When does attraction become obsession? Rusty Blackwood attempts to answer that question in her debut novel, Passion in Paris: Connections to the Past.
The story starts sometime in the future, as members of Joy Wychmere’s family gather after her death at her sprawling mansion on the cliffs above Lake Ontario. As they reminisce about their beloved relative, they look for answers to what seemed to be a mysterious life.
They quickly discover a collection of hat boxes containing two videotapes, an antique men’s suit, two pieces of exquisite jewelry, and a diary. As the trio starts to read, they are thrust into a steamy account of their grandmother’s secret love and the perils that came with it.
In 1999, Joy Wychmere won a radio contest promoting a new movie. The prize: a trip to Paris and a day with the film’s star and her secret crush, Cullen Malone. Days later, she flies to Paris with her husband, Dean, who waits in their hotel room while she heads out on an overnight adventure with Cullen. Joy and Cullen are instantly tangled in a web of drugs, alcohol, sex, homosexual jealousy, stalking and violence that escalates to a surprising ending.
Blackwood struggles the most with dialogue. In fact, Passion is mostly dialogue, with some conversations lasting several pages with no change in the action. Blackwood’s most easily imagined characters are also the most stereotypical — the villain who lurks in a black overcoat; the clueless tourists with overblown Southern accents. The main characters are mostly one-dimensional, and readers are left with more questions than answers. The novel’s time frame is confusing, and the only reference in the prologue that implies the story is being told decades after 1999 is one sentence: “Resting side by side upon the aged suit, lay two old video tapes of the kind used long ago…”
Passion picks up speed as the story unfolds, but this is a challenging read overall.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.