by Stella Cameron

November 2003
ISBN: 0-8217-7083-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

When Marc Girard finally returns to his hometown of Toussaint, Louisiana, it’s to investigate the death of a singer named Bonnie Blue, who supposedly died from an accidental fall from the belfry tower. Marc, however, believes Bonnie Blue to have been his long missing sister, Amy; he also believes that she may have been murdered. Although finding his sister is his only reason for returning to Toussaint, many of the townspeople believe him to be there to raise their rents or sell their stores out from under them as the Girards own much of the town’s real estate. Fortunately, Marc is oblivious to their concerns as he seeks out the truth about his sister.

The one person who seems to be able to help Marc in his quest is the local medical examiner Reb O’Brien, a stunning redhead who grew up near Marc and loves Cloud’s End, the Girard family estate, as much as he does. Reb and Marc shared a past relationship when they were in school at Tulane, and Marc’s presence is town is bringing out feelings and passions that Reb had laid to rest long ago. Fortunately, Reb also believes Bonnie Blue was murdered, although she is not convinced that Bonnie was really Amy Girard. At first, Reb really doesn’t want to get involved in Marc’s search, but it becomes increasingly harder to ignore those old feelings and her response to the tall, dark, gorgeously sexy, Mr. Girard. And putting those feelings aside, there is also the fact that Reb truly feels Bonnie’s death is associated with the deaths of two young women who were murdered in Toussaint a few years ago. Although their murderer has been caught and is serving time in prison, Reb believes him to be innocent.

As Reb and Marc grow closer, it becomes evident to everyone close to the investigation that someone is after Reb, probably because as the medical examiner, she may know too much. Reb’s circle of friends tightens around her to shield her, as well as to find out the truth about Bonnie and the previous murders. From the quiet but efficient Deputy Sheriff Spike Devol, to the intriguing priest Father Cyrus, to Marc, whose main focus changes to protecting Reb, everyone is determined to set an innocent man free and bring the real killer to justice. There is a subplot related to Amy which introduces even more sinister characters, one with the interesting name of Precious Depew.

Ms. Cameron has written a very good tale of romantic suspense set in the Louisiana bayous, filled with a cast of colorful characters, scary situations, and hot, steamy sensuality. The plot enveloped me from the beginning, eagerly pulling me in to discover the identity of the “Rubber Killer” and follows the growing attraction between Reb and Marc. However, as much as I loved the book, the ending left much to be desired. The story ended so abruptly readers never even find out the final outcome concerning Amy Girard or exactly what happens to the villains in the story. With a much more finished ending, Cold Day in July could have been not just very good, but absolutely wonderful. Ms. Cameron is so good at drawing readers into her characters that they deserve to know more about what happens to them at the conclusion. This story left many questions unanswered; one can only hope that many are revealed in Ms. Cameron’s sequel Kiss Them Goodbye.

Reviewed in January 2004 by Vivian.

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