Monday, July 14, 2014

Dark Paradise by Angie Sandro

The Basics:
Dark Paradise by Angie Sandro
Forever Yours
Book One in the Dark Paradise series
New Adult, Romance
Published July 1, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

That cover got my attention! And I'm always looking for New Adult romances with something a little different.

Book Blurb:

Mala LaCroix has spent her whole life trying to escape her destiny. As the last in a long line of "witch women," she rejects the notion of spirits and hoodoo and instead does her best to blend in. But when she finds a dead body floating in the bayou behind her house, Mala taps into powers she never knew she had. She's haunted by visions of the dead girl, demanding justice and vengeance.

Landry Prince has always had a crush on Mala, but when Mala discovers his sister, murdered and marked in some sort of Satanic ritual, he wonders if all the rumors about the LaCroix family are true. Yet after Mala uses her connection to the spirit world to identify his sister's killer, he starts to form his own bond to her . . . a very physical one. As they move closer to each other and closer to the truth, Mala and Landry must risk everything-their families, their love, and even their lives.

My thoughts:

Dark Paradise is a mystery, a ghost story and a romance rolled into one.

This book is steeped in atmosphere with hoodoo, the swamp and the superstitious, small-town lifestyles. There's a sense of organic decay, a musty, muggy feel to the air. Mala's frustration with the local gossip mill and being pre-judged because of her mom's choices really added to the overall sense of heaviness in the book. The past has such a huge influence over Mala's present - not only in terms of attitudes towards her but also the ghosts she's seeing, the mystery of the dead body she's found, even the history and sense of destiny and inheritence around hoodoo, slavery, the swamp land and so on.

I loved the crazy cast of characters in this book - from Mala's alcoholic mom who works as a prostitute when she's not numbing her brain with booze to block out the ghosts she sees, to Landry's parents who run very hot and cold, to Mala's crazy aunt from New Orleans. There's a stack of very memorable people in Dark Paradise.

There were a few things that were a little off in this book, for me. One is the age of the characters. I had a hard time getting a solid fix on Mala - she's college-age, but I kept slipping and thinking she was mid-late high school. The same with Landry and even George, though he's a deputy.

I found the relationship between Mala and George really convoluted. Because her situation with Landry is so fluid across the book, I think it would have provided a nice grounding point to have a clearer situation with George. I also thought that the way the romance between Mala and Landry is framed as a very physical connection and then twisted around the mystery of Landry's sister's murder is a bit awkward.

I did love the weirdness of Clarice and her obsession with Landry. I'm not entirely sure why he put up with her - more opportunity to show off the depth of their friendship might have been nice.

A final thought, the end of the book has some *crazy* action and confusion and has all kinds of consequences that should provide some good fodder for the next book. I think the book starts and ends on high notes and there's a bit of a muddle in between, but with enough interesting threads to carry the reader through it.

Bottom line:

Not a perfect book, Dark Paradise is still pretty solid. If there are specific elements in the description that appeal to you, I think you'll probably enjoy it. If you're lured in by the pretty cover and the general idea of a NA romance on a ghost story premise, you might not get quite what you're expecting.

3.5 stars
For fans of hoodoo, the swamp, small-town tensions, ghosts and murder mysteries.

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