The title is intriguing, the description fascinating. Werewolves, vampires, a vampire-themed restaurant, a love triangle... sounds like a recipe for an amazing book, right?
Not so, unfortunately. TANTALIZE does not live up to its hype, and I was deeply disappointed in it. The book is a hurried jumble of underdeveloped characters and too much action. Smith's attempt to probe into the highly popular genre of paranormal romance is commendable, but not anything too special.
Writing was very weird,still I got through it quickly.I don't think I will read anymore from this author.
Tantalize is a very interesting book. After I closed the cover for the final time, I poked around on Amazon to see if others shared my view, and found a surprising number of single-star ratings. Although the book isn't perfect -- and the characters are far, far, FAR from perfect -- I don't think Smith's novel deserves that strong of criticism.
In Tantalize, 17-year-old Quincie has a lot of balls in the air. She's just starting her senior year and is trying to juggle school, her frustratingly slow-moving romantic relationship with her best friend, Kieren (who just happens to be half-werewolf) and the re-opening of her family's restaurant after her parents' recent death. She's a highly organized and ambitious girl, and a very likeable character. In the world Smith has created, were-creatures and vampires are a somewhat accepted part of life, although still running on the fringes of society. That's why Quincie thinks her new vampire-themed restaurant will be a huge hit in the more accepting community of Austin, Texas.
Unfortunately, just days before opening, Quincie's long-time family friend and head chef, Vaggio, is brutally murdered in the restaurant kitchen. This violent event begins a series of changes that leave Quincie reeling, and change her life forever.
Smith does a fantastic job of making her heroine into a dynamic character. She changes dramatically throughout the course of the novel, and the writer is gifted at slowly changing her voice and language throughout to reflect those deeper changes. There's a major plot twist toward the end of the book that I somehow completely missed, too, so I found the book to be full of surprises.
I enjoyed the short chapters - they really helped move along the pace of the book -- and the newspaper clippings, menus and other devices used by the author also added a lot of interest. However, I was very disappointed in the abrupt and unsatisfying ending. It reminded me very much of the "resolution" to Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series books. To put it simply, there isn't much of one. As readers, we're left hanging to hope that Smith ties up some of the obvious loose ends in her subsequent books.
Overall, Tantalize is a delicious read -- but it did leave me wanting a little more. It did a good job of wheting my appetite for the next two books of the trilogy, but I felt this first portion of the story could have been a little more developed.
One word of caution, however: as an adult reader of YA novels, I had no problems with this book and really enjoyed some of the spicier content. However, as a mom, there are a few things in the story that would curl my toenails if I found out my 12 or 13-year-old were reading it. I think this book is more appropriate for older teens, as there is a fair amount of drinking, gore and mature subject matter in the later chapters.
Reviewed by Karin Perry for TeensReadToo.com
Quincie Morris leads a stressful life; playing the part of a responsible adult since the death of her parents has left her the owner of the family restaurant. Fat Lorenzo's was a successful family business until a large Italian restaurant chain moved in down the street. The small business couldn't compete, so in order to keep the doors open, her Uncle Davidson, now her guardian and manager of the restaurant, decided to change Fat Lorenzo's into a vampire-themed Italian restaurant called Sanguini's. The chef would be the center of the act, leading a midnight toast every night. Quincie's close friend, Vaggio, has been with the restaurant for years as its chef and is looking forward to the new challenge.
Quincie works late many nights a week. She is either working with Vaggio, taste-testing for the new menu, or organizing some of the many tasks left to do before opening night. One night while she is in the office reviewing her "To Do List," she hears a noise from the kitchen. Thinking Vaggio simply dropped something, she continues to work. She is also waiting for Kieren, a half-werewolf that has been the love of her life and best friend for years. She is startled when she hears Kieren's frantic cry calling her name from the kitchen. Immediately going to meet him, she is horrified by the site of Vaggio dead on the kitchen floor, bloodied and mangled as if torn apart by wolves. Kieren is bloodied from attempting to help and is desperate with worry about Quincie. He quickly pulls her from the restaurant and goes down the street to call the police. Once the police arrive, they return to the scene of the crime to answer questions.
Quincie feels her world closing in on her. She has lost her parents and a dear friend within a short period of time. Her Uncle Davidson has been preoccupied with Ruby, his wannabe vampire girlfriend, so much so that he isn't ever home and rarely spends time with Quincie anymore. Now, she learns that Kieren is planning to leave. He is going to join a werewolf pack for support while he learns the ways of his culture. Once he joins, he will never be able to come back. The thought of never seeing, touching, or talking to Kieren again leaves her shaken.
Quincie is in a vulnerable state when the new chef for Sanguini's shows up unexpectedly. Uncle Davidson hired him without even consulting her, which irritates her since she is usually considered a partner when it comes to major decisions. Henry Johnson is the new chef and as he and Quincie work together to make him more vampire-like, they grow closer. The first thing they change is his name, and Henry Johnson becomes Bradley Sanguini. Bradley cooks for her daily, constantly trying new recipes for the possible menu. He also introduces her to wine. Never one for drinking, she quickly develops a taste for it, seeming to always have a glass of wine in her hand while she is working. She is surprised that her uncle doesn't say anything about her drinking. She is even more shocked when Uncle Davidson allows her to drink wine at home.
Quincie's life seems to flash before her eyes. Her mind is occupied with thoughts of the restaurant so much that her grades at school begin to fall. She loses interest in any activity that isn't surrounding Sanguini's. She begins to spend less time with Kieren, both because she is afraid of her feelings when he is gone for good and because Bradley and Uncle Davidson plant the seed of suspicion in her mind that Kieren might have lost control of his change and killed Vaggio himself. All of these thoughts distract her to the point that she is lured into a dangerous situation where there is no way out. Her life will be forever changed.
TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith is a stimulating paranormal mystery mixed with romance. The relationship between Quincie and Kieren is touching and so deep that the reader feels Quincie's pain at the thought of losing Kieren, while at the same time understanding Kieren's reasons for keeping Quincie at arms length and never following through on the emotions he feels for her. There are a few loose ends at the end of the book that leave the reader begging for more, which will most likely lead to a sequel.