Review: River Road by Suzanne Johnson

 

Title: River Road

Author: Suzanne Johnson

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues


Review:

I enjoyed Royal Street, the first book in Suzanne Johnson’s Sententials of New Orleans, with a few reservations.  I was disappointed with the lack of romance, and wondered why DJ constantly made such bad decisions.  The lack of common sense drove me bonkers.  I’m happy to report that River Road is a stronger book overall, and even when DJ made some not so wise choices, she really didn’t have any choice in the matter.  Keeping two warring clans of merfolk from killing each other, and getting normal humans caught in the crossfire, kept her busy and kept her putting herself on the line.  It’s hard to argue about doing the smart thing when the smart thing is going to cost people their lives.

DJ and Alex are both working as sententials now, and the story picks up three years after the events of Royal Street.  DJ is more comfortable in her own skin, with her powers and her elvin wand.  She complains about the same things we all do; being overworked, working for a bunch of guys who expect results no matter what, not getting that raise she thinks she deserves.  Her relationship with Alex has settled down and they have decided that they make great friends.  When the merpeople start feuding,  Dj and Alex have to put an end to their territorial disputes, which are complicated by Jean Laffitte.  He’s buddies with two of the mer, Rene and Robert, and he has a vested interest in seeing a treaty between the clans.  Rene and Jean have many shady business dealings, the less DJ knows about, the happier she is.

I enjoyed all of the characters this time around.  They all make DJ’s life a trial.  The merpeople hate wizards because of how they were treated after a large group of paranormals attempted to set up shop in the mundane world years ago.  They are suspicious of her motives and treat her like crap, to be frank.  I really felt bad for DJ; she is trying so hard to come to a fair solution to their dispute, and they just keep on giving her grief!  Even her own employers don’t give her any respect, and she is constantly at odds with the Elders because of her methods, which are basically act now and ask for permission later.  They are putting a huge amount of pressure on her to get the situation fixed, and when wizards start turning up dead, they are even more unrelenting that she fix it.  Fix it now!  I felt that the only person to give her any credit was Jean.  He turned out to be a fun, well-rounded character, and I enjoyed the courtship between them.  I can’t see them setting up house together, but there’s a lot of fun chemistry between DJ and her immortal pirate.

River Road kept my interest from beginning to end.  The mystery was compelling, and DJ’s methods were entertaining as she raced against the clock to put a stop to the war brewing between the merpeople.  I am looking forward to DJ’s next adventure, Elysian Fields, in August.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours

Spotlight! River Road by Suzanne Johnson

Today we’re celebrating Suzanne Johnson’s River Road.  This is the second book in her Sentinels of New Orleans series, which follows Drusilla Jaco’s adventures as the sentential of New Orleans.   Check back in a bit for my review of River Road, but for now, enjoy this excerpt from the book.

Excerpt River Road by Suzanne Johnson

The minute hand of the ornate grandfather clock crept like a gator stuck in swamp mud. I’d been watching it for half an hour, nursing a fizzy cocktail from my perch inside the Hotel Monteleone. The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it had been hand- carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs.

They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.

The infamous Jean Lafitte had expected me at seven. He’d summoned me to his French Quarter hotel suite by courier like I was one of his early nineteenth-century wenches, and I hated to destroy his pirate-king delusions, but the historical undead don’t summon wizards. We summon them.

I’d have blown him off if my boss on the Congress of Elders hadn’t ordered me to comply and my co-sentinel, Alex, hadn’t claimed a prior engagement.

At seven thirty, I abandoned my drink, took a deep breath, and marched through the lobby toward the bank of elevators.

On the long dead-man-walking stroll down the carpeted hallway, I imagined all the horrible requests Jean might make. He’d saved my life a few years ago, after Hurricane Katrina sent the city into freefall, and I hadn’t seen him since. I’d been desperate at the time. I might have promised him unfettered access to modern New Orleans in exchange for his assistance. I might have promised him a place to live. I might have promised him things I don’t even remember. In other words, I might be totally screwed.

