A little magic goes a long way… Alexandra Belle Boyette is closing in on the big 3-0 and her mama has made it her mission to marry her off. In the tiny parish of Bayou Miste, deep in the Louisiana swamps, finding suitable hubby material can be a challenge—and Alex would rather not rely on magical spells to do the trick. But there is a sexy new man in town who might fit the bill... Ed Marceau is in Bayou Miste to safeguard a key witness to a Louisiana Mafia murder. He must keep an eye out for suspicious characters—but the place seems to be full of them! What could be stranger than a woman dressed in a sexy nightgown chasing a naked man down the street? The enchantingly gorgeous Alex Boyette certainly makes it worth his while to find out… Add a Voodoo spell gone wrong, and voila! madness—and love—ensues.
Loneliness can make you many things - disillusioned, desperate, desirous and even sometimes, in the more extreme situations, depressed. But for some people, loneliness is a good thing; comforting even. Those special few are content in their isolation, happy to revel in their own company, to learn things about themselves in those quiet moments of isolation. Others get a dog. And for Alexandra Boyette, who doesn't believe she's lonely at all (thank you very much!), she doesn't have time for a fella, using her work and family commitments as reasons why. She's perfectly content with her gym, and her friends, and her beloved dog, Sport, taking up all the time she doesn't spend with her rather large family. Who needs a man when you have a myriad of famously named siblings to take care of?!?
But for her best friend Lucie, who's happily married to Alex's oldest brother Ben, that busy lifestyle can't hide the longing that she sees in her sister-in-law, so she takes things into her own hands and enlists the help of her grandmère Madame LaBieu, the local Bayou Miste Voodoo Queen. Together they gift Alex with a tiny pouch to help her wishes come true. But as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for! Unbeknownst to Lucie, Alex's most desperate late night plea to make her faithful and loving furry companion Sport human, and upon waking the next day, her treasured pet has been turned into a delicious specimen of a man, thanks to the magic Voodoo pouch. Too bad he doesn't speak English, only dog!
While his wife is busy meddling in romantic matters, police officer Ben Boyette is neck deep in a criminal investigation that has his partner, Edouard 'Ed' Marceau hiding out in his home town, protecting their only witness in a Mafia run drug ring. Ed has never been a big fan of small towns (too familiar, too little places to hide) and is all too swiftly pulled under the wing of the extensive Boyette family, headed by matriarch Barbara and her nineteen children, who by themselves are virtually half the small bayou village's population. The extra attention isn't something Ed can afford, but in order to sell his 'single man vacationing in small town' cover story, he quickly accepts Barbara's invitation to the family dinner; after all, he is renting a holiday house from her.
There he runs into his partner's rather attractive oldest sister Alexandra, who along with her roommate Calliope, have wrangled Sport into clothes, taught him a few basic skills and words and brought him along to dinner. The fireworks between Alex and Ed are instantaneously explosive, both desperate to forget the awkwardness of their first meeting; where that morning they'd met as strangers when Alex had chased a confused Sport through the streets dressed in nothing but her negligee and runners.
Alex finds Ed rather attractive but somewhat aloof; unaware of his connection to her family (via brother Ben), nor his secret mission of hiding the shrill and diva-ish witness Phyllis deep in the bayou. Thinking he is no more than a holiday fling, and having not interest in investing emotionally beyond that, she allows herself to engage in a fling with the handsome policeman, helped along with her mother's not so subtle matchmaking interferences.
Despite his aversion to families (having grown up in the foster system), Ed quickly finds himself seduced by Alex, and her bevy of somewhat adorable siblings. However, with a trial date looming, and a bounty out on his witness, things soon close in on the pair. Alex is increasingly frustrated; with magic holding her dog hostage as a man, an ex boyfriend just won't take no for an answer, her holiday affair sneaking around mysteriously, things come to a head when their secrets collide, with devastating consequences.
Deja Voodoo is a rollicking romp of a novel. It has a great pace, interesting enough characters and a nice ratcheting up of tension that builds to a neat enough resolution that you do not feel cheated at all. The pay off is fairly well deserved and not without its surprises, with each previously introduced character playing their part. However, there is a minor disconnect between some elements of the novel that make the romance seem a little dishonest, so to speak.
I think the main issue is the emotional roads that Alexandra and Edouard take to reach the overly sweet epilogue. Both are stubborn, obstinate and horrendous communicators, to the point where you just want to beat their heads together to knock some sense into them. She continually refuses to believe she really needs a man in her life (other than her briefly human canine), and he refuses to believe he is needing not just a woman, but a family to help him lay out roots. They drive each other nuts, and the audience as well. He also doesn't overly believe in magic, and is rather cynical and disparaging of the small town life they lead. She refuses to believe she doesn't have to be anchored to her family so completely, not until her mother gives her a swift talking to! But in the end, their attraction and connection to each other, once freed from all the other emotionally repressing thoughts rattling around in their brains, allows them to bridge the gaps and make a little more permanent arrangement.
The subplots fair well enough to distract you from the more glaringly silly parts of the story - the romantic story between the canine-turned-human Sport, and his owner's housemate Calliope, is both ridiculous and tenderly done. In the end, you feel rather devastated at their resolution, despite yourself. I'll be interested to see how Calliope fairs in future Cajun Magic novels. The secondary plot of the hidden shrew of a witness and the mysterious coincidental appearance of former DEA agent Oscar Mills adds some excitement and humour to the novel that are at times, rather lacking.
Overall, it was an entertainingly solid novel, with charming characters that win you over despite your initial misgivings with the more absurd moments. Just a small negative being that I felt like I was missing chunks of the back story, having not read the previous instalments of the series. Not enough to make it unreadable, but just enough to niggle at the back of your mind while reading. A crazily interesting world, Ms James, one that I would be more than happy to return to.