(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Still grieving the sudden loss of her young son, journalist Charlotte "Charlie" Cates begins dreaming of children in danger. Haunted by the vivid images, the 38-year-old realizes they're not caused by the desperate longings of her broken heart—the kids she's seeing are real. And they need her help. Of course, it's not that easy to figure out the confusing dreams, nor to convince others she's not completely insane.
When Charlie sees visions of a young boy in a boat on the bayou, she knows he's reaching out to her from the past. A little research leads her to Evangeline, a Louisiana plantation owned by the illustrious Deveau family. On the pretense of writing an article about their historic home, Charlie stays on-site, interviewing family members but secretly looking into the case of Gabriel Deveau. The 2-year-old disappeared from his locked-from-the-outside bedroom almost 30 years ago. Charlie's dreams indicate that someone in the present knows what happened to the toddler. The more she gets to know the Deveaus, the more she sees the cracks and fissures that mar their relationships with each other. She doesn't want any of them to be involved in whatever happened to Gabriel, but one of them knows exactly what happened. It's just a matter of getting them to talk ...
While she's sifting through the skeletons in Evangeline's closets, Charlie's growing closer to Noah Palmer, a divorced landscaper who's working on the plantation's grounds. Although she still aches for the child she lost, she realizes that maybe it's finally possible for her to start rebuilding her life. But the closer she gets to the truth about Gabriel, the more danger stalks her every move. Will she live long enough to find happiness again? Or will she, too, disappear behind the gates of Evangeline?
You've probably noticed that I'm a sucker for a premise which involves a Southern town, an old house, and some juicy family secrets. A set-up like that is always going to draw me in. The Gates of Evangeline, the first book in a planned trilogy by Hester Young, did just that. While I found the mystery at its center compelling enough, the characters (who seemed mostly flat and cliché) left something to be desired as did the plot (which felt a bit too obvious). I guessed some of the story's "twists" (though not all) too early, which left me wanting a storyline with more depth and nuance. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. It didn't blow me away or anything, but I'm definitely up for reading the next installment in the series.
(Readalikes: I feel like I've read a million books like this one, but nothing's coming to my sleepy mind. Suggestions?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (two F-bombs plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual content
To the FTC, with love: Another library