Author: Mila Nicks
Overview from Goodreads:
Librarian by day, cursed witch by night:
Selene Blackstone spends her days camped out in library corners with her nose glued to books. In a town like Brimrock, where she’s an outcast, she prefers her book friends to her real-life enemies. They’re a lot less judgmental. The rest of town believes she descends from a family of witches—including her evil witch grandma, Luna. In this case, the truth is stranger than fiction. She is a witch, and she’s cursed for all of eternity. Good thing her to-be-read list is pretty long…
Prickly Paranormal Investigator Aiden O’Hare speaks two languages: sarcasm and more sarcasm. He travels the country—and sometimes even the world—investigating strange phenomena with his best friend, Eddie. Their investigations bring them to a cozy New England town called Brimrock, home to fabled evil witch Luna Blackstone. Armed with his dry wit, his bibliophilic love for books, and far too much free time, he’s determined to find out just what happened to Luna…
When Aiden meets Selene, he decides he must get to know her. When Selene learns Aiden is in town investigating her grandma, she knows she must stop him. He’s out to expose the truth. She’s out to keep it a secret. Neither expects to fall under each other’s spell, but sometimes love is supernatural.
Like many other readers, I made the assumption that this book would be set over Halloween (or at least the fall). Although the prologue does open on Halloween night, the actual story is spread over the month of December leading up to Christmas and then New Year’s Day. It was on me for assuming based on the subject of witches and the paranormal, but I do wish that it took place at least in the fall without the snow which automatically creates a more romantic scene without really trying. However, the timeline does make sense because it’s how our two main characters actually come together as our male lead wouldn’t be in town for the plot’s initial set-up if it wasn’t for the holiday (the events themselves would not have happened the way they did if it was set during another season).
Brimrock, Massachusetts (not a real town – at least through an initial search as I was curious) is home of legendary magic and is home to its cursed resident, Selene Blackstone. Selene’s grandmother, Luna, a witch, was cursed after an incident with a succubus named Aurora. Each generation after now suffers the same curse where the female witches are unable to leave the town of Brimrock and are also unable to find happiness, especially with love. She at least has her best friend named Noelle and Noelle’s aunt Bibi to keep her company as Selene is last remaining Blackstone. Selene’s love of books has to therefore act as substitutes for her dreams of adventure and love. Just as she is about to give up on the latter, she meets Aidan O’Hare. Could it be that Aiden has come into her life to break her curse or is she doomed to suffer another heart break?
Aidan O’Hare is one half of a dynamic duo of paranormal investigators for YouTV (a play on the name YouTube – this actually happens A LOT – Uride = Uber for example). Their show Paranormal Hunters (a play on the actual show Ghost Hunters) features Aidan as the sarcastic skeptic and his fellow host, Eddie, as the believer. Together they have created 49 successful episodes and the legend of Luna Blackstone in Brimrock, MA seems the logical choice for the next episode. This is also perfect as Eddie’s family is from the same town and will be home to visit the holidays. Although Aidan GREATLY dislikes holiday festivities, he and Eddie head to Brimrock to stay with Eddie’s Aunt Priscilla and the rest of his family.
Aidan meets Selene through a Uride mishap and soon they start a relationship (after some antics). Unfortunately, during this time, there seems to be some mysterious happenings in Brimrock and Selene, as the link to the town’s “spooky” past, is the number one suspect. Not only must this but she protect the fact that she is an actual witch as well. Aidan and Selene must work together to find the true culprit to help clear Selene’s name.
The actual mystery part of the story is interesting and I think most readers might not be able to guess the ending. I was about a third of the way before I made two guesses and one was the right answer. Others that I know have either been right their first guess or had no idea until the end which makes for a fun mystery as its not obvious to every reader. It definitely added to my need for a fun fit to the Halloween spirit. The author also did well complementing it to the Christmas/Holiday season surrounding the mystery so it felt like a great balance between the opposing seasons. It was a nice mix of “spooky” mixed with heart-warming joy to make one cohesive novel.
I love the banter between Selene and Aidan as their interactions helped to build their chemistry. I wish their relationship was explored more as there seemed to be something missing that keeps me from becoming fully invested in their relationship. As they are a multiracial couple, I feel that it was a missed opportunity to not delve into this as there wasn’t much mentioned about this outside of a few descriptions of their appearance here and there. It could be something that comes about with future novels so it’s impossible to fully judge it one way or another.
Selene is a fantastic bookish character that is just trying to fit in to a world that constantly seems to reject her. As the town is weary of accepting her due to her family’s past, she feels very lonely even when surrounded by people (especially the other women she works with at the library). She has her dog Yukie and her best friend Noelle that she can be herself around, but it doesn’t help that she has to stand on edge to not make any mistakes. Her search for acceptance was very well done and I greatly enjoyed reading about this part of her story. My only negative with her is more on a quirk that she does more than her personality. Selene’s glasses were constantly discussed and she has to continuously push them back up off the end of her nose. As someone who wears glasses, this to me just seems to be an ill-fit pair and she might want to update hers. It got a little distracting when it’s mentioned multiple times within a few minutes of reading (or at least it felt that way).
The other characters in this story felt likable and it was nice to get bits and pieces about their individual stories as background pieces in the main story. I didn’t fully connect with Aidan’s hate of all things Christmas. I don’t understand how he even whined about going ice skating when that can be a year-round activity (depending on where you live). His reasons for this dislike are declared, but they don’t feel relatable as there is no substance to back up these feelings. I wish it was done in a little more detail as I’m genuinely curious to learn more about this hate of all things Christmas and family. I know tons of people that aren’t into many of these holiday activities, but Aidan seems to dislike them to the extreme so I am super curious to find out more.
This novel is the start of the Paranomal Hunter series which means there is some conclusion to the main story, but it is set up to continue in the next, which is due in 2021. As it is a series, it helps to make sense of the one true aspect of the book I didn’t originally care for. However, it makes sense and is the best way to write as part of a series. If this was a standalone, then it would have lost major points to me. The story itself builds to come to the conclusion of who is actually causing all this havoc in Brimrock and Aidan and Selene’s quest to find this person or thing. You reach this climax a few chapters before the end of the story so the last bits are all about the aftermath. As a standalone, to me, this is prologue type situation, but as a series, I can see why the author chose to keep it all together as the main story.
Overall, Selene and Aidan make a fun couple. Their romance slowly builds as they are each weary of becoming too close at times to each other. They have chemistry and experience some unfortunately roadblocks (one in particular I give the author major kudos for as it is something rarely mentioned in romances even though it can happen – you’ll have to read to find out though). The story’s mystery was fun and it was nice to see Selene and Aidan work together to solve who was behind the antics. There are some issues so the novel isn’t perfect, but it definitely has potential. I would encourage readers to give this novel a try as this story offers slightly more than the typical romance as you have the mystery added in. The story is a fantastic set-up for what’s to come with the next novel in the series and I can’t wait to read the next one!