to feed. It’s more than a little weird. The humor will work for some readers, but probably not for all. I actually enjoyed the tone, and I didn’t even mind that I needed a scorecard to keep all the characters and their subplots straight. I just found myself wishing that not every character had to be over-the-top or eccentric. The excessive number of colorful people in the book made it feel silly rather than fun after a while. Surely, small towns have a few normal, mainstream sorts of people in them!
While Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil has some good moments and I basically liked the lead characters, the book just ended up being a little too roughly crafted for me to recommend. Had the multitude of subplots flowed better and the over-the-top craziness of the author’s world been tempered a little bit, I would have found the book more effective. As it is, this novel is somewhat better than the average, but still not quite strong enough for me to recommend.