"Cross Your Heart," Michele Bardsley

Pros: Wonderfully tense suspense leavened with moments of bright humor.
Cons: Several characters were quickly introduced towards the end, making them a bit difficult to keep straight at times.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

 

Elizabeth Bretton is making a new un-life for herself after the death of her husband in Broken Heart, Oklahoma. When she went out to inventory the family property for sale, she was turned into a vampire. Now she’s living in Broken Heart, and the new owners of the house send over an heirloom that they found. As soon as she picks it up, strange things start to happen. Elizabeth begins to see visions of the past and finds herself caught up in a mystery over a hundred years old. To top things off, a were-jaguar detective named Tezozomoc decides to help her. And although he drives her crazy, she’s beginning to feel more alive than she ever has before….


 

I was a little nervous about picking up Michele Bardsley’s Cross Your Heart since it’s the seventh in a series. Rare is the author who can make a book that deep into a series coherent to a reader who’s just beginning, but Ms. Bardsley does a wonderful job of giving the reader context throughout the course of the story. The story of Broken Heart and its founding families is skillfully interwoven so that the information doesn’t feel dumped, but rather it unspools as the reader needs it to understand the story. There were a few times where I knew that I was missing a few elements that would add depth, but I never felt as if I were missing elements necessary to understanding the plot. With that said, there are characters that show up that Elizabeth has known for years. Because she is so familiar with them, the new reader may not get as much of a feel for them because Elizabeth’s familiarity means that details aren’t always fully fleshed out.

The interactions between Elizabeth and Tez, however, are an absolute joy to behold. I’m a sucker for proper lady/slightly uncouth man interactions, and these two have that down to an art form. Their dialogue was laugh out loud funny, and what I enjoyed the most was the fact that when Tez would point something out to Elizabeth about herself, she would think about it instead of merely flying off the handle. It lets the reader get to know the characters better, instead of being a vehicle for needless conflict. Elizabeth’s reactions to Tez can be absolutely priceless, such as her internal dialogue when she’s listening to Tez’s GPS (voiced by Jenna Jameson). And Tez’s reactions to her word choices are also fun to watch.

One of the things that by far stood out to me about this book was the way Ms. Bardsley was able to blend paranormal, urban fantasy, romance, and Gothic elements in a way that felt like a cohesive whole. I’m not usually a big fan of Gothics, because they feel so over the top in terms of creepy vibes, but the creepy was leavened nicely by Tez. Psychological elements were certainly present, but because they weren’t onstage all the time they felt much more intense when they did happen.

Despite hopping into the series in book seven, I was able to follow the story fairly well. There were a few characters that I wasn’t sure of, but I did thoroughly enjoy Tez and Elizabeth’s dynamic, as well as the skillful fusion of genres. From the author’s note at the beginning it sounds as if Ms. Bardsley has taken this novel in a bit of a different direction than the six previous, but if the series continues with this degree of skill I just might have to pick it up! I’m fairly sure that fans of Broken Heart will enjoy it, but for those who might just be getting started on the series it will probably take a few books to really acclimate.

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