Saturday, January 10, 2009

Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts ****

I listened to this as an audio download from - and stretched it out over several days. The story is a contemporary/paranormal - there's ghosts and reincarnation. The audio book is read by 2 narrators - a woman reads the story from the perspective of the couple in the 19th century, and a man reads the contemporary POV. Both were ok - although I felt the woman's "Cajun" or bayou accent was more Hispanic, and the man's Cajun/bayou accent was sorta Irish... I'm prejudiced, having lived in south Louisiana, I guess.

Declan Fitzgerald is a Boston lawyer who fell in love with an old mansion on either the river or the bayou near New Orleans, Manet Hall. (I was a little unclear on the location - not in New Orleans but apparently really close.) He jilts his Bostonian fiancee 3 weeks before their wedding, leaves his big wealthy Irish family and his law career behind and moves to New Orleans to restore the old beauty.

Right away, he discovers the house is haunted. His buddy Remy and Remy's fiancee Effie come to visit, and even a skeptical Effie sees things which convince her things are not right at Manet Hall.

In 1899 or so (can't reference the book for the dates...), the Manet family consists of Mama Manet and her twin sons Lucien and Julien. Julien is Mama's favorite - and he's the evil twin. Lucien, The Good Twin, falls in love with a servant, probably Cajun but I don't think they called it that back then so she is referred to as "from the bayou" - uhm, can't recall her name and since it's in audio, can't page back to find it.... Lucien and the Cajun girl marry, but she is never accepted by Mama Manet and she is coveted by the evil Julien. While Lucien is out of town on business, Julien rapes then murders the girl in an alcoholic fog. Mama walks in on them and decides to cover up the murder, tossing the girl in the bayou and making it look like she ran away, leaving their infant daughter behind. Lucien and Julien both die soon after (I'll let you read it to see how that happens) and the infant Marie Rose is given to the girl's family to raise.

In the present, Declan meets the granddaughter of his neighbor - Angelina Simone, who, not coincidentally, is the great granddaughter of Marie Rose. Angelina runs a bar in town, and Declan falls in love with her as he did with the house, right off the bat. That could be because the 2 of them are reincarnated or are channeling the spirits of the house - I'll let you decide.

Declan decides to get to the bottom of the ghost issue so that the spirits can be released and he can live there with no more spirit problems - and he decides that Angelina is his woman, meant to be the mistress of Manet Hall. She's not at all convinced, and needs a lot of TLC and such to win over.

I liked this story a lot, although the narration wasn't quite as good as I could have wished for. The ghost elements and the historical story were interspersed with some humorous moments and a lot of realistic house-renovation moments. I liked Declan's determination - to renovate the home his way, both following the style of the time and including some of his own tastes; as well as to make Angelina see the light about their relationship. The paranormal elements didn't overwhelm the overall story, which was good too.

So I gave it 4 stars - "really liked it".

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