While I wasn’t a big fan of Clementine in the last book, I trust Ann Aguirre, plus I have a thing for enemies-to-lovers romances. While I didn’t like this quite as much as the first, I still enjoyed it and thought it was a thoughtfully done and funny romance.
The first half of the book overlaps with Witch, Please, this time with the events from Clem and Gavin’s points of view. I was so-so on Clem in the last book as I felt like she was unduly harsh to Danica. Seeing the same events from her point of view, I still think she’s blunt, but I have a bit more sympathy for what she’s going through. It’s Danica’s magic spike that leads Gavin the witch hunter to their town, but Clem feels like it’s her responsibility to take care of it. Clem’s driving force in life is keeping those around her safe, no matter the cost to herself. Not that hanging out with the handsome and funny Gavin is that much of a hardship. Between trying to hide the coven from Gavin, dealing with their grandmother’s pointed questions about Danica, and taking care of the shop (since Danica keeps jetting off with the baker), Clem is frankly exhausted. But she worries that if she stops being the person that does all these things that no one will care for her anymore. Spending time with Gavin – even though he’s the primary threat to the safety of everyone she cares about – is surprisingly relaxing, and she can’t help but make him feel more at ease in St. Claire, whether that’s silly dates, flirty banter, or gifting him a pet mouse. Gavin’s clear from the start that he’s only in St. Claire for a little while, which is perfectly fine with Clem. In fact, the sooner she can send him on his way, the better!
Gavin’s itinerant life – constantly hunting down witches, then moving on to the next town – wears on him, as does the fact that nothing he does seems to please his father. He hates being a witch hunter. He’d much rather go back to his job as a professor, but as his father keeps reminding him, their family honor is on the line. He’s supposed to be in St. Claire investigating a magic spike, but his heart isn’t in it, leading him to attend coffee mornings with the seniors of the community in hopes of getting gossip or staking out eccentric farmers. Clem’s not the only welcome distraction, as before long he’s booking a rental apartment for a month and helping his new elderly friends with their yardwork. After a few chapters, it’s clear that both Clem and Gavin are kind, caretaking individuals, surface differences notwithstanding, and they’ve got quite a bit in common. Both have serious issues with their toxic families. Watching Gavin push back on his father – and Clem finally accepting that she can lean on others for help – was lovely.
There’s lots of other things I liked about the book as well. I liked seeing the coven work together – both magically and nonmagically – and loved the glimpses into the next couple, Leanne and Trevor. Benson (and his love for 90s romcoms) was a surprise hit for me. I also loved how the witch hunting was resolved and the book’s focus on restorative justice. Clem isn’t the first witch Gavin has hunted, so no matter how he reconciles with her, he realizes that he needs to do more than just apologize and grovel. There’s a good bit about dismantling toxic systems as well, though I thought this was a bit too pat and easily done.
Overall, a bit different tone-wise than the first book, but still very enjoyable. I’m definitely looking forward to Leanne and Trevor’s book and hope we get stories for all of the coven!
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.