I reached the door of the Eudora Welty Suite and knocked, reflecting that Jean Lafitte probably had no idea who Eudora Welty was, and wouldn’t like her if he did. Ms. Welty had been a modern sort of woman who wouldn’t hop to attention when summoned by a scoundrel.

He didn’t answer immediately. I’d made him wait, after all, and Jean lived in a tit- for- tat world. I paused a few breaths and knocked harder. Finally, he flung open the door, waving me inside to a suite plush with tapestries of peach and royal blue, thick carpet that swallowed the narrow heels of my pumps, and a plasma TV he couldn’t possibly know how to operate. What a waste.

“You have many assets, Drusilla, but apparently a respect for time is not among them.” Deep, disapproving voice, French accent, broad shoulders encased in a red linen shirt, long dark hair pulled back into a tail, eyes such a cobalt blue they bordered on navy. And technically speaking, dead.

He was as sexy as ever.

“Sorry.” I slipped my hand in my skirt pocket, fingering the small pouch of magic-infused herbs I carried at all times. My mojo bag wouldn’t help with my own perverse attraction to the man, but it would keep my empathic abilities in check. If he still had a perverse attraction to me, I didn’t want to feel it.

He eased his six-foot-two frame into a sturdy blue chair and slung one long leg over the arm as he gave me a thorough eyeraking, a ghost of a smile on his face.

I perched on the edge of the adjacent sofa, easing back against a pair of plump throw pillows, and looked at him expectantly. I hoped what ever he wanted wouldn’t jeopardize my life, my job, or my meager bank account.

“You are as lovely as ever, Jolie,” Jean said, trotting out his pet name for me that sounded deceptively intimate and brought back a lot of memories, most of them bad. “I will forgive your tardiness— perhaps you were late because you were selecting clothing that I would like.” His gaze lingered on my legs. “You chose beautifully.”

I’d picked a conservative black skirt and simple white blouse with the aim of looking professional for a business meeting, part of my ongoing attempt to prove to the Elders I was a mature wizard worthy of a pay raise. But this was Jean Lafitte, so I should have worn coveralls. I’d forgotten what a letch he could be.

“I have a date after our meeting,” I lied. He didn’t need to know said date involved a round carton with the words Blue Bell Ice Cream printed on front. “Why did you want to see me?”

There, that hadn’t been so difficult—just a simple request. No drama. No threats. No double- entendre. Straight to business.

“Does a man need a reason to see a beautiful woman? Especially one who is indebted to him, and who has made him many promises?” A slow smile spread across his face, drawing my eyes to his full lips and the ragged scar that trailed his jawline.

I might be the empath in the room, but he knew very well that, in some undead kind of way, I thought he was hot.

I felt my face warming to the shade of a trailer- trash bridesmaid’s dress, one whose color had a name like raging rouge. I’d had a similar reaction when I first met Jean in 2005, two days before a mean hurricane with a sissy name turned her malevolent eye toward the Gulf Coast. I blamed my whole predicament on Katrina, the bitch.

Her winds had driven the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the canals that crisscrossed the city, collapsing levees and filling the low, concave metro area like a gigantic soup bowl.

But NBC Nightly News and Anderson Cooper had missed the biggest story of all: how, after the storm, a mob of old gods, historical undead, and other preternatural victims of the scientific age flooded New Orleans. As a wizard, I’d had a ringside seat. Now, three years later, the wizards had finally reached accords with the major preternatural ruling bodies, and the borders were down, as of two days ago. Jean hadn’t wasted any time.

