Would-Be Witch (2009) is the first book in Kimberly Frost’s SOUTHERN WITCH paranormal romance series. I picked it up because Tantor Audio has just released its sequel, Barely Bewitched, and offered to send me a copy for review. There are currently five novels in this popular series.
Tammy Jo is a fiery red-head descended from a line of witches. Tammy Jo’s magical powers never developed, so she doesn’t practice witchcraft. She spends her days working as a pastry chef and her nights sleeping with Zach, her gorgeous ex-husband, a good ol’ macho conservative Texas boy who works in law enforcement and doesn’t believe in magic. But one day everything blows up. Tammy gets fired from her job, wrecks her car, and her locket is stolen by bandits.
The loss of the locket is a problem because it contains the ghost of Edie, one of Tammy’s witchy ancestors. If Tammy doesn’t get Edie back within a few days, Edie’s soul will be destroyed. The only person who has the power to help is Bryn Lyons, the handsome rich warlock who she’s been told she must never associate with. As Tammy tries to track down the locket, she must deal with a sexy witch who has the hots for Zach, a zombie, a pack of angry werewolves, and a flamboyant gay vampire.
I never quite warmed up to Kimberly Frost’s debut novel. It started off badly with the opening scene which features Frost’s most odious character — Tammy Jo’s highschool rival, Jenna. I DO NOT like stories about highschool girls’ rivalries and the audiobook narrator, Mandy Siegfried, really played up this part. I thought I was going to have to give up on Would-Be Witch. Fortunately, though, after Jenna left the scene, we didn’t see much more of her.
I finished Would-Be Witch and was mildly entertained by it. The biggest problem was that I didn’t like Tammy Jo. She’s a sweet person, I guess, but…. how do I say…. um…. she’s kind of dumb. She has no goals or hobbies or passions, she thinks and reasons like she’s still in high school, and she has a limited vocabulary. (She had to ask what these words/phrases mean: Gaelic, solarium, red light district.). She lets the men in her life push her around. Other readers may find her Southern charm appealing, such as when she says things like “well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit” or “Hellfire and biscuits” or “don’t that just beat all,” but I thought she was more boring than cute.
Additionally, Frost’s writing style just isn’t that great. In the beginning, sentences were choppy and dialogue was stilted, though this got better as the story went on, or perhaps the narrator did a better job of smoothing it out after she got going. (I think the narrator had a rough start, but she won me over in the end.) Figures of speech tended to be clichéd and/or dull: “I felt hotter than a campfire,” “shaking like a newborn calf,” “as dry and cracked as a southwest desert,” “the power of the crossing ley lines bubbled through me like a mimosa.” Characters call each other “sugar” and “darlin’” and “honey.” Yuck. Never once did I stop to admire the language.
The only aspect of the story that I really liked was Tammy Jo’s feline sidekick, a cat that looks like a small leopard. (I have a thing for these types of cats and enjoy living with a brown spotted Bengal.)
Would-Be Witch will be most appreciated by female paranormal fantasy readers who like a gorgeous ditzy heroine involved in a love triangle with two bossy over-protective condescending alpha males who talk like this:
Tammy Jo, I should whip your ass,” Zach’s voice boomed from somewhere behind me. “Where the hell have you been?”
(Actually, it’s not really fair to pull out only that quote. Zach turns out to be a really sweet bossy over-protective condescending alpha male and, unbelievably, he grew on me as the story went on.) While this type of story doesn’t naturally appeal to me, I’m sure I would have been able to turn off my brain and my feministic sensibilities long enough to enjoy it if it had had some other redeeming qualities such as beautiful prose or clever humor.
Tantor Audio did send me the next book, Barely Bewitched, so I feel like I should give it a try. I’m hoping for major improvement. I’ll let you know.
A note about the covers: The new cover (shown at the top of the post) does not look right. Tammy Jo is short, 106 pounds, and ditzy. She doesn’t dress like that. The old version (seen on the audiobook) seems more like Tammy Jo.