New Orleans, 1895.
Marian Cuvier has been married for years, so it is a shock when her husband is found murdered. The shock is compounded when she finds out that not only has he been murdered – but also he has two other wives! In the hotel room, along with his body, are two other Mrs. Cuviers. Both are much younger than Marian, and both seem to be grieving. Marian's first instinct is to protect her children, and that means financially as well as emotionally. Her husband owned half a share in a shipping company, and she means to take over his share and keep it for her son. She meets her husband's partner, a certain Louis Fournet, and informs him that she will be starting to work on Monday.
Louis Fournet is dismayed, not only because in that time women do not work, but also because he wanted to sell his share of the business and return to his plantation.
Louis and Marian work together and are surprised to find they appreciate each other's company. Louis finds Marian irresistible, and he is darkly handsome. Predictably, they end up in bed. However, Marian does not want marriage. She was just using Louis to see if she was still desirable. The fact that her husband had married two other women was a blow to her ego. Louis wants to marry her, and asks Marian to be his wife, but she refuses. That does not stop them from sleeping together from time to time, or stop Marian from going to see her husband's other wives to find out what went wrong.
Well, nothing went wrong, apparently. The women are all mystified. No reason is given in this book, and the murder is never even close to solved. Louis could have sold his half of the business, but somehow his wish becomes a deep, dark secret. He is afraid of betraying Marian - for reasons I could not fathom. The story then drags on unmercifully.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
Marian's children are just props for the story. The story goes nowhere, and the characters never evolve in any manner. Nothing is resolved, except Marian agrees to marry Louis in the end, and he claims he is a better man now.
I couldn't see how. None of the characters were remotely interesting and I had a very hard time finishing this book. I kept putting it down, and cringing when I picked it up again. Not a good sign.
On the last page, Louis and Marian are together and, as the author puts it, "Finally they broke for air, panting, and happy to be in each other's arms." I felt a bit the same when I finished the book - happy to be finished with the book. If you feel you must read this book, borrow it or find it in a library.