In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger.
She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
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Marceline “Celine” Rousseau flees 1872 France with a dark secret. She finds refuge in a New Orleans convent with other girls her age hoping to find husbands, something Celine isn’t sure she wants, until she meets the charming and mysterious Bastien, member of La Cour des Lions. Celine takes readers with her as she pierces Bastien’s supernatural world while a killer who has struck fear into the city appears to be stalking her. Detective Michael Grimaldi investigates the killer and withholds details of his own cryptic past with Bastien. Grimaldi is quick to call out Celine’s ruses even while admiring her from afar. The large cast showcases the diversity of New Orleans, including Celine who is half Asian, although her father insisted she keep that a secret, while Bastien is part African-American. Ahdieh pays homage to the time period with detailed descriptions of a rich setting. The paranormal elements of the plot struggle as more time is spent being evasive than fleshing out the world with concrete details, making it difficult to understand what’s happening at times. The first in a series, this mystery novel shines when it focuses on Celine and her struggle to fit into society while trying to be true to herself. Although Celine has the main point of view, shadowy characters have short chapters throughout the story, including the killer who has dragged her into his tale of vengeance. Purchase for libraries where vampire stories have never gone out of fashion.