Ali Vali made a brilliant decision when she decided to use Calumet as the title to her newest novel. The Native American calumet (also known as a “peace pipe”) has always been a physical representation for peace, and that fits perfectly with one of the main themes of this novel.
Calumet is not your usual standalone romance novel. It is much more complex and layered. The main character, Dr. Jaxon Lavigne has achieved what she set out to do when she left small town Louisiana after her high school graduation. She is a well-respected professor at a prestigious university and in love with a beautiful and successful Hollywood actress, Margot Drake. Even with all her success, Jaxon still can’t get over her past. When an invitation for her 15th high school anniversary arrives, she is encouraged by Margot and her best friend Bert to go back home and face the town and people she left behind, including her parents and her first love Iris, and the secret Iris has been keeping for many years.
The plot of this story is intricate and nuanced with many layers of meaning for different characters. The mystery involving Jaxon and Iris is slowly revealed throughout the tale. There is also a good bit of angst that Jaxon must go through as she returns to confront the people who caused her to leave home. The small town of Chackbay, the moss covered trees and slow-moving water actually made me a bit homesick. I also love the way the author connects her stories to her other books. I look for little “easter eggs” or mentions of things from different stories. In this book, we actually have Tully and Libby Badeaux from the novel Second Season as minor secondary characters. It’s always nice to see a couple I fell in love with still together and doing well.
The romance between Jaxon and Margot is lovely and runs through the whole story, though to me it is almost secondary to seeing Jaxon make peace with her past and grow as a character. The characters make this novel. It is definitely a character driven tale. In fact, if someone wants to study how to develop a character in a story, all they need to do is read this book and study the character Jaxon Lavigne. The way the author created this character and showed her development and growth through the book as she faced the hurt and angst of her past is just amazing.
I have only the highest praise for this novel and the author. I suggest you buy and read this book as soon as you can.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for an honest review.