cover image Bayou Beauty

Bayou Beauty

Lexi Blake. Berkley, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-33546-8

Blake returns with the sweet, steamy, but flawed fourth Butterfly Bayou romance (after Bayou Dreaming). Papillon, La., Mayor Sylvie Martine is “fairly certain she’d been born with a crush” on her brother’s best friend, Rene Darois, the scion of an old Bayou family. The pair were close as children and grew closer in college; for a time, Sylvie was Rene’s “first thought in the morning and the last thing he saw in his mind” at night. A decade ago, they shared a single kiss before their lives took different paths. But when Rene learns he must marry to maintain control of the family business, Sylvie agrees to a marriage of convenience. Given the match’s financial motivation, Sylvie struggles to trust their feelings—and Rene’s treacherous, greedy family only makes things harder. There’s a hint that their relationship is complicated by class and race: Rene is white and old-money; Sylvie is Black and working-class. But the story shies away from the racial politics at play, focusing instead on the Darois family’s respect for the Martine family’s connections and Sylvie’s mother’s psychic powers. This awkward color-blindness drains an otherwise lovely story of some of the zest and specificity of previous installments. It’s missing some flavor, but will still go down smoothly enough for most readers. [em]Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary. (Aug.) [/em]