Lizzy Tucker makes cupcakes. And cookies and other baked goods, but she’s really good at cupcakes. That’s her talent. She works in a bakery, and leads a quiet life free from troublesome pets or romantic entanglements.
Her quiet life is disrupted when two dangerously attractive and simply dangerous men appear in her life. They think she has another talent, one that’s more significant than baking. They think she can find magical objects, the sort that might bring about the apocalypse.
In a desperate quest to the Gluttony stone – one of a set of seven, matching and embodying the Seven Deadly Sins – Lizzy has to deal with explosions, compulsions, miscast magic, unexpected simians and baking disasters. Perhaps most pressingly, she has to deal with a devilishly handsome man who simply won’t go away, no matter how much she pretends to want him to.
This book is a quick read. It’s nearly four hundred (admittedly large print) pages in length, but I finished it in slightly under an hour. This was unfortunate, as it meant that I had another hour’s train journey without a distraction. However, it is a point in Wicked Appetite‘s favour – the narrative rattles along at pace, and it never lags or drags.
Janet Evanovich is an author with a very recognisable voice – it’s excitable and energetic, managing to blend tension and humour together. The book is told in first person, and Lizzy is a likeable, if slightly naive, narrator. You want her to succeed, and her emotions (mostly confusion) are very easily to sympathise with.
The other characters are numerous and varied, although they have a tendency toward the bizarre. That’s the same for the scenes and plot twists as well – there are swearing monkeys, obsessive flagellants and crazed roleplayers lurking behind every corner. The book definitely isn’t boring, but it is rather unsatisfying.
The problem I have is that Wicked Appetite is very shallow. There’s no weight to anything – the characters, the magic, the emotions. People go from event to event almost at random, with little space given to necessary motivations or reactions. The plot leaps between subplots and comic situations rapidly, and it’s definitely more of a light farce than it is a thriller.
I found that disappointing – I’m not against comedy, but it’s hard to get fully invested in the storyline when even the protagonist isn’t taking things that seriously. Faced with the impending apocalypse, Lizzy keeps on getting distracted by escaped pets and broomsticks, which means that the stakes never seem real. You’re left with the idea that they could just have ignored the impending doom and it would have worked out okay.
It’s clear though, that the main draw is meant to be the romance, with the plot, and the mechanics of magic as a whole, just in place to allow for lots of arch flirting and innuendo. No sex though – that wouldn’t match the light tone, so (for rather convoluted reasons) everyone is very chaste. I get that – it’s not meant to be a book that’s taken seriously, and it’s not really fair of me to judge it based on that score.
But occasionally, the book itself dispenses with the light tone, and it seems as though there are attempts at a deeper and more edgy narrative. Food fights and slapstick are alarming interspersed with hints at torture and sexual assault. And that, I think, is what I find slightly annoying. It’s not a romantic comedy, because the actual world and situation are quite dark, but all the characters insist on acting as though they were in a rom-com. There’s no quirky romance in The Books of Blood; in the entirety of Pretty Woman‘s two hour and five minute running time, Richard Gere disembowels exactly zero people. Mixing two rather opposed genres would require a very delicate balancing act, and that doesn’t happen in this book.
In all, Wicked Appetite is entertaining, as long as you accept it as what it is, and don’t think too hard or expect too much. There’s a coherent, if not realistic plot, and a cast of mostly endearing characters. It’s a fun, trashy read, but there’s not much more than that. If you want something casual for a journey, then this is fine, but it’s not going to thrill you or stick in your memory.