Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts

April’s book of the month will be Midnight Bayou.

We will start Thursday April 1st and I will post discussions the Thursdays following, if anyone would like to join.

5 chapters a week.

It will also be found on FB groups : never silence the mad reader

I can’t wait to read with you 💋

5 thoughts on “Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts

  1. Discussion #1

    Chapters 1-5

    In the Prologue we are introduced to the Bayou and all its wonders. Its beauty, Its ugly, its whispers, its secrets.

    Midnight Bayou’s main character is really Manet Hall. The home where the dead linger, where hate and love were found, and what was hidden finally comes to light.

    We bounce between two time periods. One love, two different lifetimes. Beginning in 1899 and ending in 2002.

    In 1899, we meet Abigail. She was once servant of Manet Hall, home to Josephine Manet and her two sons, but fell in love with Lucian, married and had a baby together. It is obvious that Josephine does not approve of her sons union and she despises Abigail. It is also obvious that Lucian’s brother Julian lusts over Abigail in a way that means to do her harm. Despite hating the living arrangements with Lucian’s family, Abigail is excited to have her daughter Marie Rose grow up a Manet. She dreams of the way her “petite rose” will be raised a “lady”, she will be accepted, she will have an education, she will belong.

    The tone is set in these first few chapters as we reach our first heartbreak. A drunken Julian rapes and murders Abigail in the nursery and Josephine helps him cover it up. They stage the murder to look like Abigail packed and ran off with a lover. They dragged and sank her down to the bottom of the bayou. Josephine almost killed Marie Rose, but couldn’t get herself to murder her own blood, as much as she wished this baby didn’t exist.

    When we jump to 2002, we are greeted by Declan Fitzgerald, a lawyer of the Boston Fitzgeralds, who decided to drop everything to move to New Orleans and restore Manet Hall. His childhood friend Remy Payne, meets him there, with his wife Effie, and Declan is magnetized toward Lena, the owner of a popular bar nearby. They begin a flirtatious back and forth, obviously drawn together. Declan is a sweetheart charmer with all the manners in his pocket to get the approval of Lena’s grandmother Odette.

    There are rumors that Manet Hall is haunted and Declan begins to believe it. Odd things begin to happen as Declan stays in his home. He begins singing songs that he doesn’t remember knowing. He beings to sleepwalk again, something he hadn’t done since he was a child, he begins hallucinating furnished rooms that are still bare and hearing a baby cry.

    Back in the 1900, the after effects of Abigails death/running away are taking over Manet Hall. Rumors have spread of how Abigail ran away with a lover and that baby Marie was probably not even Lucians. Her name is being tarnished “cajun trash” and Josephine is loving it even though she knows the truth. Lucian refuses to believe that Abigail ran away.

    This is probably the 3rd or so book now that we have read that really jumps between two different time periods and tells them as two different stories within one book. How do you feel about that writing style?

    Did this storyline pull you in immediately or did you have a hard time getting into it?

    Do you consider this a romance novel or a horror story?

    What did you think about the way Declan was drawn to Lena? What were your first impressions on who Declan was to Manet Hall and his ties to that lineage ?

    Any initial thoughts on Abigails murder?

    For me, I love the novels that tell two storylines that parallel each other, but I tend to get drawn to one storyline over the other and find myself impatient to get to the story that I’m more invested in.

    I was immediately pulled in, but I am biased because I have read this before, years ago in high school and already knew that I loved the book. I wanted to reread it because it has been years and years since I have read it, and books hit differently once you are an adult vs. when you are a child.

    I think this is a spooky romance novel. Although depending on how scary it gets, I may change my mind.

    MMMMmm.. If I am going to believe in reincarnation, I would assume that Declan was a reincarnation of Lucian and Lena is a reincarnated Abigail, but the way that Lena describes Lucian with storms in his eyes or something like that, makes me fear that he is actually Julian.

    I was surprised that they murdered Abigail so quickly. The way that we were learning about her family and her story, I thought she was a character for the long hall, but I guess it’s her soul we get to read about from now on. I had a feeling that Julian was going to do something bad to her that night by the way the chapter was reading, but I didn’t think she was going to die. Of course Josephine would cover up for her son, as all villains mothers do, but it was still so ugly, the way that Josephine so carelessly thew away a life.

    Like

  2. Chapter 6-10

    By the end of chapter 6, Declan is no longer the only one that has experienced the hauntings. Effie walked up to the room and saw an empty room furnished with a dead Abigail lying in the bed. Lena gets a tour of the home and feels overwhelming sadness in some of the rooms, and then witnesses Declan faint while in one of the rooms. Lena takes care of Declan after fainting and they have some flirty back and forth. We get to hear some of Lena’s inner dialogue and we see that Lena is a lot more insecure than we would think.

