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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil by Barbara Monajem

Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil by Barbara Monajem
Publisher: Dorchester Love Spell
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (317 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 books
Reviewed by Delphinium

Dark secrets abound in the town of Bayou Gavotte, Louisiana, from blackmail to fetish clubs to murder, and when blood-and-love starved vampire Ophelia Beliveau calls the police to scare away whoever is desecrating her garden, Detective Gideon O'Toole unearths more than he ever dreamed.

Small-town landscaper (and reluctant vampire) Ophelia Beliveau would never willingly deal with the police, but when someone poisons her garden and tosses a dead cat on her porch, she’s forced to make the call, bringing hunky detective Gideon O’Toole (definitely not a vampire) to her door and into her life. Quel problème! Within the first chapter, the reader connects to these two strong characters and hopes for a positive outcome—both in solving the mystery and in finding love.

The more Ophelia tries to hide from her vampire nature, the more she’s forced into action. Action that includes asking for help from straight-laced Gideon, who isn’t immune to her charms, even though she does her best to thwart his desire. Gideon’s finally found his equal in a woman. Too bad she claims she wants him only for his detective skills. Blackmail and murder spread throughout Bayou Gavotte, linking Ophelia’s vandalism complaint to other criminal activities Gideon is trying to solve and carrying the reader along at a galloping pace. As Ophelia and Gideon work together to solve first a simple case of vandalism and then a full-fledged conspiracy, the repartee the two characters use to distance themselves can’t hold back their mutual building desire.

Monajem has created a strong and likable female character in Ophelia. Gideon is a hunk, with intelligence and a heart. Monajem’s secondary characters—Constantine, the rock star who hangs out with the underworld, Leopold, the Native American vigilante, and the teen-aged Zelda—all are well developed, intriguing characters. Complex and hilarious teen Zelda deserves her own book.

Who knew a small rural town in Louisiana could have numerous kinky sex clubs, a criminal underbelly, and vampires? Monajem has created a delightful Mayberry setting with a twist in the town of Bayou Gavotte. Bayou Gavotte is the kind of small town where the sheriff stains plywood in the middle of his station, so adding in multiple kinky sex clubs and a realm of vampires may be a bit of a stretch for some, but Monajem deftly weaves these plot lines into the book without compromising the small-town, rural feel. At times both sultry and inviting, then gritty and dark, Monajem’s Bayou Gavotte invites the reader in to visit and then doesn’t let go.

The dynamic between Ophelia and Gideon is filled with tension, but that tension sometimes gets in the way of the story. Too much reliance on misunderstood communication results in an annoying tension throughout Ophelia and Gideon’s interaction. In addition, over-the-top, incongruent reactions on the part of various characters results in a melodramatic feel during many scenes, pulling this reader out of the action to figure out what all the fuss is about. However, Monajam’s strength in creating both an environment in which a reader is reluctant to leave and characters a reader is reluctant to let go of smoothes over any rough spots.

A well-paced storyline, engaging secondary characters and a complex setting add depth and interest to a contemporary human/vampire love story. Consider this a good summer read. Monajem’s a writer to keep an eye on.