Earlier last month, Sarah called upon the power of the Bitchery to help a fellow bitch out. I was looking for romances set in or around Massachusetts, as kitschy as that sounds, but I thought it would be an interesting way to learn a bit more about the area. My brother already dragged me down the Freedom Trail when he was here, and I will vow to anyone who will listen that the Freedom Trail is way longer than 2.5 miles!
I’ve compiled a reading list from your suggestions and ideally, I’d love to have all the sub-genres represented. First on the docket, is Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. Going into it, I felt good. I’m not too heavily invested in her Stephanie Plum series, maybe two books in, so I thought I’d have a pretty objective and unbiased opinion to start.
Unsuspecting baker, Lizzie Tucker, is about to caught up in a battle to release hell on earth. When a man worthy of being a hair model, unfortunately named Diesel, essentially demands her help in stopping what could be the apocalypse, what’s a girl to do? It’s not like you can take a pass on that. Lizzie learns that she is an Unmentionable, a being with enhanced abilities. Her specialty is that she’s able to differentiate between normal objects and magical artifacts, relics that happen to represent the Seven Deadly Sins. With Diesel’s cousin, Gerewulf “Wulf” Grimoire, playing for the other team, Lizzie and Diesel must sift through the North End of Boston’s residents to find the first stone before he does.
The first sin to tackle: Gluttony.
Despite the god awful names (Diesel? Really?), the concept was definitely something I could get behind. Seven Deadly Sins? Hunting old artifacts? Cupcakes? It’s like Julia Child and Indiana Jones had a baby. And, aside from the terrible movie, I found One for the Money to be entertaining. Needless to say, I had high hopes.
The disappointment I felt upon finishing this book is second only to Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice, leaving the Spice Girls. The book was just another Stephanie Plum novel, but in a less neon-colored packaging. The heroine is quirky, clumsy, and a tad awkward. She’s got a host of oddball characters at her disposal: a cat with a glass eye, a coworker who undergoes several failed attempts at becoming a witch, an inappropriate monkey named Carl. Each character is more gimmicky than the last and they all have their own idiosyncrasies and running jokes. Unfortunately, Evanovich lays it on thick. Brooke Shields’ eyebrows kind of thick, though let’s be honest, those things are a work of art.
Carl giving people the middle finger seventeen times in thirteen chapters, not so much. And yes, I kept a running tally. We get it. He’s a rude primate, who has no concept regarding human manners and may or may not have a case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Told in first person – my least favorite of all the persons, I might add – we’re privy to Lizzie’s assessment. However, it feels more like she thinks in bullet points and lists rather than sweeping, coherent thoughts.
We all nodded, taking him in. His hair was thick and dark blond, somewhere between wind-blown, just woke up, and untamable. His skin was beach bum tan. His eyebrows were fierce and darker than his hair. His eyes were brown and assessing. His posture was confident. His body language was intimidating. His boots were dusty. His jeans were on their last legs but molded nicely to all the good parts. His navy T-shirt was splashed with flour from my chef coat.
It was enough to give me whiplash, especially when she took to describing a character’s wardrobe. I firmly believe that if it’s not terribly pertinent to the story, there’s really no need to list off what sort of sleeves a secondary character was wearing or what color her shoes were. It would have probably gone over better with me if the details were blended in, rather than rattled off like a drill sergeant.
Shortly into the book, Diesel begins bunking with Lizzie. He introduced himself that morning and after she gets off work, he has literally broken into her home and set up camp. He rebuffs her when she tells him to leave and that’s the end of that conversation. Normally, I would be willing to suspend my disbelief if Lizzy doesn’t describe herself as such, only a few pages later:
Truth is, I’m not a risk taker. Not with men. Not with money. Not with shoes. I take a multivitamin every day. I lock my doors. I wear a seat belt. I don’t eat raw meat. And I don’t go off on wild goose chases with people I don’t know.
Woman. You just agreed to let a complete stranger into your home. You will later allow him to sleep in your bed – naked – without so much as dousing his eyes in some bear mace or brandishing a kitchen knife in his general direction. Not once does she show this stranger any hostility for invading her personal space, ignoring her requests to respect said space, and essentially effing up her life, one that she seemed perfectly content with before he showed up.
Evanovich’s writing is definitely more on the comedic side, which is refreshing from the typical brooding, tortured heroes frequent in the romance genre. And we all know that humor is subjective. But I do want to give fair warning to those who may be triggered by casual and implied comments regarding rape and taking advantage of women.
At one point, Diesel says, “I like a woman who’s gullible. It makes everything so much easier.”
There are also references to Lizzie being raped or, at the very least, taken advantage of while she was unconscious, causing her abilities to be affected. The content really didn’t match the overall tone of the book and, though the matter is a serious one in my opinion, it isn’t treated as such. It’s still a mystery by the end and, once again, there’s no outrage or grave concern from Lizzie or even anyone. The situation was treated extremely poorly, in my opinion, and, quite frankly, left a bad taste in my mouth.
The reason why I didn’t completely fail the book is because it was a rather painless read. I breezed through it in under three hours while I waited for the Internet to get turned on at my apartment. I also have to commend Janet Evanovich for an interesting, though poorly executed, plot. I may continue with the Stephanie Plum series at a later date, though I think I’m going to call it quits on any future adventures of Lizzie & Diesel.