Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ARC Review, Guest Post and Giveaway: Wild Man's Curse by Susannah Sandlin

Wild Man's Curse 
by Susannah Sandlin
Series:  Wilds of the Bayou #1
Pub. Date:  April 5, 2016
Publisher:  Montlake Romance
Pages:  276
Format:  eARC
Source:  NetGalley

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale: 

The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.

While on an early morning patrol in the swamps of Whiskey Bayou, Louisiana wildlife agent Gentry Broussard spots a man leaving the home of voodoo priestess Eva Savoie—a man who bears a startling resemblance to his brother, whom Gentry thought he had killed during a drug raid three years earlier. Shaken, the agent enters Eva’s cabin and makes a bloody discovery: the old woman has been brutally murdered.

With no jurisdiction over the case, he’s forced to leave the investigation to the local sheriff, until Eva’s beautiful heir, Celestine, receives a series of gruesome threats. As Gentry’s involvement deepens and more victims turn up, can he untangle the secrets behind Eva’s murder and protect Celestine from the same fate? Or will an old family curse finally have its way? 

From award-winning author Susannah Sandlin comes the first book in the Wilds of the Bayou series.

Susannah Sandlin is a master at world building. I can't think of another author that draws me into the setting of the story quite like she does. I was flying at 30,000 feet while reading but swore I could feel the swamp humidity and hear the mosquitos buzzing. I love that she weaves local culture and legends into her tales as well. This story set down in the swamps of Southern Louisiana combines Creole and Native American culture, and a little of the voodoo religion as well.
Gentry Broussard is a senior agent with Louisana Wildlife & Fisheries. He is a hero after my own heart... a broody alpha with a tortured past that looks good in a uniform.
There was something about a guy in uniform most women found irresistible... it had to be the belt and all the equipment that dangled from it when the guys walked, which not only was phallic but probably released extra sex pheromones into the air and turned women into nectar-seeking honeybees.
Gentry is out patrolling the swamp for gator poachers when he comes across the murder of local voodoo queen legend, Eva Savoie. The murder investigation implicates Gentry's past and family, bringing all his demons out into the light. Gentry was a good hero, particularly if you view him and his weapon belt pheromones through the eyes of our heroine, Ceelie.

When Eva's grand-niece, Ceelie Savoie,  a sultry singer-songwriter, returns to the swamp after the murder, she quickly finds herself in danger and leaning on the local law enforcement agents for help. Luckily for Ceelie, one handsome agent with eyes like melted chocolate, takes a particular interest. The chemistry between these two was great, and I liked that Ceelie was not afraid to go after what she wanted, namely Gentry.

The suspense unfolded nicely at a steady pace. There wasn't a lot of fast-moving action, which only added to the slow sultry southern atmosphere of the story. I love this authors work written under the Suzanne Johnson pen name, but now that I have a taste of her romantic suspense, I will be reading a lot more Susannah Sandlin.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4.5 stars / 2 flames. 
View all my reviews

About the Author

Susannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also writers The Collectors romantic suspense series, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new series Wilds of the Bayou starts in 2016 with the April 5 release of Wild Man’s Curse. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, Susannah is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV. 

Guest Post

Welcome to the Bayou
by Susannah Sandlin
When I was scouring South Louisiana for the perfect place to set my new romantic suspense series, Wilds of the Bayou, and its first book, WILD MAN’S CURSE, I picked Terrebonne  Parish—the southernmost parish (i.e., county) in the center of the state—because it looked like the most inhospitable terrain.

But the more I learned about this wild and beautiful place, the more I felt my characters, hero Gentry Broussard, a Wildlife enforcement agent, and Celestine Savoie, a Cajun singer/songwriter, settle in and call it home.

Here are some interesting facts about Terrebonne Parish:

* It was made a parish in 1822, but was settled much earlier and is one of the only places in the United States where there is a relatively intact Native American tribe living on its tribal lands—the state-recognized Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw—of which the book’s heroine, Celestine, is a member, as is one of the enforcement agents, Paul Billiot. The United Houma Nation, also a state-recognized tribe, lived in central Louisiana more than 300 years ago but gradually were pushed southward, settling in Terrebonne around Ouiski Bayou (as opposed to the fictional “Whiskey Bayou” in WILD MAN’S CURSE). That site is northwest of the parish seat of Houma. With about 30,000 people, Houma is by far the largest town of any size in the parish and sits at the convergence of six bayous.

* The second-largest parish in Louisiana with 2,082 square miles, almost half of which is water. There are only three north-south (narrow) roads, only one of which reaches beyond the halfway point and dead-ends at the fishing community of Cocodrie (“alligator” in French). After that, to go south, east or west, you have to go by boat.

*Terrebonne has one of the strongest-remaining French influences in the state, both from descendants of the French New Orleanians who fled the city after Spain took it over in the 1700s, then by French Acadians from Nova Scotia, Canada, driven into exile by the British in a purging called “Le Grand Derangement.” It is estimated that up to 10 percent of Terrebonne’s citizens still speak French at home.

* Although Terrebonne is now known for its rich fishing, oyster grounds, wildlife and ecological diversity, it was a land built on sugar, with sugar cane the primary industry in the parish until sugar production moved overseas and Big Oil moved in.

* Lower Terrebonne is ground-central for ecological disaster as offshore oil drilling has weakened the soft land’s underpinnings, allowed saltwater intrusion into the wetlands, killed off vegetation and is causing—along with rising sea levels—the rapid erosion of marshlands along the coast. A few months ago, the Chitimacha band of Native Americans became America’s first ecological refugees, as the U.S. government decided to pay for their community’s relocation due to the sinking of their tribal lands in Terrebonne Parish and the cost of including those lands in the federal levee system.

