“ Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Author: Barbara Monajem / Kindle Edition / 338 Pages / Book is published 2010-03-30 by Love Spell „
A blackmailer in Bayou Gavotte, Louisiana, is targeting female residents who use a particular photo developers. However none of the frightened and embarrassed victims dare to report the blackmailer to the police, meaning that the cops hands are tied and they can't investigate. So when local resident and small business owner Ophelia discovers that one of her client's has fled her home in terror, she decides to help her and the other victims by trying to trap the blackmailer herself, seeing as the police are unable/unwilling to help...
Ophelia has a couple of other problems going on too; she owns her own gardening business, but someone has taken it upon themselves to destroy her prized garden and make various attempts to sabotage her business. And then there is the little matter of her being a vampire and struggling to contain her allure and hunger for blood. And when the blackmailer proves to be quite happy to commit murder, how will her vampiric side react to the threat?
Is Ophelia and her allure really in any state to take on the blackmailer? How many people are after her? Why is someone trying to destroy her business? Will readers stay awake until the end of the book?
I've already said this a few times, but I'm still saddened by the quality decline in the Southern Vampire Mysteries [aka True Blood] book series. So when I read the description for SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE AND EVIL I thought that the hole in my heart about to be filled in, with a new hit of vampires, sex and murder. But was it?
Lets start with the biggest annoyance; Ophelia is bitchy and tantrum-prone, even though the other characters constantly tell me what a kind-hearted and gentle, peace loving delight she is. She's the most hideous character I've come across in recent memory, so I actually began skimming the scenes which featured her. I'm not exaggerating, these are the first words that she says to the hero:
"Who the the hell are you?"
Rude, but not so bad. But nowlet me set the scene; this takes place minutes after she calls the police to report that someone has just vandalised her garden, so he turns up in response. And she is also brandishing a shotgun at him. Then just a few pages later she's merrily accusing him of being corrupt for no reason, ordering him to do certain tasks whilst he processes the scene, then sending him away because she can't be bothered to answer simple questions. Again; he is a police officer, responding to a call that SHE placed, in order to help her.
Another big problem for me is that a big deal is made over how much Ophelia hates being a vampire. She hasn't drank blood from a human for over two years, because of a mysterious Past Trauma. But blood-drinking isn't actually the worst thing about being a vampire for her. No, the biggest trauma for her is actually that she has a strong allure, to help draw in her dinner. I could understand how that may not be pleasant to draw desire from every Tom, Dick and Harry - what if they were married, a childhood friend or something?
The thing that infuriates me is that she knows full well that if she drank human blood every now and then this allure she has would weaken, so I just don't understand why is she forever moping and whining about how horrible it is for her. The solution for her problem is right there and is easy for her to do, so there is no real point for spending a big part of the book moaning.
As for the hero; Gideon doesn't actually act like a cop should, so I can't take him or his blackmail and murder investigation seriously. For instance he discusses the ongoing murder case in public with the heroine and her criminal friends, just because they demand answers to questions that they have no right asking. And when a women frets that her missing husband is dead, he just shrugs and more-or-less tells her "not my case, not my problem".
OK, so he doesn't seem professional to me, but personality wise he seems alright - apart from the way he allows Ophelia to treat him and butt her nose in places it doesn't belong. I was expecting a bossy alpha type, but he's beta and I can't think of much else to say about him in all honesty - and I have my kindle next to me while I write this out.
The book was originally released by Lovespell, so the romantic angle is meant to be the book's biggest strength, but it is actually the biggest weakness for me; I just don't believe that Gideon is in love with Ophelia. She shows no respect for him or his job, so what is there to attract him to her? She has this allure, so gives him an erection the first time he meets her, so it's clearly happy ever after? The author has failed to show me anything that suggests Ophelia evens likes Gideon, and everything suggests that Gideon is thinking with his penis when it comes to his feelings for Ophelia.
It's not a romantic book and I don't find the sex scenes erotic, or even mildly thrilling, so I'm not sure what to think about the 'love' story the plot has been created around. Such irritating and unmemorable leading characters and their dead-end romance meant that the book became a chore to complete, rather then being a relaxing pleasure. It took me over a week to finish this 315 page book, when I can usually read books of that length easily within one day.
The mystery sub-plot should be enjoyable, except that the reasons that people are being blackmailed are really tame. If we'd got to read some juicy secrets then maybe I'd have been a little more invested in the characters, but no. It is actually laughable how one victim packs her children in her car and runs away, abandoning her home, for no real reason. Plus; the identity of the blackmailer becomes very much obvious from the first murder onwards. Yes - it's a romance book, so the development of that plot-line is the author's first priority. But still, does the author think readers won't notice the big giveaway? She mustn't think much of her readers observational skills. The mix of blackmail, murder and child abuse could still have made for a roller-coaster ride of emotions, regardless of how transparent it becomes, BUT Ophelia sticks her nose in everywhere, involving herself in all of the secondary characters subplots and she really does grate on me too much for me to enjoy the ride.
The secondary characters should be interesting, but most of them haven't been fleshed out; the criminal underworld members are the worst. The author just calls them underworld members, throws in a couple of rumours that are making the rounds about them, then informs the readers that these rumours are false. So why are they 'criminal underworld members'? Are they drug-dealers, hitmen, thieves, con artists, or do they share MP3s online? Throwing in promising characters, then not doing anything with them is just pointless padding.
Just an observation; are the residents of Bayou Gavette meant to be aware that vampires exist? The quote from SPNSMB [The Society For Protection Of Not-So-Mystical Beings] at the beginning of the book implies
that no, they're not, but then why are there so many underground clubs and bars catering to vamps and sexual deviance in such a small, bible-belt town? Also; no-one seems shocked or scared when they find out themselves face to face with a vampire, it's just like "Yeah, cool. Whatever".
Good points? The author's take on vampirism is new to me; it is the result of a genetic mutation, that reveals itself during puberty. There is no super-speed or strength, no burning in sunlight, no shape-shifting, bout from the fangs everything is quite realistic. And because she doesn't have special abilities, readers don't assume that the vamps are going to merrily breeze though obstacles.
Othella's vampiric sister Violet is one of the more developed characters. I like that she accepts what she is and makes it work for her. I'd much rather read a book about Violet's life, rather then the one we got. However, the standout character for me is Zelda, Ophelia's 13 year niece, who is waiting to see if she has inherited the vampire gene. She is much more mature then any of the other characters and doesn't spend the book worrying about things that she has no power over; the most interesting plot thread to follow is whether she is a vampire of wholly human.
Overall; The few bright spots here aren't enough to make me want to read the sequels [Tastes of Love & Evil and Heart Of Constance], and I've since deleted SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE AND EVIL from my kindle. Such a shame as the ingredients are all here for a enjoyable tale, but the author hasn't done anything with them.
Fortunately I picked up the book when Amazon had it listed as free, so I didn't waste any money on it.
Kindle download: £4.19
Paperback [OOP]: from 1p for secondhand copies