My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Nora Roberts, my main go-to author for formulaic but nonetheless entertaining romance and romantic suspense, holds that position for a few strong reasons. And among the strongest is that every so often, she does actually try to break out of formula. With Midnight Bayou, she delivers a rare oddity in my reading experience: a romance novel from the point of view of the male lead rather than the female.
Our hero, Declan Fitzgerald, has moved down to Louisiana to renovate an old house–and this being Louisiana, the house is of course full of secrets and ghosts with a bloody history, one that smacks Declan hard as he starts having disturbing dreams, hallucinations, and bouts of sleepwalking. There is of course his love interest, Lena, the beautiful owner of a local bar. As is generally the case with Ms. Roberts, the chemistry between these two is strong. And as is also generally the case with Ms. Roberts, we have the obligatory set of side characters with whom our hero has generally amusing interactions, especially the heroine’s grandmother, Miss Odette.
The book falls over for me in two ways, though. The first of these is that while I do appreciate her trying a story with the male lead as the primary POV character, it didn’t quite ring true enough for me to work. I usually find Roberts’ portrayal of male characters to be more “what the typical romance reader idealizes as a male character” rather than truly well-rounded characters, and that’s still the case here. Don’t get me wrong, Declan does have some great lines, especially in several scenes with his best friend Remy. But he still frequently comes across to me as acting in given ways because That’s How Boys Are Supposed To Act.
The second way the book falls down for me is the same way other Roberts paranormals have done for me so far: good buildup, but with a fizzle at the end where I was expecting way more of a punch than I actually got. It doesn’t help, either, that a certain plot thread with Declan (about which I cannot go into details, for fear of spoilers) doesn’t play at all well in the last couple of chapters.
So yeah. Not awful, but still not one of Roberts’ better works. I’d recommend this one only if you’re a completist, or if you’d like some very light reading. Two stars.