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REVIEW: Scandal in Copper Lake by Marilyn Pappano

Dear Ms. Pappano,

book review 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.

My regards,

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!


  1. Rae Lori
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 14:27:13

    I would love to see HQN have more IR couples featuring women of color as the heroines. There were a few in the past with a pairing like ‘Scandal’: one was in the Desire line (Brenda Jackson) and another in the Kimani lines (Robyn Amos). I think there was even one in Special Edition. But I would love to see more, especially in the Intrigue and Nocturne lines (just because those are my favorite ;-)). I can’t wait to get to this in my TBR pile. I’m glad you reviewed it, Jia!

  2. Jia
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 15:39:31

    It’s appropriate that Jane had this review go up after Jade Lee’s first sale story. I think there’s an audience ready and waiting for more multiculturalism and more diversity in the genre. I personally would love to see more interracial couples in which both the hero and heroine are people of color since that would reflect more of what I see in real life.

  3. LoriK
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 16:45:04

    In fairness, the idea of a family of women who have only daughters and never marry isn’t just a racial stereotype. It’s also a pretty common trope in stories involving magic, witches, etc.

  4. Evangeline
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 17:00:52

    I agree with your review Jia: the handling of the interracial aspect is what bumped the grade up for me as well. Have you tried the Selena McCaffrey series Pappano wrote under the name “Rachel Butler”? I had the same issues with the suspense part of the series as I did with this book, but the relationship between Selena and Tony is what kept me reading.

    Regarding the racial stereotypes, I’m with LoriK. It just seemed like a traditional sort of family background for a line of powerful women (think Practical Magic).

  5. Jia
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 19:31:05

    @Evangeline: No, I haven’t. This is the first book I’ve ever read by Pappano. Thanks for pointing it out to me!

  6. Doreen
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 17:49:03

    Pappano is a must read for me, not just her Silhouettes but also her single titles. I guess I’m a squealing fangrrl when it comes to her, but I find her stories to be intelligent, human and often with a major twist you don’t see coming, which is difficult to do in a category.

    Really, look up her backlist. You won’t be sorry.


  7. trisha
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 19:07:15

    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.

    Jia, I’m with you about this, and the overall grade you gave the book. The relative lack of suspense didn’t affect my enjoyment, but this part did. It was always in the back of my mind. Though I agree that, otherwise, Pappano’s handling of both the race and class issues did elevate the story.

    You might also want to try Nancy Warren’s new Blaze, Under the Influence, for the secondary romance. It’s multiracial, with practically no discussion of race, but I actually found it/them much more interesting than the main characters’. Although I was confused by the timeline regarding Ben’s backstory, but maybe I missed something.

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