cover image French Quarter

French Quarter

Stella Cameron, Cameron. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $16.95 (380pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-312-8

Mystery, more than romance, defines Cameron's (The Best Revenge) appealing if conventional first outing into hardback romantic suspense. Peopled by standard types--growling mob boss, simpering drag queen, pushy newspaper gossipmonger, unscrupulous evangelists, conscienceless politicos--in a cartoon New Orleans, the novel nonetheless succeeds in weaving a taut web of murder and sexual liaisons (the latter sometimes played out in dog-ear-worthy pages of steamy lust). Jack Charbonnet, part owner of a riverboat casino, is thrown together with a former Miss Louisiana, Celina Payne, when her boss, Errol Petrie, is murdered. Jack's wife died four years ago in murky circumstances; Celina is pregnant after a rape by a man whose identity she conceals. Their decision to marry, for respectability's sake, long precedes the predictable resolution of their mistrustful relationship and the more interesting exploration of the connections among Celina's parents, Errol's spiritual guides and Senate-hopeful Wilson Lamar. Cameron's exploration of family--from mob loyalty to parental betrayal--lends a certain thoughtfulness to the work. (Sept.)