Call Me Wicked
I used to feel that I had to finish every book I started, especially if I paid for it. But as I found myself with less time and far less patience, that rule became a thing of the past. As a result, any book that doesn’t grab me within a few chapters gets tossed aside, never to be heard from again, and about half the series books I buy these days go unfinished. So any time a book engages me from the very beginning and holds me straight through to the end, well, it’s worth noting. Call Me Wicked is such a book. The latest Extreme Blaze is a generally fun read while it lasts. Too bad it’s so shallow I’m pretty sure I won’t remember it in a week.
Lauren Parish comes from a long line of witches, something she’s supposed to keep under wraps since a group called The Order has hunted and killed witches for centuries. When she lets her guard down and gives a CNN interview about her work as a San Francisco medical researcher, she soon finds members of The Order breaking into her home in the middle of the night. (Family resemblances aren’t such a good thing when you look like an ancestor who was killed centuries ago.) She manages to escape and quickly makes plans to head for the sanctuary her cousin Sebastian runs in West Hollywood.
Carson McCullen’s sudden reappearance in Lauren’s life is an unexpected complication. She and Carson shared a wild weekend in Vegas that Lauren intended to be only a one-time thing. Sleeping with mortals is strictly forbidden, since they tend to get addicted to sex with witches. Sure enough, Carson has been trying to track her down ever since, unable to get their encounter out of his mind. After seeing her interview and learning her real name, he pays a visit to her apartment right around the same time as her other uninvited guests. If the members of The Order saw him, he’s not safe either, since the witch hunters would have no qualms about using him if they thought he knew where she was. She has no choice but to take him with her into hiding, even if it means staying in close quarters with a man she’s not supposed to get close to again.
The story’s strong points are the intriguing premise and Jamie Sobrato’s writing style. This was a one-sitting read for me, and much of that was due to the author’s smooth and engaging storytelling. That seems to be an increasingly rare quality in series romances, so it was a relief to encounter it here. Thankfully the book contains none of the sexism or moralizing of the only other book by Sobrato that I’ve read, which made this one much more enjoyable to read.
The paranormal premise is very cool, as the author establishes the conflict between the witches (who must keep their identities secret) and their human tormentors, and the looming uprising that might free the witches from their oppression. We meet the two witch hunters on Lauren’s trail, who, as such characters often are, are both fanatical and hypocritical, lusting after witches even as they hate them. The prologue shows Lauren as a girl, as she has a vision of how she will die – shot on a beach with a brown-haired man at her side, a man she now knows is Carson. Her attempt to avoid her fate, and her certainty that she cannot, is one of the story’s most effective elements. The author also does a nice job with the deepening of Carson’s feelings, letting the reader know that what he’s feeling for Lauren is not merely a sexual addiction. Some of the key emotional moments are well-wrought, and the story ends on a particularly good note.
Unfortunately the book suffers from two key weaknesses: the dreaded sagging middle and too little depth. The beginning and ending are both fast-paced and exciting. In between those action-packed sections, the characters spend the majority of the book sitting around the safe house. The sex picks up and the plot stalls. Sobrato certainly delivers some hot sex scenes, but after a while I started to wonder if anything else was ever going to happen. Lauren’s cousin hates mortals and only accepts Carson’s presence with the utmost reluctance, threatening to kill him at any moment because of the threat he poses to them. Naturally, Lauren protests. The same conversation repeats over and over again in between the sex, which grew tiresome. Plus, one choice on Carson’s part was foolish and seemed dictated more by the needs of the plot than anything else.
Lauren and Carson also get to know each other better during this time, but it doesn’t amount to too much since they’re both rather two-dimensional. Sobrato paints somewhat sketchy portraits of them, giving us a few details without bringing them fully to life. This is particularly true with Carson, who’s simply less interesting than Lauren (or her cousin Sebastian, who was more compelling than the two of them put together. I’d read a book about about him any day). Carson’s main character point is that he’s dissatisfied with his job and starting to feel the emptiness of his life. I like the concept, but Carson himself was too bland for the subplot to make much of an impact.
More importantly, the world-building could have been developed and conveyed much more strongly than it is. Sobrato has such a fascinating concept here with so much potential that it’s a shame she seems content to leave it as the story’s backdrop, rather than giving it the attention it deserves. Instead it feels thinly drawn and I wanted to know so much more than what I was given. This is the rare book that made me wish it was the beginning of a series.
I enjoyed Call me Wicked for the most part while I read it, but after I finished, my impression was that it could have been so much more. A stronger middle section, deeper character development, and more detailed worldbuilding would have made for a better book overall. What’s here provides some fun while it lasts, but sadly it’s a little too thin to be anything memorable.