Author: Heather Fawcett
Series: Emily Wilde
Series #: 1
Genre: fantasy
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an arc in exchange for an honest review! 🙂

Holy smokes! I love anything to do with faeries, and I have since I was a little girl. With all the fae in books recently I felt that this was a refreshing take on them. (Not that there is anything wrong with the others, there isn’t). At first when I saw it was written as diary entries I worried that it would read awkwardly.

It did not. In fact, I really loved how the book read as diary entries. Emily was such an engaging character and getting to know her was lovely! I was impressed with Fawcett who was able to communicate so much through diary entries. Now, don’t think of the diary entries as you would, because they do not read like them. This makes the book flow better.

One side note because I love the way that it was incorporated into the book was how terminology and studies were introduced. I felt like it helped add a lot to the world we were getting to know. The fact that these are not necessarily hidden creatures, but part of the world was well done, it felt like it was more…natural? Really, it felt as if the faeries could actually exist in our world today. Don’t think Maas or Black faeries, think a bit differently than that. It’s very hard to explain without giving too much away.

The romance in this book was humorous. I loved how Emily approached romance and life, because I felt for her. Emily has a great character arc throughout this book, both internally and externally growing as a character. There are spots of humor in this book that worked for me and had me giggling at some points. Wendall is my second favorite character, and honestly he was the funny part of the entire book.

I LOVED the writing in the book, if that wasn’t clear. I was absorbed by it, and just got so engaged throughout the entire book.

The plot was spectacular and I loved how it unraveled, and I’ll say nothing else about the plot as it would lead to too many spoilers.

Another warning, is there are some darker aspects of this book. This is very much a historical fantasy book that has a dose of romance. It is NOT a romance book, so don’t go in expecting that romance will be the focus of the book, it is not.

I do wish the ending was a little bit longer, but it looks as if we’re getting a second book so I can only hope that maybe we get some more!

Some comparisons to this might be Olivia Atwater, Katherine Arden, Naomi Novik are a few that I can think of that have similar vibes.

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Author: Rebecca Ross
Series: Elements of Cadence
Series #: 2
Genre: fantasy
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

East and West. Humans and Spirits. Breccans and Tamerlaines. The Isle of Cadence has always held itself and its residents in a tenuous balance. But now Bane, the spirit of the North Wind, has pushed everyone and everything in his path off-kilter in a bid to claim dominion over all.

In the West, Adaira struggles to adjust to the more brutal, bitter ways of life among the Breccans. Striving to find her place in the clan, she swiftly realizes that it just might be the last role she desires to hold. And while magic blooms effortlessly for the Breccans in the west, the spirits continue to suffer beneath Bane’s harsh power, felt in every gust of wind.

In the East, Jack is adrift without Adaira until he sings to the ember-weak fire spirits, acquiring a dangerous mission he never expected. One that is destined to lead him westward. Likewise, Torin and Sidra are consumed by a new mystery as sickness spreads first amongst the crops, and then to the people of the Tamerlaine clan. While Sidra desperately searches for a cure, Torin dares to strike a bargain with the spirits—a precarious folly anytime, but especially now as the days grow darker.

With the island falling further out of balance, humans and spirits alike will need to join together to face Bane, and Jack’s gift with the harp will be called upon once more. Yet no one can challenge the North Wind without paying a terrible price, and the sacrifice required this time may be more than Jack, Adaira, Torin, and Sidra can bear to pay.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-arc of this book! 🙂

THIS BOOK. I cannot express any emotions. I held my hands to my chest and sobbed at one part. Rebecca Ross is such a talented writer and I can’t wait for this book to be out in the wild. I thought that this was a stunning conclusion to this series. Honestly, it made me so emotional, and I had trouble writing this review because I really don’t want to spoil this book.

Ross has some of the best writing that I’ve ever read; it is lyrical and beautiful. The descriptions are lush and beautiful. I love how she created two different atmospheres for the clans, and two different feelings depending on where you were in the mortal world or in the spirit world. And that’s all I’m going to say on that — because so much of this is best read blind. As someone who struggles to picture scenes in books, I love when authors are able to evoke feelings and emotions and make me imagine something.

