How did I get it: I received an ARC from Pocket Books. Thank you!
Why did I read it: I enjoyed Dead on the Delta and was very eager to pick up its sequel.
How I would rate it: 2 out of 5 stars.
It’s only been three weeks since Annabelle helped solve the murder of Grace Beauchamp, and in the process, she discovered a secret world of invisible, magic-working people who have decided she might have what it takes to join their ranks.
As best as she can determine, Annabelle’s attack by a group of fairies has infected her with paranormal ability she did not previously possess, including being able to mentally move objects and heal wounds. Her new abilities appear to have few negative side effects, aside from creepy dreams. But would that change if she stopped injecting herself with the mystery drug delivered to her by the even more mysterious Tucker, one of the Invisibles?
Leery of trusting criminals with her health, Annabelle wishes she had someone she could talk to about the changes in her life. Enter Hitch, FBI agent and Annabelle’s ex, who’s back in Donaldsonville on an off-the-books investigation. Hitch suspects that there’s a government-funded illegal lab that’s developing a controversial fairy-killing spray that could adversely affect the existence of every living thing in the delta—including humans. And Hitch and Annabelle will have to find a way to work together if they’re going to find a way to shut it down.
Review: (Please Note: This review contains several spoilers relating to characters, but not to the overall plot.)
While Blood on the Bayou had a really neat plot and some engaging minor characters, it really, really let me down in terms of its main character, Annabelle Lee.
I am a very character-driven reader. Plots and world-building are awesome, but even then, unless I’m reading a book about the exciting adventures of a planet or plot-point, I need something else to go on. I need a character to connect to. That doesn’t mean I have to become BFFs with the character. I’m not saying need to see their resume nor require them to adhere to a strict moral code, but I do prefer protagonists that have something —anything— going for them. This is particularly true of Urban Fantasy where so many heroines are presented as absolute messes in terms of their personal life and emotional state.
I can understand the appeal of a messy character. I can also appreciate fictional private investigator or magic user types who come across as both sarcastic and self-deprecating while masking some kind of secret hurt that gets slowly revealed over the course of their series. Having low self-esteem, being an addict of some kind, or having a dark past isn’t going to keep me from liking a character. I think having issues like that can be compelling. Successful examples for me would be Stacia Kane’s Chess, Putnam, Lauren Beukes’ Zinzi December, Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels, and Diana Rowland’s Angel Crawford. They don’t all have the same range of problems by any stretch of the imagination, but their books/series are all focused on the ways they change and become more comfortable in their roles as well as with themselves. Yes, men become a part of all of their lives, but that isn’t the end all be all of their existence.
In approaching Blood on the Bayou, I was aware that Annabelle was still quite a mess and not likely to make any improvements at a rapid pace because honestly she doesn’t care enough about herself. Even knowing that, I figured something ultimately would change given that this is the second book in an on-going series. Therefore I was very disappointed when, just like in the first book, Annabelle didn’t seem to care about herself on any level, constantly was looking for conflict to have with someone else, took very little responsibility for her actions, took advantage of various emotional attachments, and was apparently quite content cultivating a nice little garden of problems for herself.
With a character like Annabelle, my hope is usually a) that she or he will either be such an awesome force that I won’t care about their personal hang-ups or shortcomings, b) I will be given insight that will allow me to have more empathy for him or her, or c) he or she will decide to possibly change their life for the better in some small, organic way over the course of several books.
Maybe this is expecting too much from a book or maybe it’s expecting just the right amount from a novel. Jury’s still out. Either way, character development would be sort of pivotal for a fictional someone with more issues than actual friends. The last thing I am interested in is how many guys or gals said heroine or hero can hook up with while ignoring their issues or so much as sorting out a single, solitary mess facing them outside of the main plot.
So imagine my horror when Annabelle went from having maybe one guy to having three guys that were into her because… Well, that’s the problem. I think I’m as likely to figure out the answer to that question as I am to figure out while every female character in Norway was in love with Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole.
What was also problematic for me in terms of Annabelle and her love interests was that one of the guys into Annabelle has a pregnant fiancée who was in a hospital and in danger of losing their baby. Until the plot got a move on, he spent a lot of time trying to get Annabelle to take him back because of their epic misunderstanding a long time ago. And he also thought her craziness is sexy. Another one of the guys was so in love with her that it is really depressing to read about. The right thing to do would have been to tell him it’s over at some point, but instead Annabelle accidentally sort of intentionally strung him along for just about the entire book. And the third just was sort of there for most part but they have witty exchanges and he was hot and was also into her being a hot mess for no real reason.
I realize these issues won’t trouble every reader and to many it will seem like I read this book the wrong way. But I can only speak to my experience which was full of frustration, bafflement, and disappointment. I got really sick and tired of the plot having to get put on pause for Annabelle and her love square, which really didn’t hold my interest or make me feel all that emotionally invested. More importantly, I didn’t feel like the characters were all that genuinely invested or that they would have been pursuing Annabelle had she not been the main character. Along those lines, I also got really fed up by how nothing seemed to get resolved with any of the three men for far too long. And I really just found myself fundamentally disliking all the decisions Annabelle made and all the approaches she took to any given situation.
Things got slightly better as the plot continued, and I did like the way the novel ended in terms of the plot as well as the minor characters especially Fern and Deedee. Along the way, there were a lot of quirky moments and the some of the humor worked for me. And, yes, Annabelle ultimately made some good decisions… but by then I felt like the only reason Annabelle was important to anyone in the book was because she was the main character and everything was from her point of view. The ways in which Annabelle seemed to be growing and changing didn’t do much for me anymore than her love life did.
In conclusion, not for me. I have no desire to only read and review books where the main character has a clean bill of mental health, but I’m not a fan of stories where female characters are messes in need of unconditional support and a good therapist but instead have 3+ guys trying to hook up with them.