Rating: 4 stars
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Paul Thibodeaux is stuck, his life in stasis and he doesn’t know how to break out of the funk he is in. Paul spends his nights tending bar at the New Orleans family-owned and run gay bar and his spare time reading or picking up one night stands. Increasingly, those anonymous “dates” are preceded by an enormous amount of alcohol and followed by a morning’s worth of recovery. And although Jean-Thom’s, his bar, features male strippers, Paul has never looked beyond their feet, preferring to stay isolated in his self imposed shell.
The building that houses both the bar and the family apartments is full of whispers and faint sounds that wake Paul in the night and kept him company as a child. And although Paul’s adult self has closed himself off, they still linger and watch over him. When one of the bar’s dancer’s finds his way into the garden behind the bar, it signals a change in both their lives that neither either expected but both desperately need.
New Orleans is such a unique and rich setting for a story. Full of history and charm, music and life spill over the streets into the buildings and gardens that are the old section of the city. New Orleans’s colorful past and architecture calls out for a supernatural treatment and Rowan Speedwell answers with Ghosts of Bourbon Street.
There is so much I enjoyed about this story. Speedwell’s characters are well drawn, especially Paul, a young man who loses himself in books and drink rather than face life and his future. We find him at a time when Paul must either move forward or be lost to alcohol. We are given just enough background on Paul to help us understand what brought him to this moment. His efforts at college and the manner in which the character fell into his current situation make Paul is a totally believable character. The same goes for Michael, the dancer, with his own set of problems and decisions to make. I thought his character had some really lovely touches, starting with his beautifully pedicured feet, the first thing that Paul recognizes about him.
Ghosts and New Orleans go together like bourbon and water so putting them together in a story just doubles the pleasure for a reader. I loved the ghosts Speedwell has created for her story. I only wish we had gotten not only more appearances by them, but a better telling of the ghostly history and connections to the family. The gay bar, Jean-Thom’s, is worthy of its own story since Speedwell tells us that it has been a gay bar since it first opened. Each dancer is surely worthy of his own story and it would make a delightful series.
The connection here between Paul and Michael, such as it is, is too rushed for me to call it a romance. One night, one sexual, emotional connection, and then perhaps a romance. This is definitely a story full of possibilities instead of finalities, which realistically is the way to go considering the length of the story. Could this story have used more length to infuse time and backstory to the characters? Certainly, but the flavor and supernatural air of Ghosts of Bourbon Street make this a story to recommend.
Cover by Jared Rackler certainly conveys the spooky charm of the city and the story. Well done.