I loved all the characters in this book so much, Adaira, Jack, Sidra and Torin all have their own journey in this book, and then they come together. That’s something to note — they all are separate and have individual arcs in which we’ve seen them grow as people.

I’ve been left speechless by this book, it just evoked so much emotion in me, and I loved following all the characters, I especially enjoyed Adaira’s story as she comes to terms with who she is. Torin and Sidra’s romance is just as poignant as Adaira and Jack’s, and the juxtaposition of them was done so lovely. I like how we get to see so many different facets of people. Sidra’s story is also one of my favorites, I’m just a sucker for strong women. Seriously, and while Sidra and Adaira are strong, they also have a tenderness to them. I love it.

One aspect of the book that I thought was well done was the plot, and how the present was interwoven with the past. Ross is fantastic at creating a timeline of interest, and not making it confusing. I think that the plot in this book was nicely developed and really rounded out the first book — we learn a lot more from Adaira and her mother in this book. Again, Ross is excellent at creating a fantastic world and showing how two or three places are so different from each other.

Everything ties up so nicely in the end, and I just loved this book. I really don’t know what else to say other than I’M IN LOVE.

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Author: Rachel Gillig
Series:
Series #: 1
Genre: fantasy
Age Group: adult/YA crossover
ARC?: yes

Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.

But nothing comes for free, especially magic.

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.

Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

ALL I NEED TO SAY IS I NEED THE NEXT ONE ASAP. AAAA IT WAS GOOD

Like what do I even say about this book??? I don’t think I have any words for it. The beginning is a little slow at first and you’re kind of scratching your head going… Is there a point to this/where is this going? BUT THEN you get to the amazingness that is the rest of the book. I just fell in love with the characters in this book, especially Elspeth and Ravyn. They’re so… Ugh. Anyways this is somewhat of an enemies to lovers kind of book but not exactly. It’s got a very gothic kind of feel to it, but it’s a darker and more atmospheric fantasy. I found it very enjoyable. It has all the vibes that I could ever love in a book. I feel like this book was made for me.

I liked how the characters interacted, and I liked their character arcs. In tone I might relate this to Allison Saft books! It also gave me For the Wolf vibes. I can’t quite put my finger on what else it felt like… But it kept me engrossed the whole way through.

The concept with the cards? SO GOOD. I loved it — obsessed with it in fact. I love the idea of Tarot, but it isn’t something I know a whole lot about, but how it was weaved in through this book? Top notch.

I don’t know why I thought this was a standalone — it isn’t — but I am extremely excited for the next book in the series.

I felt the writing in this book was amazing and I couldn’t get enough of it – the pace worked well for me. There were some funny moments thrown in amongst the more tense moments which gave a nice balance.

I loved the romance in this book. It was dreamy and done well. I wanted to smoosh them together. Ravyn’s family was also amazing, and I appreciated how this felt like a darker fairytale, perhaps a bit of a reimagined Cinderella? I quite enjoyed that. I want Ravyn’s family in fact. I need more of his family. ALL OF THEM.

The world that Gillig has created fascinated me, and I want to know more about it!

If you like dark fantasy, atmospheric fantasy, a bit of gothic horror, tarot or anything similar then this book is absolutely going to be for you!

P.S. This is probably one of my favorite books of the year and I am begging you to read it.

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Author: Claire Douglas
Series: n/a
Series #:
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

t was the house of their dreams. Until the bodies were found . . .

BODIES FOUND UNDER PATIO

When pregnant Saffron Cutler moves into 9 Skelton Place with boyfriend Tom and sets about renovations the last thing she expects is builders uncovering a body – two bodies, in fact.

POLICE INVESTIGATE

Forensics indicate the bodies have been buried at least thirty years. Nothing Saffy need worry herself over. Until the police launch a murder investigation and ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – her grandmother, Rose.

OWNER QUESTIONED

Rose is in a care home and Alzheimer’s means her memory is increasingly confused. She can’t help the police but it is clear she remembers something.

A KILLER AT LARGE?

As Rose’s fragmented memories resurface, and the police dig ever deeper, Saffy fears she and the cottage are being watched.