*While the movie “The Skeleton Key” was set in Terrebonne Parish, it was not filmed there. The film “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was filmed in Terrebonne, south of Montegut and around Isle de Jean Charles.

Add a sexy game warden, a songwriter with danger at her heels, mix with some bayou steam, and welcome to the world of WILD MAN’S CURSE! 


The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.
Eva Savoie leaned back in the rocking chair and pushed it into motion on the uneven wide-plank floor of the one-room cabin. Her grandpere Julien had built the place more than a century ago, pulling heavy cypress logs from the bayou and sawing them, one by one, into the thick planks she still walked across every day.
She had never known Julien Savoie, but she knew of him. The curse that had stalked her family for three generations had started with her grandfather and what he’d done all those years ago.
What he’d brought with him to Whiskey Bayou with blood on his hands.
What had driven her daddy to shoot her mama, and then himself, before either turned forty-five.
What had led Eva’s brother Antoine to drown in the bayou only a half-mile from this cabin, leaving a wife and infant son behind.
What stalked Eva now.
The bones said death was coming and, once Eva was gone, the curse should go with her. No one else knew the secrets of Julien Savoie and this cabin and that box full of sin he’d dug out of the bayou mud back in Isle de Jean Charles.
Might take a while, but sin catches up with you. Always had. Always would. And the curse had driven Eva to sin. Oh yes, she had sinned.
She’d known her reckoning would catch up with her, although it had taken a good long time. She’d turned seventy-eight yesterday, or was it eighty? She couldn’t remember for sure, and the bones said it didn’t matter now.
On the scarred wooden table before Eva sat three burning candles that filled the room with the soft, soothing glow of melting tallow. She’d made them herself, infusing them with the oil of the fragrant lilies that every spring spread a bright green carpet over the lazy, brown water of the bayou. The tools of her ritual sat on an ancient square of tanned hide passed down through generations of holy ones, of those blessed by the gods with the ability to throw the bones.
A small mound of delicate chicken bones, yellowed and fragile from age, lay inside the circle of light cast by the candles. Daylight would come in an hour or so, but Eva didn’t expect to last that long. Death was even now making his way toward her.
She leaned forward, wincing at the stab of pain in her lower back. Since the first throw of the bones had whispered her fate two days ago, she’d been cleaning. Scrubbed the floor, worn smooth by decades of bare feet. Washed the linens, folding them in neat piles in a drawer at the bottom of the old pie safe. Discarded most of the food in the little refrigerator that sat in the corner. Dragged the bag of trash down the long, overgrown drive past LeRoy’s old 1970 Chevy pickup that she still drove up to Houma for groceries and such once a month. Left the white bag at the side of the parish road for the weekly trash collection.
She’d spit on LeRoy’s truck as she passed it because she couldn’t spit on the man who bought it. He was long gone.
Now the cleaning had been finished. Whoever discovered her raggedy old body wouldn’t find a mess, not in Eva Savoie’s house.
A few minutes ago, with the old cabin as clean as she was capable of making it, she’d thrown the bones one last time. Part of her hoped they’d read different, hoped she’d be granted a few more days of grace.
But the bones still whispered death. Eva accepted it, and she sat, and she waited. At least the girl, Celestine, would inherit a cleaned-up house. The girl, Antoine’s granddaughter, knew nothing of the secrets, nothing of the curse. Eva had made sure of that….
Eva waited for her heart to fail—that seemed to be her most likely way to go. As she rocked she noted each steady beat, biding her time for the instant when the thump-thump-thump would falter and her breath would catch, then stop. She reckoned it would hurt a little, but what if it did? The curse had doled out worse ends to those who came before her.
She’d doled out worse herself.
The buzz of a boat’s motor sounded from outside the cabin, faint but growing louder. Wardens on patrol already, most likely.
The boat’s engine grew louder, finally coming to an abrupt stop so near, it had to be right outside her door. Silence filled the room once again, until through her bones she felt the thud of someone jumping onto the porch that wrapped around the cabin. The porch formed the platform on which the house sat, linking it to the spit of land behind it when the water was normal. When storms blew through, it provided an island on which the cabin could sit or, if need be, float.
As heavy footfalls crossed the porch, Eva struggled to her feet. Every pop and crackle of her joints knifed streaks of pain through her limbs as they protested the cleaning they’d done, followed by the sitting.
Prob’ly a game warden, checkin’ on her. Too bad he hadn’t stopped a little later, after she was gone. She didn’t like to think of her body having to bake in the hot cabin for days before anyone found her.
But the curse was what it was, and the bones said what they said.
The knock, when it came, was soft, and Eva reached the door with the help of a sturdy cane she’d carved herself. Opening the door, she squinted into the glare of a flashlight that seemed almost blinding after the soft light of the candles. She peered up at a young man with eyes that gleamed from beneath the hood of a jacket. He was not a game warden, and it was too hot for a jacket.
“Who are you?” Her voice cracked. She knew who he was. He was Death.
“The devil come to pay you a visit, Eva.” The man’s voice was smooth as silk, smooth as a lie, smooth as death itself. “And you know what the devil wants.”
She knew what he wanted, and she knew the only way to end the curse was to deny him.
She’d been granted no easy passing by the Savoie curse after all, but she would die today.
The bones never lied.