Beignets and a hero who calls his lover chÇre: the inevitable signs of contemporary formula-romance in New Orleans. In the 1930s and '40s, even unlikely movie stars were forced to sing and dance—the heyday of the Hollywood musical demanded it. In the same way, today, perfectly good romance writers like Cameron, now with her first hardcover, churn out suspense thriller-mysteries, but without suspense, without mystery, and without many thrills, at least not before bedtime. Here, Celina Payne, a former Miss Louisiana, discovers the corpse of her boss and best friend Errol Petrie lying on the floor of his bathroom, dressed only in a green rubber penis ring. (In Cameron's signature sensuous romances, sexual descriptions are anatomically correct; there are no "male members" or "buds of femininity.") Celina, a daughter of New Orleans society, teams up with Errol's roguish Cajun partner Jack Charbonnet, co-owner of a riverboat casino, to carry on the work of Errol's nonprofit organization, Dreams, a charity that attempts to grant the wishes of dying children. A villainous politician is trying to destroy Dreams by spreading the rumor that Errol was an alcoholic sex addict. Inevitably, Jack and Celina come to admire each other's perfect bodies, and devilish Jack is revealed not only as a devoted father to five-year-old Amelia, but also as an all-round gallant fellow. He tells bedtime stories to Amelia every night, he walks her to school every morning, and he proposes to Celina when he learns she's pregnant (the result of a rape by the villainous politician). Jack's father, a Mafia wiseguy, was nailed to a fence and castrated, then forced to watch his wife be raped and murdered. After these same Mafia thugs, now older, terrorize Celina—in a plot device that never makes sense—all the other bad guys are perfunctorily announced. Jack and Celina, of course, live happily ever after. A very watery gumbo.
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