What happened thirty years ago?

Why did no one miss the victims?

What part did her grandmother play?

And is Saffy now in danger?


Review

H O L Y

I don’t even have WORDS for this book. I was addicted from the very start. We have a multi POV book, in which we’re getting the story from multiple perspectives. I was frantically turning pages to find out what happened because I was STUNNED.

When I got to the end I had to sit and think for a few minutes. My brain was going WHAT over and over and over again. This book is mind bending in the best of ways. I loved how we get pieces of the story and the plot that link together through the different characters, and as they draw closer to the answers, the tension gets amped up. Douglas did this well — she drove the story forward in a way that made sense and was interesting enough without being too complicated.

I really enjoyed the writing in this, and was FASCINATED with the mystery aspect. In a few moments we get a bit of back and forth between past and present, and it was brilliant. Honestly, I can’t even believe this book. Definitely one of the best mystery books that I have read recently. It kept me on my toes and guessing. It also made me remember how much I enjoy a good mystery book.

I still don’t know what else to say — it’s hard to when you don’t want to give away the different plot points. This book is best read going into it blind.

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Author: Foz Meadows
Series:
Series #:
Genre: fantasy, romance, queer
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead.

Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock.

With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page.


Review

WOW. What do I even say about this book? I don’t think it is at all possible to encompass how much I loved this book. I could not put it down. I may or may not have spilled enchiladas on my arc as I was reading it…

This is my first book by Meadow’s but I’m going to have to go back and find more of their work. Because it was stupendous. I mean, it was two things I love:

a) queer and

b) fantasy!

I mean…what could be better?

Enemies-friends-romance trope? Check.

Super inclusive? Check.

Witty banter? Check.

Great dialogue? Check.

Interesting supporting characters? Check.

Interesting plot? Check.

This book checks off all my wants and needs in a book. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance will not leave my brain. I can’t do anything but think about it. It is my new obsession. I just LOVED the characters in this book. I mean ughhhh. I cannot even think because this book just was amazing.

You know how hard it is to write a review and list everything a book has done that you loved? Yeah, that’s me right now. I need like thirty special editions of this book. SERIOUSLY.

Vel was the best.** I loved reading his POV. Cae was amazing too. Just, Vel I felt for him. I wanted to keep him safe. Hug him. Vel and Cae’s relationship? It was one of the best developed romances that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Meadows did a great job on that, and the balance she maintained between the romance and the plot? Excellent.

The plot was much more political intrigue and action than I expected. But it worked so well.

As mentioned this book is inclusive, and while one country feels very much like ours, the other is very open and accepting and normalizes being queer. We have relationships of all types, of all genders and it is incorporated seamlessly. There is also disability representation – one of the characters is mute! And the others learn sign language to communicate with him.

If you are looking for a queer fantasy? This is it. A huge round of applause for Foz Meadows because this book is going to be in the top of my top books of the year. I kinda want a sequel? Can I get a sequel? I mean I feel that the world building in this was such that there is so much to explore.

I will say that there are some content warnings to be aware of:

These include: rape, attempted rape, violence, gore, punishment, homophobia, suicide, suicidal ideation

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Author: A.C. Wise
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: retelling, fairytale, fantasy
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

Once invited, always welcome.
Once invited, never free.


Captain James Hook, the immortal pirate of Neverland, has died a thousand times. Drowned, stabbed by Peter Pan’s sword, eaten by the beast swimming below the depths, yet James was resurrected every time by one boy’s dark imagination. Until he found a door in the sky, an escape. And he took the chance no matter the cost.

Now in London twenty-two years later, Peter Pan’s monster has found Captain Hook again, intent on revenge. But a chance encounter leads James to another survivor of Neverland. Wendy Darling, now a grown woman, is the only one who knows how dark a shadow Neverland casts, no matter how far you run. To vanquish Pan’s monster once and for all, Hook must play the villain one last time… 


Review

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw this book I got excited. I hadn’t read the book Wendy, Darling, but when I started this book I felt like it was a sequel to the other book and that I was missing something. I pretty quickly got into the book. 

