Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
Mala LaCroix has spent her whole life trying to escape her destiny. As the last in a long line of “witch women,” she rejects the notion of spirits and hoodoo and instead does her best to blend in. But when she finds a dead body floating in the bayou behind her house, Mala taps into powers she never knew she had. She’s haunted by visions of the dead girl, demanding justice and vengeance.
Landry Prince has always had a crush on Mala, but when Mala discovers his sister, murdered and marked in some sort of Satanic ritual, he wonders if all the rumors about the LaCroix family are true. Yet after Mala uses her connection to the spirit world to identify his sister’s killer, he starts to form his own bond to her . . . a very physical one. As they move closer to each other and closer to the truth, Mala and Landry must risk everything—their families, their love, and even their lives.
Dark Paradise opens with Mala finding a young woman floating in the bayou on her family’s property. Though the woman, Lainey, initially appears to have committed suicide, it quickly becomes evident that she was the victim of foul play. Even more disturbing, because she is the daughter of the town’s minister, are the satanic symbols carved on her abdomen. Mala, who aspires to be a police officer someday, wants to find out what happened to Lainey but has much to overcome since the town sees her as simply the daughter of the local witch and prostitute and judge her accordingly. The town sure does not need to know that Mala truly does have some supernatural abilities – she can see Lainey’s ghost and is troubled by visions. Landry is devastated by his sister’s untimely death and can also sense her presence. He has admired Mala from afar for some time and feels drawn to her, hoping that she will be able to help him discover the truth. The more they dig, the more secrets they find, and the more obstacles they face. Rumors quickly spread, and most of the town is convinced that Mala herself committed the crime. The police, however, are all but certain that Landry actually did the deed. There is a solid cast of supporting characters, including a young police officer, George, Landry’s family, Mala’s mother, Jasmine, and a hint of things to come with her aunt who might be a voodoo god.
I enjoyed Dark Paradise well enough, and the premise of the story is strong, atmosphere sufficiently creepy, and writing competent. It is an ambitious mix of genres…combining gothic Southern tale, “new adult” romance, crime mystery, ghosts, and voodoo/hoodoo. Herein lies it’s weakness; so many genres and constantly shifting points of view caused it to feel a little unfocused and disjointed. In addition, Mala and Landry seemed much younger than their supposed age of early twenties. They were at times naïve and immature, with waffling opinions, misunderstandings, assumptions, quick accusations, and constant arguments. There was an obvious physical attraction between the two, but the chemistry did not carry over into the rest of their relationship. They both talk of being in love, but it sure came across like a big case of lust. Maybe I have forgotten what it felt like to be twenty and in love. At times, the story dragged (a bit repetitive) and felt longer than it had to be, but then the ending felt a bit rushed. Though the conclusion is not exactly a cliffhanger, it did leave many elements unresolved. I believe this is the first installment in a trilogy.
Dark Paradise is overall a relatively dark book and ultimately deals with the value of appearances, family loyalty, the power of rumors, evil, and how fear can make people dangerous. I would recommend this to fans of paranormal, young adult, and new adult romance fiction and those enthralled by a juicy gothic atmosphere with a touch of mystery.