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Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Blackwell, by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor, is a Gothic tale of friendship, obsession, desire and betrayal, set in Victorian era Boston and New Orleans. Magnus Blackwell comes from a life of incredible wealth and privilege, but when he meets Jacob O'Connor, a poor orphan on scholarship to the architecture program at Harvard, he becomes intrigued by the quiet, shy man and the two become close friends. Magnus has the power and money, but Jacob has the skill, and even though Jacob realizes that Magnus has a cruel streak, the two become inseparable, until one day, someone else walks into the picture.

Beautiful blonde Frances, from Radcliffe College, is everything a man could want. She's lovely, smart, witty and outspoken, and Magnus immediately becomes entranced by her. Jacob is also attracted to her, but out of deference for his friend, he keeps his distance. When Magnus' out of control libido and cheating ways force Frances to face the fact that he is not the man for her, Jacob sets his sights on her, after a reasonable amount of time, of course. Although Magnus outwardly gives the couple his blessing, inside he is seething and plotting for a way to get Frances back, vowing to stay "pure" for her until the time comes (by only having sodomy. Huh?). When the happy couple marries, Magnus leaves at once for New Orleans in an attempt to gain some distance.

There, at the Hotel Monteleone, Magnus meets writer Oscar Wilde, who shows him the debaucherous side of of the Big Easy in the form of a whorehouse specializing in women and men of mixed blood, run by Madame Simone Glapion, a voodoo high priestess. Magnus becomes intrigued by voodoo and by Madame Simone's power, stemming from the dragon cane she always carries, and he vows to use her power to get Frances back and wreak havoc on O'Connor's life. When Magnus' father dies and he must return to his ancestral home near Boston to run the family business, he sets his plan in motion and hires Jacob to renovate the vast estate in the style of his beloved New Orleans. This will keep the man quite busy for an extended period of time, but also keep him close, along with Frances, as they are living in a guest house on the property.

As Magnus' grand plan plays out, he never could have imagined the great love Jacob and Frances have for one another. Convinced he can only succeed by destroying it, Magnus later finds that he, too, can have that one true love with someone. Unfortunately, too much has passed between him and O'Connor, and Jacob now has a mind set for revenge.

Blackwell is a good novel filled with intrigue, lust, revenge and an undercurrent of evil. While I found it to be a bit heavy-handed in style, that is to be expected based on the time period in which the novel takes place. It is a fairly quick read with a satisfying ending, although I felt like the sodomy sex scenes were a bit much and there were too many of them, but at least they were sporadic and not the central focus of the book. I enjoyed the inclusion of Oscar Wilde as a character and found that the portrayal of New Orleans rang true (speaking as someone who was born and raised in Southern Louisiana), although I can't speak for the specifics of the time period, of course.

If you enjoy a tale of Gothic romance rife with voodoo, jealousy, excess and revenge, you'll probably like Blackwell.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins
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