I love witches. And this title was eye-rolling-ly catchy. And the cover art is actually legit right on point for my preferred witchy aesthetic. And I actually won a copy from a Goodreads giveaway (can you believe it?! – that like, never happens). And I was going on vacation to Hawaii and honestly I can’t think of any better beach read than a witchy f/f rom-com. Talk about the stars lining up perfectly.
“She looked like a daughter of Lilith, the kind of succubus you’d want creeping into your bedroom at the dark of the moon.”
Emmy Harlow is a descendent of one of the four magical families that founded the town of Thistle Grove. The least powerful family…so her witchy powers are rather negligible. And due to some personal history with the son of another of the founding families, and her personal goals of forging her own way in the world, she’s spent the last years in a self-imposed exile. But she’s drawn back by some good old parental guilt-tripping to serve out her role as Arbitrator for this generation’s spellcaster tournament (and to see her close friend Linden Thorn, of course). Although Emmy is focused on doing her duty and getting back out to her real life in Chicago ASAP, she finds herself caught up in a revenge plot with Linden and another founding family descendent, Talia Avramov (a dark witch with a badass attitude) who all have their reasons for wanting to get back at Gareth Blackmoore (Emmy’s ex and heir apparent as tournament winner). Plus, she’s finding herself completely drawn in by the talented, sexy, totally in control, and secretly romantic-softie, Talia.
Perhaps there wasn’t anything “high-brow lit” about this novel, but all I have to say is that I was here for every single magical part of it. I loved the town of Thistle Grove – it’s Stars Hollow autumnal feel, but with the added bonus of witch families and magic. I loved the overarching plot, with the spellcasting competition to determine which family representative would “lead” the town for the next generation. I loved the sub-plot of the revenge pact among Emmy, Linden and Talia to take down the dominant Blackmoore family and stick it to Gareth specifically, after he screwed all three of them over separately, in the process. Classic. And a fun, lighthearted take on how the “smaller” players can take down the “big power” when they’re able to band together over common ground to fight back. I loved the connection Emmy has with Thistle Grove and the way that, as she realizes how deep it flows, she also comes into her own power, as well as a more “real life” coming of age where she learns not to let a**holes from her past decide how and where she lives her future. And, of course, I loved Talia and Emmy. They were opposites attract in so many ways, the obvious ones and the under the surface ones, and yet they were perfect for each other – helping each other see where they needed to branch out/grow and where they were perhaps right where they needed to be – I love that combo of being what the other needs as far as both safety and pushing limits.
I loved the way the magic was woven into the town and story; it was well explained while not going overboard with details or leaving holes. I loved the nerdy magical/fantasy references, from LOTR references to the recognizable histories of each family and the witch stereotypes/famous witches (i.e. Morgane le Fay and Baba Yaga) to the full on deep fantasy references that appealed to my literary and old school magic sense (i.e. succubus, strigoi, grimoire, glamours, selenite etc.). I loved the little details, like the witch-wannabe subscription box and the names of the drinks at the local bars and the family businesses, that added cute and on-vibe depth to the setting-building. I loved the writing itself: that perfect mix of snarky and conversational and smart and fast that (if you check some of my other reviews, like One Last Stop and Darius the Great is Not Okay) you’ll notice is a favorite of mine…I find it so relatable.
Overall, I just loved this one. Is it perfect? Perhaps not. Was it the perfect read for me, what I was looking for? Yes! It is a wonderful witchy take on a more traditional romance with going full bore paranormal stylistically. There were a few small passages that I pulled out, specifically “Big Witch Energy” and “decadent Persephone aesthetic” that are both the perfect descriptors of this novel and my new life goals. This book is a vibe that I couldn’t want to be more.