Tantalize by Cynthia Letich Smith
Series: Tantalize, #1
Publication: February 17, 2008 by Candlewick Press
(336 pages, hardcover)
Summary: CLASSIFIED ADS: RESTAURANTS SANGUINI'S: A VERY RARE RESTAURANT IS HIRING A CHEF DE CUISINE. DINNERS ONLY.
APPLY IN PERSON BETWEEN 2:00 AND 4:00 PM.
Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her parents are dead, and her hybrid-werewolf first love is threatening to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. Then, as she and her uncle are about to unveil their hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform their new hire into a culinary Dark Lord before opening night? Can he wow the crowd in his fake fangs, cheap cape, and red contact lenses — or is there more to this earnest face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms, and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything? TANTALIZE marks Cynthia Leitich Smith’s delicious debut as a preeminent author of dark fantasy.
My thoughts: I'm still kind of torn on this one. While it was refreshingly new for a vampire/werewolf book, it was also kind of strange. I think what really bugged me was how unexplained everything was. In my opinion, if you're writing a paranormal book that doesn't follow standard paranormal rules, you should explain them, and near the beginning of the book. Maybe I'm totally in the dark here and everyone else got it, but Tantalize completely confused me in that regard. It was fast-paced and didn't linger on anything, which can be nice, and can also be rushed. And in the end, I think it definitely fell in the latter category.
To keep from sounding like Tantalize was horrible, I'll list a few thing I liked/loved about it. I loved Kieren; while he was a little predictable, he was obviously protective of Quincie and torn between his heart and his head, in the non-cheesiest way possible. He provided some nice conflict for Quincie, and for himself. I liked the ending; there's no possible non-spoiler-y way to explain, but I liked it. Lastly, I liked the characters. All of them. Well, maybe not all of them, but i thought they were all really well developed, surprisingly, and realistic (for paranormal characters).
I also kind of enjoyed the writing. At times it was rushed (sorry, I'm getting sick of using that word too), but it was eerie in a you-don't-know-what's-going-to-happen-next sort of way. Quincie wasn't my favorite as a protagonist or POV character, though she seemed real, because of her fickleness. She kept switching her opinion lightening-quick, which a lot of teenage girls do, but it still made it hard o not only keep up with the story, but her decisions/opinions on the story. But I still liked her, just to be clear.
Onto my mini-rant: if you're writing a paranormal book, I think it's way more difficult to write if you don't have any characters who are clueless about the paranormal world. In my reading experience, many a good series/novel has suffered from lack of clarity on the basic functions of the paranormal world/society/whatever it is. And Tantalize did exactly that; fail to answer questions that I had from the very beginning of the book. Which made me dislike it, and find it tedious reading, since I couldn't understand half of the things going on. As a result, I'd have to blame the writing and the story, both of which I really enjoyed, had it not been so confusing.
To be fair, my standards for paranormal books have gone up, probably from reading so many lousy ones. But overall, I couldn't bring myself to really love Tantalize, so I'm going to have to give it a steady 2.5 stars. I can't help but recommend it to only hardcore fans of vampires/werewolves, who are hopefully less clueless when it comes to vampire/werewolf worlds/general rules.
Covering the Cover: I actually really love this cover. It's dark and intriguing and if I had loved the book as much as I'd wanted to, I probably would want it to keep on my shelf.
Writing: 2/5Overall Rating: 2.5 stars