Joann Ross concludes her trilogy of the three Cajun Callahan brothers with a strong effort. Although she never pushes the envelope or takes many chances, Ross is a talented writer who creates palpable chemistry between her likeable hero and heroine.
Hard-working Los Angeles homicide detective Regan Hart doesn’t have any family and her only friends are her fellow cops, but that’s okay because she’s pretty much on the job 24/7. But when she learns that the woman she thought was her biological mother may have been her aunt instead, she drops everything and travels to the bayou country of southern Louisiana to determine the truth about her origins. She’s not without help, however. Sweet-talking ladies’ man Nate Callahan has flown to California to notify Regan about the discoveries he made regarding her possible roots. He likes the way the long-legged policewoman looks, and he’s even more impressed by the way she holds her own when testifying in court about a murder case. As mayor and lifelong native of Blue Bayou, Nate can help Regan find answers much quicker than she can on her own.
As they work together, Regan finds it increasingly difficult to resist Nate’s lazy charm, while Nate wonders if he has finally found the woman who can make him relinquish his cherished bachelorhood. Meanwhile, recently married brothers Jack and Finn Callahan are thrilled to see Nate finally take the fall.
Within its rather derivative context, Magnolia Moon works surprisingly well. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, Ross knows how to tell a story with both humor (Jack’s dog is described as “a mix between a yellow lab and a school bus”) and poignancy. Her hero, Nate Callahan, is one of those charming Dennis-Quaid-in-The-Big-Easy types with a lazy grin who calls women chère, but he appreciates Regan’s mind almost as much as her legs. Regan is a kick-ass heroine who succumbs to the charms of small town Southern life without forsaking her strengths. The chemistry between Nate and Regan builds slowly, including an intriguing telephone sex scene, until the inevitable, sizzling consummation.
The addition of a subplot involving a teenaged runaway is the only part of the story that doesn’t work well. Fourteen-year old Josh adjusts a little too quickly for an adolescent with his troubled background, and the relationship between Josh and Nate lacks depth and momentum.
The novel provides the reader with a strong sense of Cajun heritage, history and customs without becoming didactic or overbearing. A late plot twist and a satisfying ending close out this trilogy on a high note. Ross’ novels don’t push any boundaries of the romance genre, but they are well-written, entertaining and romantic.