We’re reading our way across America...one romance at a time. And, to make it even more fun, we’re doing it in order of incorporation into the United States.
Mississippi: Some Like It Hotter by Deb Stover
I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like Deb Stover’s genre-bending Some Like It Hotter. It starts out a thriller. Then it’s a gothic horror novel, complete with a haunted mansion and frequent appearances by the devil’s apprentice. Then it’s science fiction. Then it’s a straight-up historical romance featuring a hard-bitten cop and a plucky single mom. Then—when you figure out what’s really going on—it’s back to being a horror novel, then a sort of a pioneer adventure tale, then sci-fi again, and then the love scenes go from a simmer to a full-on boil and whoo boy! Who knew that there was so much going on in little old Natchez, Mississippi?
The book begins one dark night when Natchez vice cop Mike Faricy and his partner/best friend/brother-in-law Barney are staking out a house to which a drug cartel headed by local crime lord Frank Milton is rumored to be making a delivery. Barney has exciting news: he’s going to be a dad. Unfortunately, impending fatherhood doesn’t inspire caution; when the drug runners arrive, he leaps into the fray without waiting for backup and is quickly shot dead.
Grief-stricken and enraged, Mike chases the murderer(s) to an abandoned mansion that is reputed to be haunted. There he encounters Satan’s own apprentice, Slick Dawson. Slick is prepared to offer Mike a deal: He will send Mike back in time to before the incident occurs so that Mike can warn/convince/force Barney to—seriously, dude—WAIT FOR BACK-UP before going in with guns a-blazing. The price? Only Mike’s immortal soul.
Mike readily agrees; how can he face his sister, knowing that Barney died on his watch? But Slick is a tricky one, as Mike is about to discover…
The next morning, Mike awakens on the floor in the mansion’s front hallway with a beautiful woman staring down at him. The woman is Miss Abigail Kingsley, the year is 1865, and the Damn Yankees are about to impound the house—called Elysium—for non-payment of taxes during the recently concluded War of Northern Aggression. Mike has traveled back in time, all right—one day plus a hundred-plus years.
How can Mike prevent Barney’s murder from his vantage point a century in the past? Can Abigail save her home? What can a cynical cop from the future who’s living on borrowed time possibly do about his growing attraction to a brave but damaged nineteenth-century Southern belle? And what the hell (literally) is Slick really up to, anyway?
There’s a twist—a doozy; you may figure it out before Mike does (in fact, you probably will—at no point in the proceedings is it suggested that Mike, bless his heart, has ever been the sharpest tool in the shed). I can guarantee that this won’t hurt your enjoyment of the book; in fact, it will only ratchet up the tension to nearly unbearable levels as you realize that for poor doomed Mike, there’s no way out.
Unless there is…
As with nearly all time travel books, the less you think about the whole “changing the past” angle, the happier you’ll be; without giving too much away, Mike manages to effect some very major changes to his family’s history that could, in theory, lead to much different outcomes for himself and his sister downstream (although that really doesn’t seem to happen). Better by far to adopt the attitude espoused by Madame Guderian in Julian May’s time-travel classic The Many-Colored Land, who asserts that “the past is already manifest in the present, with the continuum sustained in the loving hands of le bon Dieu.” Anyway, quantum mechanics really isn’t the point of this book. So what is, then? Well, for one thing, passages like this one:
“Mike…” His name left her lips as her eyes fluttered open and his bare chest pressed against her fully clothed one. The paroxysms low in her belly intensified, becoming almost unbearable as he lowered his mouth to hers.
She should have stopped him, but couldn’t. Her body craved his touch, his kisses, and more…
Soft and undemanding, he slanted his mouth across hers. He lowered his weight to his elbows and cupped her face with both hands.
A moan slipped from some dark place deep inside her. Outside, thunder boomed and lightning sizzled through the sky, though she knew the powerful longing surging through her body undoubtedly rivaled the storm.
Have I convinced you yet? Reading Some Like It Hotter, you may be scared for the characters and you may be nervous about the outcome (I certainly was) and you may feel all mushy when Mike and Abigail finally do connect, but one thing you will never be is bored. If you’re a reader who likes it hotter, know that it doesn’t get much hotter than this heart-pounding gothic time travel horror-romance.
Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine