Friday, February 10, 2012

Witchy Woman

I’ve been a Charlaine Harris and Sookie Stackhouse fan for years. To be honest, however, I hate the covers. Vampires are supposed to be sexy. The pallid creatures on the Sookie Stackhouse books should be staked and put out of their misery. Call me superficial, but that’s why I avoided the series until book four: Dead to the World. Yes, the blonde vampire on the cover was one of the ugliest blood-suckers I’d ever seen, but it was time. I’d heard good things about the series, and my mother (who is not a fan of vampires) had enjoyed other books by Harris. Of course the book was great, and I immediately purchased the first three in the series. But I still find it difficult to reconcile how Harris describes her characters, like the oh-so-sexy Viking vampire Eric Northman, with how they are portrayed on the cover art. And don’t even get me started on Sookie’s hair. In the books, the silky blonde locks are her pride and joy; on the covers, Sookie’s hair resembles straw—both in color and texture.

But I digress. Between the popular novels and the critically acclaimed HBO television series, I’m sure most people are familiar with the trials and tribulations of the Southern-bread Sookie. So instead, I offer an alternative to fans of Charlaine Harris and Sookie Stackhouse, and their names are Kimberly Frost and Tammy Jo Trask. (Apparently, you can take the White Trash out of the girl, but not out of her name.)

When I saw Frost’s Would-Be Witch on the shelves of my local Borders (RIP), the cover grabbed my attention. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, but the artwork definitely stood out from the rest of the books. And the unusual cover was what made me pick up the book. What led me to ultimately purchase the book were these words: “A terrific new series from a wonderful new author.” Two of my favorite things—a freshman author and a first in a series.

Frost and Tammy Jo did not disappoint. In fact, it was a delicious read—frothy and fun, with just the hint of something dark.

When readers are first introduced to Tammy Jo, it’s clear our spunky Texan is at a bit of a crossroad. She’s a witch with no apparent powers. The one skill she does have—cooking—is not enough to keep her from being fired from the local bakery. She’s divorced, but still allowing her Alpha-male ex, Zach, the town sheriff, to make bootie calls. She’s dead broke and forced to hock her jewelry to a lecherous pawn store owner. Then things go downhill from there in the form of ghosts, zombies, werewolves, cross-dressing vampires, and an ocelot?

I admit I had to look that one up. I knew it was a cat, but other than that I was clueless. Turns out the ocelot—as defined in Merriam’s—is a medium-sized American wildcat that ranges from Texas to Northern Argentina. In pictures it looks a little like a miniature leopard. And in a strange coincidence, an ocelot featured heavily in the TV show I half-watched last night with my husband. For the curious, it was Archer, an animated series on FX—totally wrong, and yet so very funny.

But back to Tammy Jo. While her mother and aunt are off to mysterious and undisclosed places, Tammy Jo is tasked with protecting a family heirloom—a locket that allows Tammy Jo to communicate with Edie, her great-great-Grandmother’s dead twin sister. Why is Edie connected to the locket? And why is Edie sticking around this two-bit Texas town instead of sailing forth to the great beyond? Frost doesn’t tell us yet, but I sense that it is a mystery she will unfold through the series. All we do know is that Edie was a wild-child flapper and that she was murdered by some unknown assailant. If you want my guess, it will have something to do with another famous line of witches with the surname Lyons.

 And speaking of the infamous Lyons, the oh-so-delectable (and wealthy) Bryn Lyons is at the party where Tammy Jo’s locket is stolen. After Tammy Jo’s failed attempts to use magic to retrieve the locket and Edie, the town’s reigning wizard, Bryn, offers to help. Now Tammy Jo is in a bit of a pickle. The good news: Bryn is hot with a capital “H.” The bad news: the Lyons’ family is on the witches’ infamous “List of Nine,” meaning no Trask is allowed to interact with any Lyons.

Frost uses this dire and mysterious warning, as well as the hunky Zach, to keep Tammy Jo and Bryn apart. But their chemistry is undeniable and the two soon hit the sheets. Unfortunately, their passion rages a little too far out of control. During the steamy encounter, Bryn gets “high” on their combined power and drains Tammy Jo dry—literally, taking all of her magic. Definitely a setback to that courtship. While the effect is temporary and Tammy Jo does regain her wonky magic, she is not too happy with Bryn. Sigh. It looks like our hero has his wooing work cut out for him. Luckily Bryn has the next two books, Barely Bewitched and Halfway Hexed, to make it up to Tammy Jo. And while I won’t spoil the plot, this savvy reader thinks it’s only a matter of time before Tammy Jo and Bryn accept their fate as star-crossed lovers. Until they do, however, I’ll sit back and enjoy the ride on Tammy Jo’s broom. 

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