Review: Witchful Thinking – Celestine Martin
by Celestine Martin
Publication Date: September 27, 2022
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:
Love is the trickiest spell of all. Lucinda Caraway loves living in Freya Grove, the mystic seaside town where charms, hexes, and magical beings of all kinds are the norm. She spends her days teaching high school history and her nights reading tea leaves and tending to her conjure garden. It’s a good life . . . but she can’t stop wishing for more.
Until one night, that wish turns into a spell, and suddenly Lucy can’t say no. Not to a public karaoke performance. Not to running a 10K. And, most alarmingly, not to her high school crush, Alexander Dwyer, who needs her help unjinxing his new house—which just happens to be right across the street from hers.
Alex has spent the last ten years traveling the world on adventures Lucy has only ever dreamed of, and he’s planning to leave again as soon as his house is safe to sell. But until Lucy can unhex herself, she and Alex are stuck together. And with so much magic in the air, maybe the next spell Lucy casts will be the one that convinces him to stay.
I don’t know what’s with the abundance of cozy witchy romances lately, but I am all here for it! Even with the witchy vibes, this is more of a beach read as it’s set over the summer in a small town on the Jersey Shore. It’s also a childhood friends, slow burn, second chance romance, so it was right up my alley, especially with that adorable cover.
“Nana had a saying when it came to matters of adult life and love: Fish or cut bait. You either made a move or you left a person alone.”
Lucy, a witch, and Alex, a merman, were best friends in high school. While they each had romantic feelings for the other, neither made a move to change the relationship. Alex left Freya Grove immediately after graduation and has travelled the world as a photographer for the past ten years. As for Lucy, well, she still lives in Freya Grove and works as a teacher. She loves her life, especially her close relationships with her sisters and cousin, but something’s missing. Then she runs into Alex, who’s back in town to pick up a birthday present his parents wanted to give him in person. A notice about her ten year high school reunion – and her run-in with Alex – spur Lucy and her family to do something daring. When the four Caraway witches cast a wish spell, things take an unexpected turn. But will it be the impetus to have Lucy finally confess her crush to Alex?
Freya Grove sounds absolutely idyllic. While there’s not any backstory about how it happened, it’s also home to various magical creatures who live out in the open, from witches to vampires to garden gnomes. The magic is minimal but effective. Whether it’s reading tea leaves or the infamous wish spell, the magic only serves to prod the characters towards things they already know – even if they’re pretending they don’t.
“This distance between her and Alex seemed vast and impossible to cross and connect over. It felt as if she and Alex were on opposite shores, separated by an invisible storm-tossed ocean; she couldn’t navigate the water alone and he couldn’t cross over it to meet her.”
Lucy, apparently oblivious to every piece of media written about wishes, wishes for more excitement in her life. Now she’s stuck claiming she’s an accomplished home baker, a karaoke singer, and a runner… oh, and that she’s also found her soulmate. And Alex is inexplicably stuck with a dilapidated and possibly cursed house – one that’s right across the street from Lucy. Both of them have been stuck in ruts for the past ten years. Lucy’s played it safe, avoiding surprises, and while she’s comfortable, she’s also, well, bored. Alex has kept on the move, never settling, motivated by the knowledge that you can’t lose what you don’t keep in the first place. He expects that being stuck back in Freya Grove, no matter how temporarily, will be torture, but he underestimates how much he’s missed in his nomadic lifestyle. Sure, a house is a burden and a responsibility, but it also has the chance to be a home, a safe haven.
“You jumped off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean, but you can’t jump on a word.”
“I knew what I was jumping into then. I don’t know what I’m doing with you now,” Alex said. He twisted his mouth to the side, then turned to her fully, his expression warm. “I’ve known every ocean, lake, and river, but you’re deeper than any water I’ve leaped into—ever. It’s the waters within you that scare me.”
The relationships between the characters was my favorite part of the book, romantic or otherwise. Lucy and Alex’s flirting was cute and hilarious, and honestly in some ways I preferred the slow-burn build to when they were actually together. Lucy’s also got a tangle of relationships with her sisters Sirena and Callie and her cousin Ursula. All of them are involved in the wish and all of them have some decidedly unexpected results.
“No matter what, Caraways paid respect and honor to their ancestors in everything they did.
Honor the past. Protect your own. Use your power. This was the Caraway way.”
There are some things that get a bit muddled. While the beginning and the end are well-paced, parts of the middle are a slog. There wasn’t enough tension to hold my interest and I found it way too easy to put the book down. There were also a few plot points that seemed aimless. The plot line with Ursula, for instance, was very prominent, but wasn’t resolved by the end of the book. I did like, however, that it showed how the relationships between the four women changed as they chased their own dreams, for better and for worse. I also liked that the main characters are Black, and that’s woven through the story as well, especially the reverence of their ancestors, including their beloved Nana.
Overall, a bit muddled but overall quite fun, so 3.5 stars rounded up. This is the perfect end of summer book to get you ready for some fall vibes and I’ll definitely be looking for more from this author!
Content notes: View Spoiler »death of a grandparent (before book starts), brief reference to slavery « Hide Spoiler