Dear Ms. Pappano,
One thing I’m trying to do this year is expand my reading horizons. I usually stay within my favorite genres of fantasy, paranormals, and young adult, but sometimes you need variety to keep things interesting. So when I was glancing through the eHarlequin website earlier this month, your book caught my eye because of the interracial couple on the cover. I normally don’t read romantic suspense but my interest was piqued and Harlequin/Silhouette books are short enough that I don’t feel like I’m making a massive time commitment if things don’t work out as well as I’d hoped.
Anamaria Duquesne comes from a long line of psychic women. When she was a little girl, she predicted her mother’s death. Now over twenty years later, she returns at her grandmother’s request to learn more about the circumstances surrounding that tragic event.
Robbie Calloway is a lawyer who’s been hired to keep an eye on her. When you make a living by telling fortunes, you can’t help but end up accused of being a swindler, even if you’re the real deal. And make no mistake, Anamaria is the real deal. (I guess I wasn’t able to completely stay away from paranormal elements, after all!) We’re led to believe that Robbie’s client is worried Anamaria is going to take advantage of his wife’s gullibility the same way her mother once did. But it soon becomes apparent that everyone in Copper Lake has a secret, some of which they’d prefer stay buried.
I admit I was initially concerned when I started learning about Anamaria’s family. The Duquesne women are a long line of single mothers who have children — always daughters — out of wedlock, all of which are fathered by different men. If that’s not a racial stereotype, I don’t know what is. And while I think their collective free-spirited outlook on their lifestyle and their being portrayed as strong, independent women might be indicative of a subversion of this cliché, I remained uneasy about this aspect from start to finish. Different readers might have different reactions to this, one way or another.
In addition, her mother, Glory, fits the tragic mulatta archetype at first glance and that lingered in the back of my mind as I read the book, bracing myself for the hammer to come down at any moment. When the truth about Glory’s death is revealed, I ultimately concluded she didn’t really fit this stereotype but again, I think this is another aspect readers could go either way on.
When it comes to the actual story, I’m not sure I would call this book suspenseful. I’ll be truthful and say this is the first book I’ve ever read from any Harlequin/Silhouette romantic suspense line so I have no measuring stick to guide me. As Anamaria’s investigation into the past continues, there are escalating threats to her safety but they never struck me as particularly dangerous to her life. Maybe I just have some preconceived notions about romantic suspense that need addressing (and destroying), if I always think they involve women in peril.
Even when it comes to the romantic aspect, I’m not sure I completely bought it. The Duquesne women are known for “loving hard and unwisely” and it seems like Anamaria knew Robbie would be that man for her at first sight. That might explain why I have a hard time swallowing it since the destined love trope generally tends not to work for me. As for Robbie, I also had a hard time warming up to him. He’s the lazy playboy son of a rich family and is used to all the privilege that affords him. I don’t understand how he can even call himself a lawyer without laughing since he hardly does any work! But once he started falling for Anamaria, his outlook starts changing in ways that softened me towards him.
This brings me to the aspect I liked best: the treatment of race and class in the context of interracial relationships in a small, deep Southern town. It’s not glossed over or brushed aside. Anamaria comes from a long line of women used to being kept as secret lovers to what often are rich, white men. Robbie comes from a background where he’s expected to marry a blue-eyed blond and have a proper, class-appropriate marriage. That’s the point at which their relationship starts so watching their respective outlooks change — Anamaria wonders why she can’t marry the man she loves hard and unwisely and Robbie wonders if marrying a blue-eyed blond is what he really wants when the future children he imagines are all daughters who look like Anamaria — was the most engrossing part of the novel for me. It’s not ever preachy or overt but it’s there and I found that very realistic given their respective backgrounds.
I also liked how achieving their HEA was about fighting tradition for what you truly want. Robbie’s circumstances are obviously a matter of tradition. Marry a white, blue-eyed blond socialite from a rich family and have a marriage and family that’s expected from someone from your social status and class. But Anamaria’s circumstances are a tradition too, in their own way. The Duquesne women call their propensity to fall for the wrong men a curse, but is that really the case? Or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy that passes from one generation to the next?
When it comes to a grade, I’m a bit torn. I feel that the plot itself is a C+, especially in light of the real reason Robbie was hired to tail Anamaria in the first place, which I thought was abruptly revealed. On the other hand, I thought the portrayal of race and class as it affects a relationship was really well-handled and for that reason, I settled on a B-. From looking at your backlist, I see this was apparently the last book in a series about the Calloway brothers, so I think I might pick the first three up sometime in the future.