Midnight in Ruby Bayou, by Elizabeth Lowell

>> Tuesday, November 16, 2004

And finally I get to the end of Elizabeth Lowell's Donovan series, with Midnight in Ruby Bayou

Faith Donovan is famous for crafting exquisite jewelry studded with fabulous gems. But the dangerous task of acquiring the rare rubies she needs for her art has taught Faith to be wary of anyone outside her own family -- especially someone like Owen Walker, an adventurer with an intimate knowledge of the ruby trade and man's murderous greed. But now necessity has thrown the them together, as they venture into the shadowy world of the wealthy and mysterious Montegeaus in search of quality stones.

A powerful Georgia clan descended from pirates, the Montegeausare said to possess a staggering fortune in gems, hidden for generations in the legendary Blessing Chest. In the living shadows of historic Ruby Bayou. Faith and Walker are soon drawn into a terrifying web of corruption and betrayal, and haunted by the dark, unfolding secrets of the Montegeaus past and present. For there are those who would kill for the contents of the Blessing Chest. And now two outsiders who have learned too much stand in the way...
Unfortunately, Midnight in Ruby Bayou was the weakest in the series. A C+.

My biggest problems with this book came from how the hero and heroine were portrayed. I had a hard time "buying" Faith's personality. Her self-esteem problems stemming from her relationship with her abusive ex-fiancé, Tony didn't really ring true, given her family and her close relationship with her well-adjusted twin. I found her insistence that she's not good at sex especially hard to believe. It's not that she knows intellectually that it is not so and yet can't brign herself to internalize it. No, she literally believes it and doesn't know any better. I'd have bought this in a historical heroine, or even in a naive heroine in a contemp, but not in someone like Faith.

Walker I didn't particularly like. He never really rose above the level of generic tortured hero for me, except for certain things which bothered me, not endeared him to me. The main issue that made me dislike him was the way the condescending bastard refused to tell Faith anything about the danger she was facing. He and her brother Archer were guilty of this, actually. It really didn't make sense to behave that way, it would have been better to have her forewarned, but I guess these two were too dominating and high-handed to even consider it.

I was also disturbed by what Lowell tells us about Walker's past as a covert operative. It was just something mentioned in passing, but it really angered me. As a young man, Walker had apparently supported his father and brother by flying a small plane to and from Central America. To reassure us readers that he was not a bad man, Lowell makes it very clear that he didn't run drugs, oh, no, but he did ran "guns for the U.S. government or its surrogates from time to time". Riiight. So he helped cause the deaths of thousands of Latin Americans, but that doesn't matter, at least he didn't bring drugs into the US that would have fed Americans' drug habits, so we're supposed to like him anyway. Like hell! Ok, breathing deep, and moving on, trying to ignore this.

The first half of the book, when they're in Seattle and then attending the jewelry show in Savannah was ok, especially before Walker and Archer start hiding things from Faith. Those parts are interesting and very promising. But once they get to Ruby Bayou, I thought Lowell went over the top. It was all very atmospheric, yes, but the whole thing about the Montegeau family (which I kept calling Montgeneau in my mind, I've no idea why) was simply every cliché about old Southern families piled one on top of the other, including some horrifying things I thought were dealt with a bit carelessly.

The romance was so-so. I thought it took a little too long to get going, and the ending was much too abrupt. Lack of pay-off, like in many of the other books in the series.

Oh, and finally a little nitpicky thing that bothered me, Walker's beard. Maybe I'm shallow, but I hate it when heroes have facial hair. I usually do my best to block it and imagine the guy clean-shaven in my head, but Lowell kept mentioning the beard constantly, so I couldn't even do that here.

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