Book Review Redux: Wicked as They Come

wicked as they come

When nurse Tish Everett forced open the pesky but lovely locket she found at an estate sale, she had no idea she was answering the call of Criminy Stain, from the far off land of Sang. He’d cast a spell for her, but when she’s transported right to him, she’s not so sure she’s ready to be under the spell of another man. (It didn’t go so well last time with controlling, abusive, domineering Jeff.) If only Criminy wasn’t so deliciously rakish….

Half the inhabitants of Sang are Pinkies—human—and the other half are Bludmen, who in Tish’s world would be called vampires. But they don’t mess with any of the bat/coffin/no sunlight nonsense. They’re rather like you and me, just more fabulous, long living, and mostly indestructible. (They’re also very good kissers.) But when the evil Mayor of Manchester (formerly Bludchester) redoubles his efforts to rid Sang of the Bludmen once and for all, stealing Tish’s locket in hopes of traveling back to her world himself for reinforcements, Criminy and Tish must battle ghosts, sea monsters, wayward submarines, a secret cabal, and thundering Bludmares to get the locket back and allow Tish to return home…but has she found love with Criminy? Could she stay in Sang forever?

– Criminy, World of Sang, bludbunnies (not even joking there)

Cons – On re-read the story feels more disjointed, Tish comes across irritating til about the halfway point, CASPER

(please note: a version of this review appeared originally on Poisoned Rationality. I’ve since updated and tweaked it after a recent re-read.  Additions are noted in italics)

Review – To say that this book’s cover didn’t catch my attention from the first would be an outright lie. Half naked men may not be so extraordinary, but the look on his face, coupled with the overall presentation.  I like to think they caught the fact that Criminy is not meant to be the stuff of your daylight daydreams, but something darker and more sensual, skirting the line of amiable sociopath quite well.  But I am a fanciful sort.

Dawson sets up an intriguing blend of paranormal, fantasy and romance with enough elements of steampunk to have those bits not overshadow the story.  I don’t think her intention is to label this in the steampunk genre, but rather to incorporate some of the funner elements (such as clockwork animals).  The romance is rather more subdued then in a lot of paranormals, with a lot of the emphasis on Letitia learning to accept that love doesn’t mean being trapped rather then on Criminy courting her.  He flat out tells her in their first meeting that he had been waiting for her and loved her.  To him its not so much a ‘will she?’ and more of a ‘I’ll eventually prove to her that she does already’ situation.

I’ll hasten to add this doesn’t come across as him being inconsiderate of her wishes/ignoring her feelings so much as he understands that her curiosity and intrigue over his thoroughly engaging self will lead them to become close.

I have to say I really liked the fact that even though Criminy was very determined and steadfast in his declarations he wasn’t above telling Letitia that her indecisiveness was hurting him more deeply than she could imagine.  Even after the minor inconvenience that was the possible other love interest (I rolled my eyes the entire time) Letitia is reluctant to commit herself one way or the other.  She has real world concerns tying her to this world–well mainly her grandmother’s condition and her sense of obligation was simply astounding to me.  I would like to think I could do that, but I sincerely doubt I could.  A recurring theme throughout is that something easy isn’t worth having (or that it loses its meaning) and that’s a difficult concept for me to accept.  I suppose it greatly depends on what you consider ‘easy’.

3 years, 3 books and 3+ short stories later I can say that this is a rather central theme to the series overall in my opinion.  Romance is never the forefront theme to any of the books or stories, usually finding what makes one happy or feel fulfilled is more important.  No one gets an easy chance at love and there were genuine moments where I thought that Tish would choose to instead go back to Earth instead of stay with Criminy.  As much as she loves him, as much as she wants to be with him, in the end she won’t give up helping her grandmother in the last days of her life because she is family and you don’t abandon family like that.

Oh Criminy–flawed, vicious, bludman Criminy Stain.  He’s insane, which isn’t an insult but a statement of fact.  I think everyone in that world was insane to some degree and given his occupation (Magician, caravan owner, Gypsy King, showman) it really only could help him.  He’s not afraid to show that side of himself to Letitia either; he doesn’t hide the gruesome reality of his life, nor make excuses for it.  He doesn’t go out of his way to shove it in her face, but he’s very clear about his pride in what he is.

This is important to note because he never plays the innocent or leads Tish to think that he is harmless.  He is upfront and almost challenging towards Tish about this.  He feels she is strong enough to understand and won’t belittle her intelligence or strength by acting anything he is not (he also takes that much pride in himself, a certain sense of self that seems lacking in some heroes of romance today).

Letitia felt real to me.  Felt like a woman broken by the abuse someone she cared for dealt to her.  Someone who didn’t heal fully and maybe wouldn’t have been able to without help.  I felt ambiguous about the fact everything always went back to how Jeff (her ex-fiancee) treated her.  It made sense, at first, but as she grew to trust certain people and understand them it began feeling frustrating and grating.  As if she didn’t want to move past that initial feeling.  When she wasn’t focusing on that so much I really liked her.  Liked that she had a quick wit and thought on her feet.  She got over a lot of her initial fright and seemed to embrace the world.

The less said about Casper the better.  I didn’t like him.  Not that he was badly written, or such.  I just didn’t like his character.  Every time he put the moves on Letitia I was ready to punt his butt to the nearest bludbunny nest.  I have a feeling we’ll see him again though.

We do see him, in the next book WICKED AS SHE WANTS in which I hate him much much less.

This was a welcome delight to me.  It had me enthralled through the better part of the day, had me staying up until 3am to finish the book and write this review and makes me eager to read more from Dawson.  Also to find a Criminy of my own, but that’s not here or there.

Want to Know More?

Published by: Pocket Books
Release: March 2012
Series: book 1 in Blud
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Lexie Words

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