By Cynthia Ayala
In Braxton, empaths are slaves and for Moira, her power is both a gift and a curse. With a hard and cruel past, Moira learned that there was only one person she could rely on: herself, and desperate for her freedom, she killed her master, an act punishable by death. However, with mysterious murders happening behind the power of persuasion, the government has made a deal: her help for her freedom. However, the Phoenix is a powerful enemy, one that could destroy her, inside and out.
The story, set in an alternate world in the 1800’s makes it not only historical fiction but also and an alternate history tale where society is separated between people without gifts and empaths who serve as slaves for their abilities of memory manipulation and persuasion. That is a world that readers are familiar offering a grounder for the reader. It is a familiar setting especially when McLachlan introduces Moira, the powerful empath who is in prison for murdering her master. Any story about slavery often includes that making this a familiar and powerful scene with which to grab the reader and draw them in as they hear from the narrative of Moira. She is a strong character with a hardened and somewhat cold demeanor, yet her character is still very likable, mostly. There are times when her cold demeanor alienates the reader. The language is harsh at those moments and frigid, and while it offers a realistic approach to developing the character it makes it a little hard to read her. The bright side of that is that fact that while it may be somewhat alienating, it also creates sympathy for the character because all her snarky comments and remarks are connected to a very cruel past that the writing allows the reader experience. There is also the character dynamics between Moira and Keenan Edwards. The relationship between the two characters is complicated making this a romance novel that is worth the read because the romance is not just given to the reader; it builds with the rising tension of the story.
Every chapter, every word continues to build the tension drawing the reader further into the story, and while the narrative could have been better devised so as not to lose the reader at times, the tension was the main thing holding this story together. It was pulled together so well to build this story and by creating an unusual case for the reader to follow and study which serves as the basis for the plotline while also introducing a whole separate case for the reader and the characters to solve. Both work differently to build both the characters and the overall story and dynamics of the characters while also remaining cohesive enough to hold the story together as a whole.
Overall, the pace, tension, and character dynamics all collaborate in order to make this paranormal murder mystery an enjoyable read. (★★★☆☆ | B)