by Mila Nicks
Series: Paranormal Hunters #1
Publication Date: October 30, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Librarian by day, cursed witch by night:
Selene Blackstone spends her days camped out in library corners with her nose glued to books. In a town like Brimrock, where she’s an outcast, she prefers her book friends to her real-life enemies. They’re a lot less judgmental. The rest of town believes she descends from a family of witches—including her evil witch grandma, Luna. In this case, the truth is stranger than fiction. She is a witch, and she’s cursed for all of eternity. Good thing her to-be-read list is pretty long…
Prickly Paranormal Investigator Aiden O’Hare speaks two languages: sarcasm and more sarcasm. He travels the country—and sometimes even the world—investigating strange phenomena with his best friend, Eddie. Their investigations bring them to a cozy New England town called Brimrock, home to fabled evil witch Luna Blackstone. Armed with his dry wit, his bibliophilic love for books, and far too much free time, he’s determined to find out just what happened to Luna…
When Aiden meets Selene, he decides he must get to know her. When Selene learns Aiden is in town investigating her grandma, she knows she must stop him. He’s out to expose the truth. She’s out to keep it a secret. Neither expects to fall under each other’s spell, but sometimes love is supernatural.
I picked this up based on the adorable cover, expecting it to be a cozy Halloween paranormal. It is pretty cozy, but it’s actually set around Christmas.
“She was a Blackstone. She was a witch. She was doomed to retrace the same miserable steps as the other women in her family, destined to live out her days in Brimrock under isolation and mistreatment. She would never find love. She would never find adventure. Happiness wasn’t in the cards.”
Selene’s a witch, but it’s not all it’s cut out to be. Thanks to a curse laid on her family around her grandma’s time, she’s unable to leave the town of Brimrock, which is unfortunate since most of the townspeople seem to dislike her. Aiden and Eddie are best friends and the stars of a paranormal investigative show. They’re staying with Eddie’s family in Brimrock over the holidays and hoping to mix a little work with their vacation by looking into the rumors about Selene’s grandma. A mix-up with a ridesharing app leads to Selene and Aiden meeting, and sparks fly. But it looks like the paranormal activity in Brimrock is heating up again. Can Selene and Aiden work together to find out who’s behind it?
I struggled a lot with this book. I never quite connected to either Selene or Aiden, so I wasn’t particularly invested in their relationship. Selene was fun, in that she had a cute dog, loved books and her job as a librarian (though not her awful coworkers), and generally seemed like a nice person. There was one scene, though, where she switched price tags on an item sold by a snotty townsperson which I thought was jarringly out of character for her. That’s stealing, and call me a snob, but doing it as revenge for the booth worker ignoring you to talk to her friend is not heroine quality to me. Aiden is also bookish, sarcastic (honestly more like rude), relentlessly neat and organized, he hates Christmas. That’s problematic as Eddie’s Aunt Priscilla seems to be a veritable font of Christmas cheer, and their inevitable clashes led me to decide that, while I certainly sympathized with Aidan’s reluctance to be pulled into all that nonsense, they won the awards for worst host and worst houseguest.
The story is sort of a mix between a cozy mystery and a paranormal romance. On one hand, we have Selene and Aiden’s developing relationship, and on the other we have the possibly paranormal mystery. It’s pretty fluffy in terms of both, in that their relationship mostly involves some kissing and then a few not particularly descriptive sex scenes. One in particular I enjoyed as it was a, shall we say, misfire, and I appreciated the veracity of that, plus how it went along with Selene’s curse. One of the barriers to their relationship to me was that I’m not a fan of characters who keep things from each other without good reason. I didn’t like how long the whole Aiden-investigating-Selene’s-family-without-telling-her plot went. The mystery plot was very enjoyable, but it did seem to drag, only picking up around three-quarters of the way through the book.
“I don’t get what you see in him.”
“He’s cute. Smart. Bookish. What’s not to like?”
“Um, he’s out to expose you, Luna, your whole existence as a witch?”
I honestly felt bad for Selene and Aiden as their best friends were pretty awful. Noelle, one of the few fellow witches in town, is ridiculously unsupportive of Selene. I appreciated that she pushed back at first on the insta-attraction (especially when they figured out who Aiden actually was), but she didn’t seem to have any sympathy at all for her friend’s feelings. She goes as far to tell her “I told you so” after a bad date rather than comforting her friend. Eddie seems incapable of understanding why introverted Aiden doesn’t want to spend all his time drinking, ice skating, or going shopping at the mall with Eddie’s family, none of whom he’d met prior to the holiday.
“A man with a greater vocabulary than most, known for his sardonic humor and dry delivery on Paranormal Hunters, he wasn’t at a loss for words often.”
My main issue with the book, though, comes down to a lot of telling vs showing. We’re told Selene and Aiden have great chemistry, but I didn’t really see that in how they acted around each other. There’s lots of descriptions of them kissing, but I didn’t feel any sexual tension from it. The worst for me, though, was with the magic. Selene doesn’t really know much about how her magic works, so the reader doesn’t really get to find out much either. Why is she a lunar witch and not a green witch like her friend Noelle? Are there witches in other places? It’s never really explained, and the timelines of when her grandma disappeared and how old Selene is didn’t seem to add up right. In addition, there were a lot of repeated elements that pulled me out of the story. There’s a lot of the characters waiting around for rides from URide, lots of Selene adjusting her glasses, lots of mentions of the exact make and model of Eddie’s car and the address of Selene’s house. I don’t know why it’s so important that we’re constantly reminded that Eddie’s car is a 1976 Dodge Caravan, or that Selene’s address is 1221 Gifford. It was jarring and pulled me out of the book every time.
Overall, unfortunately, this was not the book for me. If you like fluffy paranormal romances crossed with cozy mysteries, though, this might work out better for you!