Despite my lukewarm feelings about the first book, I read the next two volumes in Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery series, A Cast-Off Coven and Hexes and Hemlines. I know that people hate-watch TV shows, but do they hate-read? It takes a fair amount of time and energy to read a full-length novel (even if you sort of skim parts of it), so why do I keep coming back these books when they aren’t particularly good?
Is it because I realized that Lily Ivory (why not just call her White White and have done with it?), who is supposed to be a country girl from rural Texas, talks exactly like Applejack and it’s now ten times more hilarious to read it in her voice?
Was it some morbid curiosity to see just how ridiculously convoluted the plot (and Lily’s love life) can get? Or maybe it’s because I secretly get a little boost from mediocre-to-terrible writing, because it makes me feel so much better about my own work.
In any case, I knocked back two more books in this series, and I’m probably going to read the rest of the ones that are free through my library, because I’ve come too far already. Or maybe I haven’t come too far enough!
In A Cast-Off Coven, our heroine is called on to investigate a haunted art school. The site, which was once a convent, was corrupted by devil-worshipping nuns at the turn of the century, and later by the suicide (or was it MURDER?) of a student. Per usual, Lily makes everything worse by stirring up a long-captive demon, running around like a coke-addicted Nancy Drew, and generally being a nuisance to everyone. This book has demonic possession, rampant jealousy, cougars (the lady kind, not the big cat kind), and haunted nun underwear. I’m making it sound better than it is, I swear. We also meet yet another Sexy Man (TM) archetype–the trouble bad boy with a heart of gold beneath his leather jack–to add to the stable of men who are inexplicably attracted to the bossy, socially awkward main character. I get that there’s a certain amount of wish fulfillment in these types of stories, but almost every man Lily meets is both overwhelmingly handsome and eager to get in her drawers.
Hexes and Hemlines picks up where the previous book leaves off (somehow only like, two weeks have passed so far in the series) when the reclusive son of San Francisco’s self-professed High Prince of Hell is murdered. A secret society of rich kids suffering from affluenza has somehow gotten mixed up with a powerful and unscrupulous witch, and they’re planning to create an anti-aging product that leaches the youth and vitality from some people in order to grant it to the wealthy elites. Or something. I just read this today, and I barely remember it. There are lots of snakes, so if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing, skip this book.
Actually, skip all these books, because they’re very silly. One of Blackwell’s worst habits is describing everyone who isn’t white as “exotic” and passing commentary on fat girls, trans folks, and others in a way that’s clearly meant to be playful but comes off as patronizing and colonialistic. And don’t even get me started on the wise old Abuelita or the ancient voodoo wisdom or the gypsy fortune teller.
Look, these books get pretty good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If you’re a fan of chick-lit mysteries with a paranormal twist, you may very well enjoy Blackwell’s writing. It’s entirely possible that I’m just a grumpy, overly critical killjoy. So far, I haven’t read anything yet this year that I loved unreservedly, but I’m hopeful that I’ll find something good in my latest library haul.