McClane’s debut novel, set in sultry New Orleans, combines mystery, romance, and a touch of the paranormal.
Lacey Becnel wakes up naked under a highway overpass. There’s a man sleeping nearby, and she has no memory of the last few hours. A flashback establishes Lacey in a boring, dead-end job, still mourning her unfaithful husband, Fox, who died in an accident 15 months before. Her best friend, Angele Lee, persuades her to have a girls’ night out, during which she has a meet-cute with a man named Nathan Quirk. The attraction is instantaneous, so when Lacey finds Nathan later that night, passed out under the overpass, she stops to help. Lacey somehow heals him of his injuries, even though it looks like he’s been run over by a car, but exactly how she’s able to do it is still cloudy to her. Although the plot device of a memory blackout seems contrived, it does spur Lacey (and readers) to try to find out what’s going on. After Lacey uses her healing gift again, she questions her husband’s aunt, Evangeline, known as “Tonti,” about their family’s history to discover more about her powers. The New Orleans setting and the old family secrets that Lacey unearths add a touch of Southern gothic to this mystery/romance. However, some explanation of local traditions, such as the carnival organization Rex, would have helped readers unfamiliar with the city. Lacey has a wry, self-deprecating narrative voice, enlivened by frequent pop-culture references. It’s startling, then, when the point of view hops without warning into other people’s heads; Lacey is an engaging heroine, but the supporting players often seem clichéd. Two mysterious characters—Cecil, an African-American chef; and Eli, a co-worker of Angele’s—hold special knowledge about Lacey’s powers and conveniently appear just when she needs additional information. However, the clunky dialogue doesn’t help bring the secondary characters to life: “Your time in your chrysalis is over,” Tonti tells Lacey at one point. An unresolved final scene between the two lovers leaves an opening for a potential sequel.
An uneven paranormal romance whose promising heroine isn’t enough to make it stand out from the crowd.