Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley books for the ARC. It hasn’t affected the content of my review.
I liked this even better than the first one. I actually think what I like most about this series doesn’t really have anything to do with the featured romances. I just like this world, and I like that Lana Harper is creating a fictional place that is not just full of eccentric townspeople and coziness, as one expects from a small town romance series, but also continues to flesh out the history of Thistle Grove, how the magic works there, and the dynamics between the four families. There is an actual fantasy plot in here, just like the first book!
Here, the romance is between Talia’s sister Isidora Avramov, and Rowan Thorn, who are shoved together in an investigation after a Beltane ritual is sabotaged by dark magic. Issa has disliked Rowan intensely ever since her stint volunteering for the local animal shelter ended in her dismissal, and she was only volunteering. She knows that Rowan doesn’t like her because she’s an Avramov. And Issa is sick of feeling judged for being a “wicked Avramov”, especially when she is feeling guilty for not wanting to be involved in the family business anymore. She wants to strike out on her own, but fears her family’s reaction if she does.
I was surprised by how creepy this book was, and not that it was terrifying or super dark or anything, just much darker than I had been expecting. I liked the way the darkness here and the central mystery plot lent the whole thing stakes (Rowan and Issa are investigating who is sabotaging Beltane, after Rowan’s cousin is seriously injured, magically and physically). Especially since there were a couple of moments where the central pairing got less interesting for me, the plot and the town kept me intrigued even when other things were at more of a lull.
I am actually really excited for the third book, which will feature Nineve Blackmoore (who we meet in this book) and the genderqueer owner of the Shamrock bar, Morty. The premise on that one sounds super intriguing to me in a way the first two didn’t, and I liked them quite a bit.