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The Laced Chameleon by Bob Rogers

The Laced Chameleon

by Bob Rogers

256 pages
New Orleans native Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon, a particular caste of African American women who are sought by wealthy white men. At age eighteen in the second year of the American Civil War, she is the concubine of New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson, and leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns, lace, and lavish balls—until…

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Category: Fiction:Mystery:Detective
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About the Book
New Orleans native Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon, a particular caste of African American women who are sought by wealthy white men. At age eighteen in the second year of the American Civil War, she is the concubine of New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson, and leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns, lace, and lavish balls—until a bullet shatters her dream world.

While awaiting the arrival of the Union Navy among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead by her side. Rain-soaked and blood-stained Francesca vows revenge. Francesca’s passionate desire for retribution drives her into a new life as a woman sleuth. Playing detective to solve a murder mystery is far from the role of a woman in 1862 New Orleans—especially, a woman who perceives herself to be African American but appears to be white. According to young and vivacious Francesca, “There are many rules in New Orleans about sex—written and unwritten. The rules apply to everyone—except white men.”

While miscegenation existed all over the South, arranged unions between white men and women of color existed in antebellum New Orleans society by contract in a recognized extralegal system called plaçage. Race, caste, and class are significant matters in Francesca’s life. The grieving Francesca is evicted from Joachim’s house by his parents who refuse to honor the lovers’ plaçage (concubinage) contract.

Francesca’s life becomes intertwined with a homeless hungry white woman and her children when Francesca shares her last Confederate dollars to buy food for them. Francesca’s inquiry into the woman’s plight reveals that the woman’s father is the father of her son. Her investigation lands her work as a spy for Major General Benjamin Butler’s army occupying New Orleans. As Francesca struggles to make a principled choice between another plaçage arrangement and independence, another acquaintance is murdered and her best friend, Emily, is kidnapped.

Working to recover Emily and avenge Joachim, Francesca’s arduous mental and physical journey takes a circuitous route—far from a concubine’s life of extravagant balls, lace, and leisure. Amid the flowering of spring and early summer in New Orleans, she finds herself mired deep in the perilous abyss between foreign, Union, and Confederate spies. Using mule-drawn streetcars, Francesca’s gumshoe work takes her through Vieux Carré, Tremé, and many famous city streets in search of the killer’s motive, means, and opportunity to commit mayhem. In her undercover role, she frequents Café du Monde, Antoine’s Restaurant, and the famous ballroom at the present-day Bourbon Orleans Hotel. Francesca gets help from three historic people of New Orleans; humanitarian Mother Henriette Delille, actress Sarah Butler, and Union spy John Mahan.

Can rookie detective Francesca’s passion, determination, and wit overcome a kidnapper and three-time murderer?

 

Reviews
Rogers' impressive nonfiction cast, […] includes New Orleans political, military, and religious figures, various artists, and entrepreneurs of that era, are surrounded by a host of fictional characters.
- San Francisco Book Review
But it's not just a historical novel, though its setting is firmly rooted in historical fact - it's a mystery, as well. It's rare to find a historical mystery so well-grounded in the flavors and atmosphere of the antebellum South, and one which so thoroughly injects New Orleans atmosphere.
- Donovan's Bookshelf, an affiliate of the Midwest Book Review
Bob Rogers has penned a nail-biter murder mystery that builds in intensity as it takes the reader through the glitter of lavish ballroom affairs of wealthy white New Orleans society and Francesca’s double life as a secret agent employed in espionage against the Confederacy.
- B.H. Settles, Author of Smoke for Breakfast

 

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About the Author
Bob Rogers Bob Rogers, the author of First Dark, is a former army captain and combat leader during the Vietnam War in Troop A, 1/10 Cavalry. He is a member of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. Bob Lives in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico.

 

 

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