Every so often, I tool around Kindle Unlimited (yes, I have a subscription to that. I read too much sometimes) and I stumble upon a book or a series that has some promise. The latest series I’ve stumbled on is called the Magic and Mixology Mystery series Gina LaManna. All the titles are plays off of cocktail names: Hex on the Beach, Witchy Sour, Jinx and Tonic, Long Isle Iced Tea, Amuletto Kiss, Spelldriver. The covers are fun.
These books follow around one Lily Locke. She starts life as a marketing executive in St. Paul and ends up the Mixologist for a place called the Isle. It’s a magical (literally) island in Lake Superior where magical folks of all types can live/hide away from the world of humans. Lily finds it initially hard to believe, but then her aunts find her and whisk her away to be the new Mixologist – a sort of apothecary.
And she rolls with it. She puts her head down and studies her butt off and becomes good at it. But (there’s always a but) – she’s not that likable a character. Lily has insecurities out the ass. Like all of them. Every trope of how she’s “not good enough” to do this, that or the other thing is all wrapped up in Lily Locke. And it’s annoying as all get out.
She’s afraid to fail, so she doesn’t really get to live or take chances. Learning how to fail is one of the best things a person can be taught. Everyone go to Netflix and watch the Magic School Bus Returns episode on failing. It’s excellent and this character needs it.
We also get the “I’m in love with you even though I’ve only seen you twice!” trope between her and the weirdly named Ranger X. Rangers are the peacekeepers/special ops of the island. They keep everyone safe from the Faction (the trope-ily named bad guys). Apparently once they become a ranger, they no longer get to use their name? I don’t know, it wasn’t explained.
I have a horrible habit of once I get through one mediocre book in a series, I keep reading the rest, hoping they’ll get better. These ones (I’m only up to the beginning of Amuletto Kiss) are all mediocre, but I’ve had to stop at the beginning of Amuletto Kiss because Ms. Lily has just ticked me right off.
They’re in the beginning stages of an all out war with the Faction (which is run by her father, NATCH) and she sells off her entire stock of Long Isle Iced Tea potion to an unknown witch who says it’s for a party. Now, this particular potion changes a person’s clothing into what they most want. It was made specially for a surprise costume party for one of Lily’s newly found cousins.
The thing is…it doesn’t just delve into your subconscious and say This person has always wanted to be a pirate and suddenly you’re dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow. No, you can focus on what you want to be and you will be it because in Long Isle Iced Tea we see Lily and a few other Islanders use it to escape the Faction by concentrating very hard on being Faction guards. And we also find that it can give you another person’s face because at the party, another cousin of Lily’s accidentally turns herself into Ranger X.
So….Lily just sold her entire stock of a glamour potion to a woman she doesn’t know. All of it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! There is a difference between altruism and naivete! The Mixologist is supposed to help people. To do good as we’re reminded constantly. That doesn’t mean she should just blindly trust everyone (which she does, constantly) during the middle of a frickin’ war!
I haven’t gotten to the end yet, but I’m betting that we’ll find out that this woman works for the Faction and she or a partner (or partners) have been using this potion to imitate Rangers (especially X) around the Isle at night and doing little pranky steals (snatching an old woman’s knickers off a clothes line, stealing every tomato at the general store etc) to sow discord between the people and their peacekeepers. Mark my words.
Nothing bothers me more than a female character that has such potential to be awesome, but instead gets caught in the naive, insecure web that writers think makes the “perfect heroine”. Maybe you can do that naive, insecure thing in the first book when she’s first introduced to a world she never knew before…but in 4 straight books (likely 5 if I ever get to the last one) just tells me that this person is incapable of learning. It makes them two dimensional and not fully fleshed out.
The male characters in the book like Ranger X are the same. Ranger X is caught in that emotionally closed off, never met a woman like you before trope. It’s one of those “to be a ranger, you need to not love anyone” crap. Oh, and naturally Lily and Ranger X “fall in love”. I put this in quotes because they’re both really terrible at relationships. Lily’s insecure and Ranger X can’t open up and trust her. It’s a recipe for disaster in real life that will probably lead to a happily ever after in this series.
On the plus side, this series is kinda light hearted. I tend not to like the really emotionally heavy things that are just a slog to read through. There’s some nice shenanigans in these books and a large extended family (like mine) full of weirdos (like mine). If you’re looking for a nice, light read, go ahead and pick up Hex on the Beach (or any of the others, I don’t really think you need to read them in order) and give it a go. If flat, tired and tropey characters are not your thing, skip it. Rating: C-. I’m betting once I return these to Kindle Unlimited, I won’t really remember them.
If you want some nice, well fleshed out female leads, try Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, her Finishing School Series or her Custard Protocol Series. Also worth reading: Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series and Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series, which I’ll get around to reviewing sometime. Oh, and though they aren’t the lead in the series, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. He has some seriously great female characters.