Note: This is a late review from my 2010 book log, posting as I’m trying to get caught up. The 2011 book log will commence once the 2010 reviews are up to date!
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The fourth book of Elizabeth Lowell’s Donovans series, Midnight in Ruby Bayou, is for my money the best of the lot. It’s got the most complex of any of the plots in the series up to this point, and since it’s a bit longer than the previous ones as well, Lowell has more time to develop the various characters. This time around, the Donovan Sibling Du Jour is Faith, Hope’s sister, and we finally get some payoff on the plot point set up in previous books, involving an asshole ex-boyfriend. We’ve also got a stolen priceless Russian ruby, and the torrid secrets of a South Carolina family who’ve commissioned Faith to design a necklace for a forthcoming wedding–that of her own best friend.
Lowell does a decent job tying all of these elements together, although there’s a clear demarcation between the half of the story involving “Faith and Owen travel to South Carolina”, and “Faith and Owen arrive at the Monteageaus’ mansion, and deal with all the drama there”, and the transition between the two parts isn’t entirely smooth. But that said, out of all of the lead characters in the Donovans series, I like Faith and Owen the most. Their relationship and chemistry come across to me as the most equal out of any in the series, and not just because Owen is an employee of Faith’s family. He’s the most understated of the male leads in the series, and a lot of this is on purpose as he deliberately plays to the “Southern good ol’ boy” stereotype as well as to the fact that he’s carrying a cane as he recovers from an injury sustained in Afghanistan. Most importantly, while he and Faith do their share of arguing, they get over it quickly, and there’s no Big Misunderstanding sorts of annoyances that so often annoy me in romance and romantic suspense novels.
Once the action shifts to the Montegeaus’ mansion, everything takes on a decidedly darker tone–because at this point the plot delves into the sordid history of the family, and in particular, the crazy old woman Tiga. Questions of alcoholism and incest and murder are all explored, all of which give a bit more weight to this novel than its predecessors. As this is a romantic suspense novel, nothing is ever really graphically called out, though the presence of these plot elements at all may make it a questionable read for some. So be on the lookout for that.
All in all though a decent read. Three stars.