I wanted to like this so much more than I ultimately did. It came so close to being a really great book but unfortunately, the things I had problems with were just big enough to knock this down to just an average book. I'm honestly still a bit heartbroken that this book wasn't a five star read for me. The synopsis of the book sounds amazing, just the tagline of Vampires in 19th century New Orleans sounds incredible! For a while at least the book was incredible. I loved the variety of ethnicities among all the characters. There's also a pretty amazing queer character in the story. While I would have liked to see more of New Orleans the descriptions we did get were beautifully lush. From the cold church cells to the extravagant Court of Lions to the wild energy of the Carnival parades the world felt magical enough to hold the supernatural. There are also some beautiful descriptions of the clothing worn. Celine apprenticed under one of Paris's finest designers and so it's no wonder her keen eye is always on the clothing of those around her.
I liked Celine well enough as a character. She's not a favorite but she fought for herself and what she believed in. She was unafraid to put herself in danger in the hopes of saving others. At times she made decisions that were not my favorite but she's a teenager in a foreign country so I'd say it's fair to cut her some slack. Sébastian is a classic YA boy. He's got a sad mysterious past and is the most beautiful boy our protagonist has ever seen. Oh yeah, he's also got a ton of money and has a bit of a cruel streak. I did find his backstory interesting once we learned some of his past but it's hard to get past the image of him being much more than just a cardboard cutout of the YA bad boy. All that said I knew what this book was and I was ready to love the romance between Celine and Sébastian. It didn't quite hit right for me. I needed another scene or two of them interacting before we got deep into the relationship. For the stakes that we get to at the end of the novel, I wasn't fully believing that the characters felt what we were told they were feeling. It still just felt like they were lusting after one another and there was no reason for them to risk anything for the other. I think if we had been given a little more page time to seeing the relationship get to a place where it could grow and evolve beyond lust I would have been all-in on this relationship.
My final issue with this book is that it's not all that supernatural. I was told I was getting vampires in New Orleans and yeah eventually the book got there but it wasn't enough. There are POV chapters from an unnamed villain who is clearly a supernatural creature but it's all very mysterious. There's also a couple of instances of supernatural things happening in the novel but when literally all the marketing on this is screaming "Vampires in New Orleans" I need to see a lot of Vampires or at least more than I got. That said the final twist in the last chapter had me screaming and I will be reading the next installment. That twist alone almost brought this to a four star read for me but I just couldn't ignore the negligible amount of vampires in this vampire book and the underdeveloped relationship between the two main characters.