Friday, April 4, 2014

"Black Rose" by Jenna Ryan

Published:  2014
Setting:  Modern Day

"The shop air smelled musty, but Mia detected an underlying scent of beeswax.  The floors, little more than worn strips of plank, sagged precariously beneath her feet.

A clock ticked deep inside, but otherwise the place was silent.  The main room was crammed with old furniture, paintings, tools, toys, jewelry, books and ornaments.  Each piece vied with its neighbor for elbow room, of which there was none.  The contents of the shelves brushed the low ceiling in many areas.  A desk lamp with a deep blue bulb gave off a ghostly glow that had Mia rubbing her arms and wishing she'd worn a jacket.

She made her way through the labyrinth of cast-off treasures.  Some might qualify as antiques in better light, but most of what she saw was junk.  Dented metal pitchers, nicked tables, chairs half stuffed, a pole lamp held together with red duct tape.  There were jars of pickled no-idea-what, beads everywhere she turned, a damaged Victrola, a mannequin minus its head and later the head sporting someone's old dentures.

The ticking clock grew louder the farther she ventured into the space.  Strings of black pearls hung in shadowed entryways that undoubtedly led to anterooms filled with even more stuff.  Outside one of those anterooms, a doll that looked like a miniature wooden puppet set cockeyed in a rocking chair and regarded her half-lidded."

Mia is independent, she seemingly has her life held together what with her own business nestled into a corner of the French Quarter.  Everything in her life is about as calm as it's going to get....that is, until she witnesses a grisly murder by the hand of a serial killer who appears to be knocking off only women.

Before she knows it, she's being swept away with agent Rick Ryder, who says he's there to protect her, as she might just be the next victim since she saw the serial killer and the chances are quite good he saw her as well.

As Ryder and Mia venture into the heart of the Louisiana bayou, danger lurks at their every turn...from a shootout at a run-down mom and pop to an all-out chase into the swampy glades.  Mia fears for her life and struggles for sensibility as she and Ryder encounter ghost witches that speak of old curses, legends, a rickety bayou shack with a doll that seems to have human powers...then an isolated river shack where a killer can easily corner them.

They fight for their lives and simultaneously fall in love...but will they ultimately survive the web of a cold-blooded killer?

This was a really enjoyable read.  It's packaged in with the harlequin e-shivers box set, so it does have some nice gothic overtones:  bayou shacks, witches, ghosts, serial killer, fortune tellers, creepy dolls that come to life.  However, I felt that the book could also have been published as a harlequin intrigue, as it had a lot more action than mystery.  Either way, it's a highly entertaining and fast-paced read, but definitely a more modern gothic.


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