River Road

Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2
Suzanne Johnson

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Tor Books

ISBN: 978-0765327802

ASIN: B00842H5VI

Number of pages: 336

Word Count: approx. 92,000

Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen

Amazon Barnes & Noble

Book Depository Indiebound

Book Description:

Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

About the Author:

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities.  She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

Website: www.suzanne-johnson.com

Blog: http://suzanne-johnson.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Suzanne_Johnson

FB: http://www.facebook.com/Suzanne.Johnson.author

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5046525.Suzanne_Johnson

Publisher Page: http://us.macmillan.com/author/suzannejohnson

Interview Laura Drake, Author of The Sweet Spot

Laura Drake is our special guest this morning.  Please give her a warm welcome!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Laura Drake] Glass overflowing thrill-seeker, recovering bean-counter, writer, motorcycling grandma, cowboy fangirl, and aspiring Texan!

(Whew! Thank God for all the Twitter prep!)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Sweet Spot?

[Laura Drake] Here’s a quick blurb:

Charla Rae Denny’s role as a traditional ranch wife and mother fits her like custom-tailored Wranglers. But when her only son is killed in a tragic accident, Char retreats to a world of grief and Valium. Her reeling husband takes up with a blonde buckle bunny half his age. Their ranch, which supplies bucking bulls to the Pro Bull Riding circuit, is split up in the divorce. All her county fair ribbons won’t help Charla now. She’s alone, addicted, ill-equipped, and has no one to blame but herself. In spite of her fear of horses and smelly cows, she stands up, takes off her apron, and learns to run a ranch. She and Jimmy have lost their way. But through months of hard work, tears, and some hard knocks, they both learn to forgive — themselves and each other. Together, they find their way back, to life, to love, to the Sweet Spot.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Laura Drake] I love ‘fish out of water’ stories. My mother-in-law was actually the kernel of what would become Charla. She’s a ranch wife, who majored in Home Economics in college (yes that was once a major!) Though she came from a long line of farmers/ranchers, she considered everything inside the house her job, and outside, her husband’s.

So I wondered, what would happen if someone like that suddenly had to take over running a ranch?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Charla?

[Laura Drake] Old-fashioned, damaged, plucky!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If JB had a theme song, what would it be?

[Laura Drake] Forever and Ever, Amen

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Charla is never without.

[Laura Drake] Regret.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in JB’s bedroom?

[Laura Drake] A neatly made bed, a senior league championship baseball cap, or pajamas!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is JB’s greatest regret?

[Laura Drake] Not building his son a tree house.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Laura Drake] My husband and his family. I’m a city girl from Detroit, but he’s a farmer/rancher’s son from Texas. I so respect their strength and way of life. We’re moving to Texas next year, and I’m hoping to someday earn the title, “country girl.”

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Laura Drake] Coffee, a computer, and a cat (in that order.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Laura Drake] All God’s Creatures, by Carolyn McSparren. If you’ve read James Harriott’s novels, you’re going to love this one! A rural vet, but set in the U.S., and the vet is a woman! A wonderfully real, heartwarming book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Laura Drake] Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry. Yes, I was horse-mad from an early age.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Laura Drake] Motorcycling, bicycling, fly fishing, reading, camping, knitting.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Laura Drake] My website is best: http://LauraDrakeBooks.com

But I’m also a Twitterholic: @PBRWriter

For any aspiring writers, I’m a member of the writing craft blog, Writers in the Storm: http://WritersintheStorm@wordpress.com

Thank you SO much for having me here at Manga Maniac Café!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase The Sweet Spot from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below

About the book:

A Love as Big as Texas . . .

Charla Rae Denny was the perfect wife with a perfect life, content to keep the home fires burning while her husband, JB, competed as a champion bull rider. Then their son died in a tragic accident-and everything fell apart. Divorced and saddled with a hill of bills and a failing ranch, Charla must now cowboy up to put her life back together.

James "JB" Denny doesn’t stay where he isn’t welcome. So when Charla shut him out of her grieving heart-and their home-a year ago, he took comfort where he could find it. Now after seeing beautiful Charla again, he wants it all back. She can’t work the ranch alone, and deep in his heart he knows he can be the man she needs. But after so much history and heartbreak, can JB convince Charla to take a risk and give their love a second chance?