Friday, 10 March 2017

Lalin Bonheur by Margaret O. Howard



Title: Lalin Bonheur
Author: Margaret O. Howard
Genre: Paranormal Mystery / Romance


When Lalin Bonheur shape shifts, she roams the Vieux Carre as a sleek tuxedo cat to learn the secrets of her city.

But on her debut at a Quadroon Ball in 1830 this octoroon beauty meets and falls in love with French aristocrat, Etienne Legendre. Etienne becomes her protector and he soon learns that his mistress leads a second life as a healer and voudou priestess.

Their story takes a bizarre turn after Lalin's protector marries. His wife, Minette, dies mysteriously and he is charged with murder. Lalin concocts a zombie potion to assist him in his escape from jail.

The couple sail upriver to hide until they can prove his innocence. But their struggles only become more challenging, when they face the fearsome loup-garou (wolf men of Louisiana) and then a giant bird. Lalin must use her magic to battle these monsters. But it's what she learns about the vicious feathered creature that brings the story to its climax.


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Purchase the book from these bookstores:

www.mfbooks.us and www.midtownreader.com 

Excerpt #1:

Etienne watches me drinking from the calabash, my giant gourd. The libation to the spirits I pour onto the courtyard stones. My feet shift, spirits pass through me. I twirl in waves of motion, never breaking the rhythm of my dance. Breathing fast, I lift my body, spinning on my toes. He stands in the darkness near the doorway, passion in his moonlit eyes, not knowing that I see him. My wide skirt swirls above the candle circle. Watch me dance, my love, I whisper. Now my feet lift high and pound the stones like flying mallets, while candle flames lick my toes.

A tangle of bedclothes is spread across the four-poster in my boudoir. Only hours ago we rolled on that mattress, making the canopy rattle. He does love me, that I know. And he’s seen my talents with the magic. His devotion sends the voudou pumping through veins.

This café au lait woman, his octoroon mistress, dances full out. But soon my body will be melting, shrinking, and that he’s never seen. My spinning stops, my skirt ripples as I stand before my altar praying to the saints. My candles flicker. The power’s in me, and just like that I see the flames turn blue. My skin tightens, bristles. I’m sinking now. Breathe, breathe, I say to myself. I’m down, I’m down.

It’s too dark for Etienne to see what’s happening to me, but his eyes widen as my form changes in the shadows of the yard. He watches from the open doorway of my parlor and then rushes through onto the courtyard stones. He stands tall in his finely tailored suit. But the mist rises around me, so that I am hidden. At this moment I am changing, rising up on my haunches.

“Lalin,” he calls, “Lalin, where are you?”

I sit, still and elegant, and then lower my head to lick my midnight fur and wipe my whiskers with a paw. But Etienne stumbles in the mist, swaying in the darkness as he trips over my candles and falls on the stone floor. But magic makes him sleep, distorts his memory, and gives me time to find my answers.

I have much to learn this night when I travel in my feline shape. And this is how I know what happens in the back streets and secret hideaways in our New Orleans.


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Excerpt #2:

Lalin Bonheur

Three men carrying a wooden box, weave through the crowd. Carvings cover the wood. I remember Grandmam had one like this. I clutch my amulet. St. Michael, give me your control.

While I spin among them, dancers vibrate, faster, faster, writhing, as the drummer’s hands blur from his heated motion. I slow my turning, breathing hard, almost panting. Watch them place the box in the center of all the dancing feet.

As I approach the wooden box, the shouts rise. Taking long breaths, I reach to lift the lid and look inside. 

“Erzulie, Blessed Mother, help me,” I whisper to her. 

And somehow she gives me strength, controls my fear. She’s the one who makes my arm move inside the box. I could not do this without her strength.

“The Zombi, the Zombi,” the crowd screams, as I lift it. It coils up around my arm. That’s what they call this snake that winds and curls across my shoulder and around my neck. I feel it, slick and cool, sliding slow against my skin. Not to fear, not to fear, I tell myself, and watch this creature swing its head side to side, tongue flickering so fast in contrast to its slinking motion.

St. Michael, our Legba, is in control now, and, with Erzulie’s help, he makes this crowd be mine. Many fall to their knees at this moment. I hear words rolling off my tongue. These words make no sense, I think. Only saints can know their meaning. Still the people listen like they understand. I feel myself sinking to the ground, but my eyes still see the crowd. The serpent lurches off my shoulders, and people scatter, scrambling over roots and vines, running for the trees.

Papa Lamba steps into the candle circle. Sweat shines on his forehead. I watch him as I lie limp on this dusty ground. He scoops up the snake like it’s his pet and lifts it high above his head.

“The Zombi,” he calls, “the great Zombi.” Then he drapes the creature over his shoulder, kneels beside the box, and slowly slides the serpent back into its home, it’s power now in our control. My head fills again with thoughts of Etienne, and I pray for his devotion. I can wish no evil for his bride. All such desires beget only trouble for my own.


The Author:

Margaret O. Howard is a writer and former dancer, who grew up in the Deep South and currently walks the gulf beaches of Florida every morning, She adores her two sons, three rescue cats, cool weather, travel, photography, ballet, books, and mermaids. Her novel, Lalin Bonheur, is set in the city of voudou queens, New Orleans.




Excerpt #3:

 We’ve only been at this place near Bayou Sara for five days, but already our prospects for the future have improved. My Etienne is very smart. 

He did go to see the lady, Madame Nanette she’s called, at her plantation. And what he learned there will give us both a chance to start our new lives. First off, the lady needs a man who knows the market business for her sugarcane. So anxious, she is, to have some help with this that she doesn’t need a list of references. I’m sure his charm and handsome face make her decision much easier. My love is tall with dark hair, deep brown eyes, and creamy, glowing skin.

Etienne will work for her on trial at Bon Aimée. If she likes his progress, he’ll be the new manager for her plantation business. 

While he’s there, she tells him that her young son, not yet twenty, has a strange illness, which makes him very weak. It’s this story that interests me. I may find a place for my skills, too. Herbs and powders I have with me. And in the woods and fields around these farms, I can find more plants to supply me with my treatments. If I can heal her son with my magic, then I’ll be in favor with the lady of the big house. Etienne has told her of my cures, so today I go to meet Madame Nanette.

Above the treetops, pale blue spreads against the bank of clouds. A good sign for me, it is. Clear skies always bring me power. Madame Nanette has given Etienne one horse to use. It’s lucky that he knows this skill, as many city boys don’t learn to ride. But for me, this experience is new. 

“Let me handle the horse. She’s a gentle animal. No need to worry.”

She whinnies, shakes her mane, and looks at me with big round eyes. He boosts me up, and I must share the saddle with him. I straighten my long skirt, trying to wrap it tight around my legs. His warm body pressed against me gives comfort, as the horse trots on along the path toward the river road.

I laugh now with relief that I haven’t fallen off, but as she breaks into a gallop, I grip Etienne’s knees with all my strength. “Pray slow down!” I cry. Still, we continue at the same speed.

“Merci,” I say, when he wraps one arm around my waist and holds reins with the other. The wind blows curls free from my tignon, but I dare not raise my hands to tuck them back. Bouncing in this saddle will surely give me blisters.

Luckily the ride’s not too long. We slow to a trot again when we approach the big house. Live oaks shade the narrow carriage trail. The plantation homes aren’t so very different from the mansions on Esplanade. Perhaps they’re wider and, with the grounds spread out for miles around them, they seem enormous.






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