    “It worried her that she might not find it so easy to shore up the cracks when he walked away. They always walked away. Unless you walked first”

    He dreamt of Abigail as, as she would have been working at the Hall as a servant. He slept walked to the servants quarters and decided it was safest to start locking himself in his room from now on.

    Effie did some research on Manet Hall’s history and discovered that Lucian’s parents were both from wealthy and prominent Creole families and that both Lucian and Julian died before their 23rd birthday. The way that they died, just rumors and speculation. Apparently, there was a knife fight, Julian died on the spot, and Lucian died a weeks later. After Lucian died, Marie rose was declaimed and written out of the will and raised by Abigail’s family. When looking at some pictures of the Manet’s, Declan recognizes Lucian from his dream.

    Declan then goes to ask Lena some questions to fill in the blank spots with little answers. She told him that Lucian and Abigail had to run off to get married because “mixing classes is an uneasy business”. Declan made it his mission to find out who hurt Abigail.

    By the end of chapter 8, Declan and Lena consummated their relationship, further complicating things between them. Their relationship, a push and pull of wills and wants.

    Declan falls more and more in love with Lena, and he talks to Remy about how he feels. Remy tries to talk Declan out of pursuing something that is most likely Lust, but Declan knows how he feels and won’t state any different.

    Back to March 1900 Lucian was not handling Abigail’s death well, even contemplating ending his own life. The Nursemaid Claudine, told Lucian what she thought really happened, but Lucian refused to believe her.

    Now in 2002 with Declan and Lena, there is again that obvious fiery energy they both have with each other. They know how to push each others buttons, they know how to get under each others skin. Lena fears how much she feels drawn to Declan, and Declan hates how much he feels Lena running away. There is something a little scary about the way that Declan handles and hides his temper. Like a ticking time bomb.

    Miss Odette stops by to see Declan. She brings by a photo of Abigail for Declan to have and he recognizes her as the woman that haunted his dreams. He describes her as resembling Lena, although softer, and more like a girl, “where Lena was a woman”. Just as they were talking about the photo, doors begin to slam upstairs and Declan states that he isn’t going anywhere.

    If you had been Effie or Lena, how would you react veto the hauntings you experience in Manet Hall?

    How do you feel about the layers of Lena? Declan?

    Do you have any theories about what happened to Lucian and Julius?

    Who do you think is Haunting Manet Hall?

    If I was Experiencing what Effie or Lena or Declan for that matter were experiencing, I would probably want to run for the hills, but the curiosity in me would also want to know what happened. I don’t think I would be as calm as Lena, or nonchalant as Declan. Maybe I’d freak out like Effie, but want to do research lol

    I relate a lot to Lena because, there is so much about her that is independent and confident. She knows who she is and what she needs survive, but when it comes to love, she is guarded and wants to run. She seems like, she knows that once she puts the walls down and gives her all, she will be unshielded and can break just as hard as anyone else, and she doesn’t want that. She runs because of the fear of getting hurt, but she oozes confidence and sensuality. It makes me wonder what happened to her in her past to make her think she will get hurt.

    Declan, is all proper, and charming. He seems perfect by all accounts. He’s wealthy, and smart, he has a career but is pursuing a passion. He seems genuinely caring and definitely strong willed. But I feel like there is a darkness about him that worries me. I’m not sure how to put my finger on it, and I could be completely off base here, but I feel like there is something about his temper and need to have what he wants, that is scary.

    I’s crazy that even the truth about the brothers deaths are a mystery. Maybe Lucian finally found out the truth somehow and went to confront Julian which made them break out in a fight. The knife fight is probably true, and what a sad ending to that story.

    The obvious theory would be to say Abigail and Lucian are haunting Manet Hall, but it’s hard to say because a few times Declan mentioned not feeling like it was Abigail. I can’t remember exactly where, but I felt like there were a few times mentioned that seemed like, the implication was that it wasn’t Abigail.

    Maybe it’s not a haunting by a spirit at all, maybe it’s Manet Hall that is haunting the tenants. Maybe it’s just a sad house, with sad memories.

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  3. Chapter 11-15

    Chapter 11 starts with Declan finally going into town for Mardi Gras. He didn’t manage out in the city long without ending up at Et Tois. He was poked and prodded by all kinds of characters. Declan ended up helping at Et Tois when he noticed that Lena needed some help. It was an Exhausting shift and they ended up back at her place where Declan ended to her needs without asking for anything in return.

    “It’s harder for you to understand that I could care about you enough to put sex on the back burner so you could get a few hours’ sleep?”
    “Yes.”
    “Maybe that’s not insulting. Maybe that’s just sad.”

    Excerpt From
    Midnight Bayou
    Nora Roberts
    https://books.apple.com/us/book/midnight-bayou/id357929701
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    Most of Chapter 11 shows that Declan is in love with Lena and how much it scares Lena to run away and not trust his sincerity.

    Lena then hears the baby crying for the first time. Declan tells her she’s the first person to also hear the baby crying. Lena goes up to investigate.

