“Fire on the Bayou” by M.A. Harper. booksBnimble, 2014. $2.99.
Don’t let the cover of the book fool you; New Orleans author M.A. Harper’s newest novel, “Fire on the Bayou,” is a romantic story, but it is much more than a traditional bodice-ripper romance.
A prequel to Harper’s 2003 novel, “The Year of Past Things” (recently re-released by booksBnimble under the new title “Cajun Spirit”), “Fire on the Bayou” begins on an ominous note. Good writers know the importance of hooking their readers right off the bat, and with this opening line, “The woman who foresaw his death wasn’t the same one he happened to be in love with,” Harper hits the ball out of the park.
Set in New Orleans and along Bayou Lafourche in the late 1980s, the story centers around A.P. Savoie, a veteran of the Vietnam War whose battles did not end with his discharge from the service. A.P. makes a decent living as a musician in New Orleans but is plagued with pain from injuries sustained in the war and from the death of his younger brother, and is addicted to alcohol. On top of this, he is tormented by his estrangement from his wife Mickey and 8-year old son, Cam, who live in New York. Enter A.P.’s mother, Delphine, or Feen, up from the bayou town of Bois Sec to check in on A.P., for it is she who has been having nightmares depicting her son’s demise. In an effort to provide A.P. with some happiness, she convinces Mickey to bring Cam to Louisiana for a visit over Christmas. This is where the story really begins.
Harper takes her characters and her readers on an exciting journey from New Orleans to the banks of Bayou Lafourche, with a little dose of New York City tossed in. Of course, they all are on an internal journey as well.
This novel is not overpopulated with characters, and every one is a strong one. A.P.’s manager Bee-Bee Legendre is someone the reader won’t soon forget. This seemingly cold and abrupt longshoreman by day and musician’s agent by night comes through as a true friend to A.P., Mickey and their family. Then there’s Feen. When she says, “Thank God I’m not one of those women always re-arranging furniture. Thank God I keep bullets in the kitchen,” you know this is a woman prepared to do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones.
“Fire on the Bayou” is a suspenseful story of a family struggling to save one another — Feen to save A.P., A.P. to save Mickey, and all of them to save Cam. The novel is enhanced by beautifully detailed descriptions and believable dialogue, occasionally peppered with Cajun expressions from the Savoie family members. Call it romance, call it literary fiction or just call it a good book. But when you reach the end, you may just call it magical.