Wise’s writing is great – there is very much a VE Schwab vibe to the writing and I very much enjoyed this writing style. There was something about it that made it feel that it was from 1939 when the book took place, or a more fantastical feel to when we got flashbacks to Neverland. 

The combination of that worked for me. The concept of the book worked for me. The overall plot of the book worked for me. However…I was a little stymied by the pacing of this book. There was nothing outrageously wrong with it. There was something about it though that didn’t sit perfectly with me. There were some moments I was like, “this is dragging on…when is this going to pickup?”

I wanted to get more out of this book, and I’m not sure what it was exactly that I was looking for that this book didn’t deliver. I think it was because I got 176 pages in and felt like nothing had happened. All the main characters had met, we’d gotten a brief history of what happened to various characters, but that’s it. So…I was asking myself where is the plot going to come in? What is going to happen? 

I will certainly give it to this book, there is a whole section of Wendy reflecting on what Peter did to her, and I LOVED that bit. It felt so real and wonderful, and I loved how Wise turned something that seemed okay into the reality that what he was doing wasn’t necessarily good. Wendy got more agency in this book. It was a nice change from her character who is always a “follower”. She got to be a bit of a leader in this book instead. 

As I mentioned I enjoyed the overall concept/plot of the book, I felt it lacked a bit in execution. 

The action came in the last 50 or so pages of the book. It felt a bit underwhelming I suppose, since the lead up I felt didn’t do it justice. 

Overall, I think the book was good, but it isn’t something I’d be keen to read again. This book wasn’t the perfect fit for me, but I definitely think it is one that a lot of people will really enjoy! Especially if they like fairytales or feminist retellings of classics. 

TW: emotional abuse, death, war, kidnapping

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Author: Ava Wilder
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: contemporary, romance
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

Grey Brooks is on a mission to keep her career afloat now that the end of her long-running teen soap has her (unsuccessfully) pounding the pavement again. With a life-changing role on the line, she’s finally desperate enough to agree to her publicist’s scheme… faking a love affair with a disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who needs the publicity, but for very different reasons.

Ethan Atkins just wants to be left alone. Between his high-profile divorce, his struggles with drinking, and his grief over the death of his longtime creative partner and best friend, he’s slowly let himself fade into the background. But if he ever wants to produce the last movie he and his partner wrote together, Ethan needs to clean up his reputation and step back into the spotlight. A gossip-inducing affair with a gorgeous actress might be just the ticket, even if it’s the last thing he wants to do.

Though their juicy public relationship is less than perfect behind the scenes, it doesn’t take long before Grey and Ethan’s sizzling chemistry starts to feel like more than just an act. But after decades in a ruthless industry that requires bulletproof emotional armor to survive, are they too used to faking it to open themselves up to the real thing?


Review

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review

I was expecting a pretty lighthearted book based on the cover and synopsis as well as the comp titles. What I got was something different than that. This book tackles issues (such as alcoholism, fatphobia, and death) in the overarching plot of the story. This book is a fake dating book – but they also do have an age gap, if that makes anyone uncomfortable. 

I enjoyed the writing style of this book as well as the pace. To me it read easily and with interest. Sometimes you get books that are hard to get through because of the writing style, but I quite enjoyed it. The style did feel light and airy, despite the fact that it dealt with some darker topics. 

There is quite a bit of will they won’t they in this book. At times I felt that there wasn’t chemistry between them, and at other times I did. I think that was partially because the characters themselves were trying to resist the romance between them. And then sometimes they just lacked chemistry together. I liked the banter Grey and Ethan had, I thought it was amusing at times. At others I felt it was a little forced. 

This book has some lighthearted moments, but it is a very angsty book. This isn’t a light fluffy book – but it still works. I don’t want people to go into this book unprepared; this is not one of your beach reads or rom-coms or light hearted, it is a much more intense romance. 

As far as being angsty goes; there are some scenes in this book that are just frustrating. I get that there are supposed to be obstacles, yet at times I felt like it was drawn out unnecessarily. 

I did like some of the side characters though. I enjoyed Nora and her relationship with Ethan, as well as Renata’s relationship with Grey. I liked seeing the differences between Ethan’s relationships vs the relationships that Grey has. 

