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Monday, October 4, 2021

Double Book Review: Payback’s a Witch (Thistle Grove Witches #1) by Lana Harper

Payback’s a Witch (Thistle Grove Witches #1)
by Lana Harper
October 5, 2021
Genre: paranormal romance, LGBTQ+, 
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?

Reviewer: Bianca Greenwood
Four Sheep
Independent twenty-something Emmy Harlow has forged a private and professional life in Chicago, a virtual world away from her mystical hometown of Thistle Grove. Yearning to be something more than a Harlow witch, Emmy has rejected her magical heritage for years. When her father beckons her home to temporarily resume her position as Harlow scion, her sense of duty ignites. Emmy’s role as arbiter in the town’s sacred, high-stakes magical tournament is quickly complicated when she joins forces with a couple old friends to tip the scales away from a shared nemesis Gareth Blackmoore. Emmy, her best friend Linden Thorn, and edgy/sexy/cool Talia Avramov round out a trio of women scorned by privileged pretty boy Gareth. Soon, Emmy is forced to confront her abandonment of friends and family as well as a burgeoning attraction to elusive Talia.

Payback’s a Witch is full of sumptuous descriptions of a quaint town steeped in magical tradition. Harper’s writing is sensual and stylish. I loved the abundant descriptions of fashion, food, drinks, and local establishments. Readers will enjoy a vivid sense of Thistle Grove and its varied residents. The book reads like a primer to hipster millennial culture, especially in dialogue. I found this less appealing as an older reader and didn’t quite connect with Emmy as a main character. Overall, however, the story is an easy read with a perfect balance of action, intrigue, and romance. It’s a great fall weekend read.

Payback’s a Witch is the first in the Thistle Grove Witches series. From Bad to Cursed, book two in the series, is previewed at the end of the book and has a 2022 publication date.

Reviewer: Midu Reads*
3 perfectly happy frolicking sheep
The prodigal daughter returns home to a town of supernaturals, where she'll be the arbiter of a magical tournament. The champions hail from the three witchier families while she belongs to the fourth bloodline through which flows a much-diluted strain of the same magic--or so she thinks. 

The Pluses
1. The lead couple. I mean H.A.W.T. with each of the two women having their individual identities and behaving like total adults. What more could I have asked for?
2. A very Triwizard-like tournament takes place that the author turned into her own thing. I loved all of it.
3. How the author highlighted the importance of other relationships in the protagonist's life, such as that with her mother, BFF, and cousin, and how those were affected when she just upped and left. 

The Minuses
1. Like most reviewers, I also had an issue with the pacing of this book. That was a major turnoff for me. 
2. I couldn't get a feel for the other characters. 
3. Unsatisfactory origins of the magic that makes the town so special. Maybe we'll find out more in the upcoming books?
4. So, a fun read? Yes! A hawt lead? Yes!! Spooky enough for Halloween? Nope!

*Most of my go-to series are 3 starrers
No rating - wasn't my genre/dnf'd so rating it would be unfair
1 sheep - won't be picking up another book in a series again
2 sheep - average read with overused tropes and cliches. Will give the author another try/only continuing because of OCD, so must finish a series
2.5 sheep - liked the book but was put off because it was overly long/ill-treatment of a character the author had me invest in and so on.
3 sheep - enjoyed the book but have reservations because I expected to be wowed and wasn't
4 sheep - was unputdownable
5 sheep - formed an emotional connection, will read the heck outta this series

About the Author:
Lana studied psychology and literature at Yale University and law at Boston University. She is a graduate of the Emerson College publishing and writing program and the author of YA novels Wicked Like a Wildfire, Fierce Like a Firestorm, Blood Countess, the forthcoming Poison Priestess, and the forthcoming adult rom-com, Payback's A Witch, from Berkley Books (10/5/21).  Lana was born in Serbia and lived in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania before moving to the United States. She lives in Chicago with her family. 

You can follow Lana on Goodreads, and you can talk to her here!

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