by Lana Harper
Series: The Witches of Thistle Grove #1
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
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.My rating:
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.
Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn't been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.
But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She's determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.
On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?
But most concerning of all: Why can't she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?
This is a perfect sapphic fall romance. It’s atmospheric, a little bit angsty, and wickedly hilarious.
Emmy Harlow’s been away from her hometown of Thistle Grove for nine years, and just about the only thing that could drag her back was a pleading letter from her father asking her to uphold the family tradition in the Gauntlet, a magical competition held every fifty years between the heirs of the four witch families that founded the town – well, except for the Harlows, who just arbitrate it. But that’s par for the course for Emmy, who wasn’t a very powerful witch even before she left town and lost all her powers. She’s only there to do her familial duty so she can get back to her real life in Chicago, hopefully without running into the guy who broke her heart, Gareth, too much. But a chance encounter at a bar reintroduces her to Talia, one of the other heirs.. and rekindles a high school crush. But it’s only when she discover that Gareth’s hurt both Talia and Emmy’s best friend Linden as well that she develops a new purpose for being there: preventing Gareth’s family from winning the Gauntlet again. Plus, it’ll mean spending more time with the very charming Talia….
“But being around Talia felt so vivid, so radiant and jewel toned. It made everyone else I’d ever been with seem to pale, to fade into unremarkable pastels.”
The Harlows are the weakest of the four families, and her meager magic was always a disappointment for Emmy. So after the humiliation of her breakup with Gareth, it wasn’t a big deal for her to give up her magic and go live outside Thistle Grove. She’s built herself a magic-less life in Chicago – well, except that she works as a product sourcer for a faux “witchy” subscription box. While she believed she was perfectly happy there, once she gets back in Thistle Grove, she realizes what she’s been missing. Tea with her mother, picnics with her best friend Linden, flirting with the gorgeous Talia… But she still feels like she can’t escape what being a Harlow means in Thistle Grove – less than. Talia can’t understand how Emmy lives without her magic, and has no desire to leave Thistle Grove. So whatever this attraction is between them, Emmy thinks they can have a bit of fun but it won’t go anyway. After all, she’s leaving as soon as the competition is over, and Talia knows that. Right?
“The night air gusted against my face, smelling like an absolute of fall; woodsmoke and dying leaves and the faintest bracing hint of future snow. And right below that was the scent of Thistle Grove magic that I’ve never come across anywhere else. Spicy and earthy, as if the lingering ghost of all the incense burned by three hundred years of witches had never quite blown away. A perpetual Halloween smell, the kind that gave you the good-creepy sort of tingles.”
This book is serious fall vibes. There’s apple orchards, fields of sunflowers, pumpkins… not to mention a costume ball and a party in a haunted forest. The prose is just gorgeous and evocative, and if Thistle Grove was real I’d definitely be one of the hordes of tourists descending on it in October. Even Talia has a bit of that dark magic vibe going on, since the Avramovs are basically a family of necromancers, though actual hexes and dark magic aren’t something they’d stoop to. The plot and world building are pretty fun, too, with each family having a distinct form of magic, demonstrated throughout their daily lives and in the various Gauntlet challenges. The dialogue is a bit hard to quote due to all the swearing, but it’s absolutely hilarious and made me laugh out loud several times.
Overall, the perfect book for grabbing a PSL and an apple turnover and settling down in a comfy chair!