The book is still good though. It flows well and tackles sensitive topics accordingly. I wasn’t as invested in this book as I wanted to be. At 56% I was wondering what else the author was going to throw at them – they’d hit obstacles, overcome them, and then???? More obstacles! I am not good with super angsty reads, and this one definitely was on the fence of being too angsty. 

In the end, I think the resolution was good. Overall, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this book. I wasn’t expecting it to be as angsty as it was. 

This book was 3.5 stars for me. 

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Author: Tiffany Meuret
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: dark fantasy, gothic, horror
Age Group: adult
ARC?: Yes

The skeletons in the closet have nothing on the one in your backyard.
Freshly divorced and grieving the death of her father, Josie Lauer has caged herself inside her home. To cope with her losses, Josie follows a strict daily routine of work, playing with her dog, Po, and trying to remember to eat a decent meal—and ending each night by drinking copious amounts of vodka. In other words, she is not coping at all.
Everything changes when Josie wakes to find a small shrub has sprouted in her otherwise dirt backyard the morning after yet another bender. Within hours, the vine-like plant is running amok—and it’s brought company. The appearance of the unwieldly growth has also heralded the arrival of a busybody new neighbor who insists on thrusting herself into Josie’s life. The neighbor Josie can deal with. The talking skeleton called Skelly that has perched itself in Josie’s backyard on a throne made of vines, however, is an entirely different matter.
As the strangely sentient plant continues to grow and twist its tendrils inside Josie’s suddenly complicated life, Josie begins to realize her new neighbor knows a lot more about the vines and her bizarre new visitor than she initially lets on. There’s a reason Skelly has chosen to appear in Josie’s suddenly-blooming backyard and insists on pulling her out of her carefully kept self-isolation. All Josie has to do is figure out what that reason is—and she has only a few days to do it, or else she might find herself on the wrong side of catastrophe.
LITTLE BIRD is a story about found family, no matter how bizarre. 


Review

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

First off, this book drew me in from the start. Meuret’s writing was excellent, and I loved how she framed Josie as a character. She felt so real – and so human. I liked that you could see the facets of her from the start, could actually believe she was sitting next to you. The way this was written felt like you were with a friend, or someone telling you a story. It was intimate in ways, close. 

This book was also atmospheric. I loved reading it because you could get lost in the book. There were some parts in this book that were darkly funny. And I loved that aspect of the book. Dark humor done right can be excellent, and I felt that it was done right here. I mean, if I saw/heard a talking skeleton I would be WAY freaked out about that. More So than Josie was. She relates herself to a sponge at one point. I liked that part immensely do to how it was written. 

“Only then did she lock eyesockets with the skeleton”. What a QUOTE. 

And the attitude. THE ATTITUDE. This had me chuckling to myself and grinning. Skelly made me laugh, I loved her. Josie also made me laugh, I loved her as a character and I was invested in her story. 

This book was weird, and it’s not an action packed book, but it is a good book. Its tone is very much the gothic horror of the modern persuasion. 

It was a weird and wonderful little book. It was short and not terribly long, but the paranormal was woven in with the mundane and that juxtaposition was done well. Overall this book is going to appeal to people who like a darker type of fantasy, gothic horror or creepy books. 

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Author: Lauren Belfer
Genre: mystery/thriller, historical fiction
Age Group: Adult
ARC?: Yes.

Soon after their arrival, ever-curious Nicky finds the skeletal remains of a woman walled into a forgotten part of the manor, and Hannah is pulled into an all-consuming quest for answers, Nicky close by her side. Working from clues in centuries-old ledgers showing what the woman’s household spent on everything from music to medicine; lists of books checked out of the library; and the troubling personal papers of the long-departed family, Hannah begins to recreate the Ashton Hall of the Elizabethan era in all its color and conflict. As the multilayered secrets of her own life begin to unravel, Hannah comes to realize that Ashton Hall’s women before her had lives not so different from her own, and she confronts what mothers throughout history have had to do to secure their independence and protect their children.


Review

Thank you to NG and the publisher for an e-arc of this in exchange for an honest review.

