3.5 starsMary MacAllistair has been convent educated, and on her sixteenth birthday she receives the gift of a family legacy - a casket containing family treasures handed down from one Mary (or Marie) to the next. At the same time, Mary is stunned by the news of her father's death, along with the big surprise that her *mother* is really her step-mother and wants nothing to do with Mary - she's on her own in the world. Mary finds a New Orleans address in the casket, and she's off all by herself to hunt down the family she's never known. I won't go into details, but it doesn't take long for our innocent heroine to get duped and then befriended by the nicest woman ever (you just know what plans she has for Mary, don't you?). Once she's *safely* in New Orleans, she escapes one evil baddie only to fall into the hands of another who recognizes the casket and gets Mary shunted off to a remote plantation. Not a bad life, but her little misstep with the evil Mrs. Jackson comes back to haunt her and she's kicked out of her reasonably cushy digs, forced to work for a living *gasp*. Mary perseveres, since she's got the dressmaking skills to outdo the highest priced modiste in town. Will Mary find her true love Valmont Saint-Brevin? Convince him she wasn't one of Mrs. Jackson's "girls"? Find her true family? Die at the hands of the ebil voodoo queen?This was a fairly good read, but it isn't without its faults. Mary is just a wee bit annoying, not quite in full blown pity party mode, but there were times she needed a good smack in the head. While this book only covers about a one-year period, it does contain a lot of historical details of New Orleans, and that might be a deal-breaker for some, YMMV. I did enjoy a lot of the historical bits, loved learning about Micaela Almonester Pontalba (a new to me factoid), but even for this history geek it started wearing thin at the end.One final cautionary note, and that is towards readers who will look at this stepback and pick the book up expected a romance with steamy kisses and passion on every page. You aren't going to get that, and you are going to wait a long, long time for any payola. And a pretty quick payola at that.