I wrapped up a fairly good book this weekend. Unfortunately, I had to write a review for it. Why unfortunately? Because I felt the book was mis-marketed and will likely miss it's target audience. I'm sorry - it just wasn't much of a romance. However, it was an entertaining cozy mystery. What's a reviewer to do? Bail out and assign it an "average" rating and explain exactly what the book is in the body of the review.
The mystery reader in me really liked In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond. The heroine, Penny Francisco, has just learned her divorce is final. She got to keep her health food store, and her cheating husband, Deke, got to keep the rambling Victorian house she lovingly restored. Now the town floozy she caught him in bed with is painting her house pink. Pink!
Penny's friends feel she needs to move on, so they figure throwing her a "happy divorce" party is just trick. Everyone brings gag gifts, anonymously of course, and with the annual Voodoo Festival going on in tiny Mojo, Louisiana it seems inevitable that someone would give Penny a voodoo doll dressed up like Deke. So Penny drives a pin through the doll's chest all in good fun - only to discover Deke dead in his home office a couple of hours later. Yep, stabbed in the chest.
Penny is prime suspect #1 - not because the police believe in voodoo, but because there is a ton of circumstantial evidence. Riding to Penny's rescue is B.J. Beaumont - a private investigator out of New Orleans, who just happens to be in town looking for a missing teen.
What works? OK, I like Penny. What woman alive hasn't either been the woman scorned or known the woman scorned? I also loved the menagerie of secondary characters. There are a lot here, and they all add to the story. In fact, Bond is setting this book up as the first in a series about quirky Mojo.
What doesn't work? The romance. For one thing, B.J. and Penny exchange about 3 sentences in the first 100 pages. It's not until Deke is dead that they spend any sort of time together, and even then it's to save Penny's bacon. Also, the story takes place in less than a week - so I'm all about believing the lust here, but the "I love yous" are a bit hard to swallow. Still, Bond doesn't make the mistake of having Penny pregnant with triplets and blissfully married in the epilogue. Thank gawd!
So I recommend this one with qualifications. If you're looking for a bang-up romance, this probably isn't going to do it for you. However, if you like lighter mysteries with lots of quirky characters and local color - then have at it! In Deep Voodoo works very well on that score. So well in fact that I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, which is supposed to be out sometime in 2006.