I love a good historical fiction book, especially one that has a mystery in the past that needs to be solved in the present. Susanna Kearsley is my go-to for that. Lauren Belfer has now made me want to go and read more of her works.

This book had me enthralled from the beginning. We have a murder mystery from the past and in the present Hannah is dealing with her own life situations. I rather liked the juxtaposition of the past and the present. While one didn’t have much to do with the other, in the end I think it worked well together.

While I would have liked more after the end, the final, extra chapter definitely gave me some of the answers that I was seeking.

The book was a slow paced book, but it wasn’t bad because it was engrossing. There were quite a few plot strands going on all at once, but it was interesting to see how they unfolded throughout the book. Nothing went as I expected it to.

Overall, this book was enjoyable!

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Author: Lana Harper
Series: The Witches of Thistle Grove
Series #: 2
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Age Group: Adult
ARC?: Yes

Wild child Isidora Avramov is a thrill chaser, adept demon summoner, and—despite the whole sexy-evil-sorceress vibe—also a cuddly animal lover. When she’s not designing costumes and new storylines for the Arcane Emporium’s haunted house, Issa’s nursing a secret, conflicted dream of ditching her family’s witchy business to become an indie fashion designer in her own right.

But when someone starts sabotaging the celebrations leading up to this year’s Beltane festival with dark, dangerous magic, a member of the rival Thorn family gets badly hurt—throwing immediate suspicion on the Avramovs. To clear the Avramov name and step up for her family when they need her the most, Issa agrees to serve as a co-investigator, helping none other than Rowan Thorn get to the bottom of things.

Rowan is the very definition of lawful good, so tragically noble and by-the-book he makes Issa’s teeth hurt. In accordance with their families’ complicated history, he and Issa have been archenemies for years and have grown to heartily loathe each other. But as the unlikely duo follow a perplexing trail of clues to a stunning conclusion, Issa and Rowan discover how little they really know each other… and stumble upon a maddening attraction that becomes harder to ignore by the day.


Review

It was a huge surprise for me! I enjoyed this book so much. There was just something about it that worked for me; but hadn’t quite worked for me in the first book. Maybe this is a sign I need to go back and try the first book again! 

Issa was a brilliant character and I LOVED everything about her. She was such a nuanced character, and one that I think people will relate to. (Even if we don’t have any witchy powers, sadly). Issa and her relationship with her family was lovely. The way Harper played out her sisters and her relationship, as well as the relationship with her mother was so well done. I loved that side plot and how it contributed to the book. 

And Rowan was SO SO adorable. I loved when he was being so gentle and caring. It made me melt. We didn’t get as much relationship with Rowan and his family, but I like how Harper showed that Issa and Rowan had good, but different, relationships with their parents. 

Oh, did I mention that this was an enemies to lovers romance? No? It is. And it is well done. One thing I really appreciated about this book is that miscommunication isn’t a huge trope, but done here, it was  done right. I was very impressed with Harper for that. 

This isn’t what I would call a super spicy book, it has a few spicy scenes, but by and large the book is focused on the mystery and the relationships between the characters. There are a few plot points that made me laugh, and I just loved how it was opposites attract romance too. Rival families…it pretty much hit on all the things I love. 

Harper is also a great writer. It’s bliss to read this book, because the cadence and the pace of the book. Also, there is an atmosphere to this book. It reminds me of a cozy mystery, but with witches. And diversity. 

There were a few important conversations had in this book regarding racism and prejudice (Rowan is a Black man). 

Talia and Emmy were back (briefly) in this one, so we heard how much they were into each other. It was adorable! (I really do plan to go back and read the first book…) 

I will say, Issa felt like such a strong character, but she hits a point in this book where she becomes overwhelmed. I loved the representation of anxiety and trying to deal with it on your own because you’re supposed to be “strong”. 

Overall, this was a fantastic read and I highly recommend that you add it to your shelves! I know I want to! 

P.S. the title is so cute too. I totally forgot I had DNF’d Paybacks a Witch until I requested this ARC, got approved and went to look. This is what happens when pretty covers and cool descriptions are briefly looked at, and not read all the way through. I guess I didn’t realize this was a sequel. 🙈

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