    Declan then finds himself hallucinating, a memory from the past. He starts to fear that he has a brain tumor vs a haunting and signs up for tests to find out.

    His memory was of Abigail trying to make friends with Julian when she was first married to Lucian and Pregnant, but Julian just gropes her and she slaps him in return.

    Lena catches Declan in a trance and walking toward the pond. She mentions that he was walking in an odd way, speaking of sitting beneath a willow tree, where one no longer existed. She was afraid that he was going to walk straight into the pond and drown. When she woke him from his trance, he didn’t remember a thing.

    Lena spoke to Declan about reincarnation, that maybe it wasn’t just a haunting but that maybe he was a reincarnated soul. Declan thinks that he is Lucian and she is Abigail.

    They speak again about Declan loving her and Lena reiterates that she wants him for company, and to have him in her bed but that was all she wanted. Declan continues to court her.

    “He could make her fall in love with him. She was already halfway there and sliding fast. Every time she tried to dig her heels in, she lost her balance again. The tumble was as worrisome as it was thrilling.
    But what would happen when she hit? Once she dropped all the way, there’d be no climbing back out. That was something she understood about herself. Relationships were easy when they didn’t matter, or mattered only for the moment.”

    Excerpt From
    Midnight Bayou
    Nora Roberts
    https://books.apple.com/us/book/midnight-bayou/id357929701
    This material may be protected by copyright.
    
While Lucian was out shopping, he came upon a ring that he wanted with all his heart to get for Lena and while there, he decided to get a watch, and he as drawn to a pocket watch that actually was engraved “to Lucian from his abby to mark our time together”.

    We are then introduced to Lilibeth Simone, Lena’s mother and we learn where Lena’s broken parts come from. Lilibeth left Lena when she was little because she was on drugs and whose main focus was taking care of herself and her addiction. Lena was obviously hurt and upset seeing her and turned her away.

    Lena and Declan bond some more. He gives her ruby earrings that she initially gets very upset about, but eventually apologizes for her reaction.

    “Not one of them ever made my heart stop, or sprint like a racehorse at the starting gun. But you do. Not one of them ever made me see myself ten years, twenty years down the road, reaching out to take her hand. But you do, Lena. And what I want most in the world is to hold onto you.”

    Excerpt From
    Midnight Bayou
    Nora Roberts
    https://books.apple.com/us/book/midnight-bayou/id357929701
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    They head to see Miss Odette and Lena is surprised and embarrassed to see Lilibeth there. They get into a family spat and Declan respectfully stands up for Lena while still giving her her space to handle her family. Lena wants Lilibeth gone and refuses to come back to Odettes home as long as Lilibeth is there. Lena and Declan talk after and she is embarrassed, furious. Declan realizes that it wasn’t a man that broke her heart, it was her mom.

    In 1900
    Julian is drunk and in a brothel having his way, when Lucien stops in to talk to him and take him home. This creates an altercation and Julian draws a knife, and attacks Lucian. Lucian then, turns the blade back on Julian and kills him.

    In 2002
    Declan had been working very hard to finish the home. And then Lilibeth decided to go to Declan and try to seduce him. She was asking for money as well. He of course decline and refused to give her any money. She tried many tactics, from playing victim to threatening to talk to his family.

    What are your thoughts on the progressively worse hauntings?

    The push and pull of Lena and Declan is something that I think everyone can relate to. What are your thoughts on similar experiences if you have any?

    Do you believe that Declan is Lucian and Lena is Abigail?

    What are your first impressions of Lilibeth? Does it explain why Lena is the way she is?

    The truth of how Julian was killed is revealed. Is that how you thought it would end for him?

    I feel like the hauntings are definitely getting more aggressive. Probably because Declan is renovating the house and getting closer and closer to figuring out the truth about Abigail. I also think the more and more the Declan and Lena fall in love, the angrier the spirit in the house gets. Makes me think that who ever is haunting the home is probably Julian or Josephine.

    I think that the push and pull that Declan and Lena are going through is something that every couple goes through. One runner and one chaser. But it is always from fear of getting hurt. A way of guarding their heart from future pain.

    It would be the easiest explanation for Declan to be Lucian and Lena o be Abigail, but I have a feeling it’s not as clear as that. Declan has had too many memories that seem to be from Abigail, and it makes me think he might be Abigail.

    Lilibeth is a hot Mess. The exact definition of an addict. She is the picture of what an addict looks like and what she does to family. It’s hard to draw the line between helping a family member in this kind of need, and letting them reach rock bottom. I think this feeling of abandonment from her mom is exactly why Lena is afraid of opening her heart to anyone. I think it’s a defense mechanism that is completely understandable.

    Julian and Lucians fight to the death, was as lot less climactic than I thought it would be. I was expecting more, I was expecting something more tortuous for Julian. He deserved something more tortuous and drawn out.

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