Lure of the Wicked
by Karina Cooper
(Avon, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-06-204690-1
**
Lure Of The Wicked starts off with a bang. This is the second novel in Cooper’s Dark Mission series, which profiles the battles of the Holy Order of St. Domenic’s Missionaries versus the witches. In this installment, Missionary Naomi West is planted in an uber exclusive spa to track down some witches.

Naomi West, not a typical heroine in the way that she curses like a sailor and prefers to always carry a loaded weapon, has been ordered into a new mission that she hates. Naomi’s supposed to work surveillance in New Seattle’s Timeless Spa. She’s mad about it, thinking that this a boring, low-level mission that she’s way overqualified for, until nearly immediately, she gets attacked by a thug in her hotel room. Shortly after, she meets Phinneas Clarke, the owner of Timeless, a man she’s instantly attracted to. Naomi knows that she shouldn’t get involved with Phin, but she does anyway. Their attraction is just too hot and instant to ignore.

Phin is stunned by the sudden chemistry that flares when he meets Naomi. Though he’s been fed a story that she’s just like the other pampered princess types that attend his spa, he doesn’t believe it. He decides to keep a close eye on the mysterious Naomi, which doesn’t end up being a hardship given their sudden fling.

Naomi begins to suspect that Phin’s hiding a killer within the spa, as well as other secrets, while hiding her Missionary identity. Naomi’s bedding down with her enemy, thinking that she’s gaining his trust, but she doesn’t realize that Phin’s been watching her so carefully for so long, and that he has already figured out some of her secrets. He uses their time together to coax even more information from Nai, and she realizes that their closeness is a double edged sword just as the real bad guys start showing their true colors, and Naomi has to stay true to her roots, by hurting those closest to Phin and saving him from danger at the same time.

So, while the plot for Lure of the Wicked is far from unique, there is a stellar beginning. Meeting Naomi is electric and interesting, she glows with real, gritty details from the first page. Since the story is mostly told from her perspective, this drew me in instantly. Unfortunately, as the story progressed, she seemed less human and more automaton, which devolved until the story was a bit of an exercise in caricature.

Naomi started out as a mesmerizing, fairly unique woman but when the going got tough as the action heating up, she became too quick to rely on fairly run of the mill action lady crutches. The hidden fear, the need for companionship, the just get the job done, who cares what you have to do to fulfill the mission cries all came in at various points. While these can be done well, in this case they were so transparent as to be placating to the reader.

Phin began as a pretty hot leading man, but his obvious regard for Nai became almost juvenile as well as idiotic when he puts blinders on and won’t consider the obvious outcome of the actions he’s seen her perform. This completely killed their chemistry for me.

Lastly, while there is a brief outline within the description and character dialogue about the battle zone set between the witches and the missionaries, I hadn’t read the first of this series and was totally confused/slightly annoyed that I couldn’t follow the story’s loop. Perhaps reading the first of the series and having the background knowledge would have made Lure of the Wicked seem better.

--Amy Wroblewsky


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