on November 30, 2001
I've been a Nora Roberts fan for decades, and I've realized over time that I don't hold her to the same standard I do most other authors. I judge Nora's books by how they stack up against my favorite Nora classics, not how they stack up against anyone else's work. And perhaps logically, as time has worn on, I'll admit that while I enjoy every one of her books, it has become harder for Nora to thrill and surprise me as much as she used to.
This all contributes to my delighted surprise with Midnight Bayou, which has rocketed itself to the top of my "Favorite All Time Nora" shelf. I was riveted to the pages and couldn't get to sleep afterward because I kept wondering if I maybe felt a "presence" in my own house...!! hint- don't start reading this book late at night thinking you can read a little, then put it down and pick it up again in the morning. It doesn't lend itself to that - you're more likely to stumble into work the next morning with an all-night-reading hangover!
As other reviewers have noted, I really enjoyed the hero providing the main character perspective and pivotal role. This is something Nora does fairly often in her category romances, and it worked well in Midnight Bayou. Of course it helps that Declan Fitzgerald is such a great character. Yes, he has some of the classic "formulaic" romance hero traits (rich, good-looking, etc) I've seen some negative comments about in reviews, but what makes Declan work for me are his layers. This is not a one-dimensional character the way the bad romance heros are. He's not perfect/alpha or saving the day (except for himself). Like so many of us, he's conflicted in some ways, and bullheadedly sure of himself in others. He has come to Manet Hall to start a new life, but first he has to deal with the tragic remnants of many lives before him, and their possible connections to his own present relationships. This is big stuff for anyone, and he handles it with appealing boyishness, dedication, humor and nerve. What I want to know is where I find a guy like him for myself?! I don't even care about the looks and the money! Give me the kindness and the humor and the dreamy determination. This is a man worth having.
Nora gives Declan a woman to love in Angelina (Lena) Simone and I liked her. Again, I've seen some reviews talk about Lena as a selfish b--ch, but I didn't get that feeling from her at all. She's been badly hurt in the past by relationships, and not by a man, but by her mother (a greater betrayal and more scarring as presented here). She doesn't trust and she depends on herself almost to the exclusion of others. She sees Declan as simply too good to be true, and therefore not worth the risk. Her struggle to accept his feelings for her and hers for him was believable to me, and endearing. She's not a typical romance heroine (if there is such a thing anymore), and I liked that too.
I thoroughly enjoyed the plot itself, with its woven storylines of past and present, and elements of paranormal activity, which I thought was very well done. I cared about both levels of story, and wanted justice/forgiveness in the present for the tragic victims of the past, even as I couldn't quite figure out how that would happen.
I agree with some of the reviews I've seen that mentioned the ending not quite living up to the rest of the book. I was surprised by its brevity, given the wonderful depth and narrative lushness of the story itself. I was a little disappointed, and would've liked an epilogue or something to flesh out the HEA more. But it's kind of like eating a big ice cream sundae and then saying just as you finish, but wait, it didn't have enough nuts on top...it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the whole. It speaks to the success of the characters and the story that we all wanted to see more of them, doesn't it?
If you've been a fan of Nora's who has been wishing she would try something a little different, then I think you'll like Midnight Bayou a lot. If you like her books just the way they are, you will like it, but may be surprised because she does some different things. If you've never read Nora before, oh boy, do you have lots of great stuff ahead of you! ENJOY!! I sure did and expect to again many times in the future.