POT – KETTLE – BLACK
The first third of “Haunted on Bourbon Street” fits, like a glove, one of the more common paranormal formulas. Our female protagonist, now in her twenties, is born with a powerful psychic ability. Branded as a freak, she is bullied and betrayed by classmates and teachers alike. Having an absentee father, she is put in foster care when her mother disappears. Assaulted while in foster care, she barely escapes with her life. Then when she tells her fiancé about her abilities, he viciously dumps her. Sound familiar.
Well, it gets even more familiar. Instead of developing a thick skin and a cover persona to mask her abilities, she wails and flails. She goes into an “Oh, woe is me” pity party for years and becomes the poster child for the “I’m a victim” campaign. Frankly, had this not been Deanna Chase’s debut novel, I would have chucked it in disgust. Flawed characters are one thing, but this girl knows how to use her power and she knows quite well how to shield it. So the whining wimp formula is neither endearing nor plausible.
By the time the next third of the novel has completed the shampoo, rinse and repeat cycle, Chase has revealed even more of Jade Calhoun’s background. I would presume that was done in an attempt to emotionally bind us to her plight and her character. But what happened with me was that I realized the facts of the second section did not jive with those in the first section.
First, Jade is the daughter of a powerful witch and she has known that since toddlerhood. And yet somehow that woman has not taught Jade how to mask her empathic abilities from others? Secondly, Jade should never have been put in the foster care system when her mother disappeared. Her father may have been an unknown quantity, but she had an aunt, who supposedly eventually claimed her. As we learn in the second section, this aunt has highly developed empathic and psychic abilities that work over great distances. They work even to the point of knowing if a person’s energy has disappeared completely. This aunt would probably have known immediately when the mother disappeared and she would have definitely felt Jade’s distress. So the foster care scenario is nothing but a ploy for sympathy, and a poorly staged one at that.
Thirdly, the assault that takes place in the foster home is supposedly thwarted by a friend, Dan, who eventually becomes Jade’s fiancé. When he proposes some years after the assault, Jade finally tells him about her empathic ability to read another person’s emotions and he viciously betrays her. While it is a good oh-woe-is-me addition to the formula, it doesn’t make sense. If the foster home were near Jade’s hometown, Dan would have known her reputation from school and shouldn’t have been blindsided. If Dan was from the aunt’s area, he wouldn’t have known about Jade’s history, but she wouldn’t have been in foster care either. She would have been at her aunt’s home.
Frankly, the backstory for Jade Calhoun has more holes in it than a package of Swiss cheese. But, because this was a debut novel and the ghost-haunting subplot was intriguing, I chose to read on.
In the final third of the novel, Deanna Chase finally turns the corner for both Jade’s character and the integrity of the storyline. Jade’s new boyfriend, Kane, is a financial consultant, the owner of the building where she lives and the owner of both the club and the coffee shop where she holds down part time jobs. Kane also has psychic abilities and he confesses to entering Jade’s mind without her permission. Jade is incensed and feels betrayed until she realizes that she has been using her own ability on Kane – without his permission. The word “hypocrite” blazes across her consciousness in red neon letters three feet tall. Unfortunately, the reptilian skin of victimization is not one that is shed so easily. For Jade, it takes time, guilt and the impending death of a good friend to shake that skin loose and to move forward with her abilities and her life.
If you discount the inconsistencies of the backstory and the annoying oh-woe-is-me formula, the remainder – the love story and the haunting – is top notch. Unfortunately, the reader is supposed to use suspension of disbelief with the paranormal part, not the reality part.
Cover Art from Goodreads