Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Reckoning (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1380) by Jana Deleon

The Reckoning (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1380)
Back of the Book Blurb:
In a tiny bayou town with far too many wicked secrets, the sudden disappearance of a six-year-old girl is a mystery Sheriff Holt Chamberlain is determined to solve. But teaming up with Alexandria Bastin is a complication he didn't expect. Nor is he prepared to collide with the dark side of Cajun culture—and his own troubled past.
The frantic search leads them to a place said to hold magic, an eerie island where Alex is also working her charm on him. At one time, he'd been forced to leave her brokenhearted. And now , dangerously close to the truth, he'll do anything to protect her from the evil that surrounds them—an evil that might hold the key to sending a little girl home.…

Released October 1, 2012, The Reckoning is the first of a three book series by Deleon being released by Harlequin Intrigue featuring the citizens of the creepy Mystere Parish in the steamy bayous of Louisiana.  Jana Deleon is one of my favorite authors, and her new series has a great start, establishing Mystere Parish as a place of dark secrets, danger, and strange happenings. 
The book starts with a bang, when Alex is called home from New Orleans by her cousin Sarah, whose daughter has been kidnapped.  The police in their small hometown think Sarah's estranged husband has taken his daughter, but Alex believes Sarah that a stranger must have taken her.  As a psychiatrist Alex quickly prescribes something for Sarah, believing she needs help to stay calm and deal with the situation.  I thought that was a little  arrogant on Alex's part, and it took me longer to warm up to her than I would have liked.  The acting sheriff soon arrives, and it turns out he is none other than Holt Chamberlin, the man who broke Alex's heart ten years ago when he left her and joined the military.  Seeing each other again after all those years gives both Alex and Holt a shock, triggering feelings both thought long gone.  But their focus is on finding the little girl, and they soon realize that not only did her father not take her, but the kidnapper is someone local, someone they know.
They find evidence pointing to a spooky island inhabited by an old woman believed to be a witch, who was implicated in the disappearance of three little girls over thirty years ago.  When Alex was a little girl she and Sarah went to the island on a dare, and saw something so horrifying that as an adult Alex is still terrified of the place.  Adding to the creepy atmosphere is the strange, watchful presence of crows, and the sinister appearance of dolls.
Alex is a strong, capable heroine, who is focused on supporting her cousin Sarah and finding her little girl.  She is determined not to let her feelings for Holt show, believing that he has not changed much over the years.  But Holt is no longer the same boy who ran away from both Alex and his father's legacy, and as they work together their feelings are rekindled.  Getting to know one another as adults, while dealing with their still-present feelings, all under the pressure cooker of looking for a missing child created a really compelling story that had me reading way past my bedtime.

Jana Deleon is great at blending mystery, romance, and a touch of the paranormal.  Her stories have well-developed characters who have complicated histories.  Her settings are like an additional character, because they are so vivid and real.  When I read her books I feel like I can see, smell and hear the sounds of the swamps and the small towns.

The Reckoning is primarily a mystery with some romance, and the single sex scene is not graphic.  The Vanishing (#1386) will be released on October 30, 2012, and The Awakening (#1393) will be released on November 27, 2012.

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