Author: Lana Harper
Narrator: Jeremy Carlisle Parker
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 13 minutes
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?
Payback’s a Witch is the first novel in the Witches of Thistle Grove series. Four magical families, the Harlows, the Blackmoores, the Avramovs, and the Thorns, founded the small witchy town of Thistle Grove, Illinois. After a bad breakup with Gareth Blackmoore, Emmy Harlow made her way to Chicago to start a new life. She returns to her hometown to take her place in the town’s spellcasting tournament where the four families compete. When she returns to town, she runs into Talia Avramov and discovers Gareth also scorned her. He also left her best friend, Linden Thorn, broken-hearted. Together Linden and Talia convince Emmy to assist them in seeking revenge against Gareth.
The story’s plot centers on the revenge on Gareth in the tournament setting. It reminded me a lot of “John Tucker Must Die,” which has a similar concept of women coming together to seek revenge against a man. The tournament itself consists of three tasks and, as each family specializes in different types of magic, they must use their strengths to complete them. Between each task in the story, there are downtimes where the author expands on the world-building and the other elements of the story, such as the romance, shine. For me, the first task builds up some tension, but it dies out with the long lull before the second task begins. While the tournament seems to be a major event, it did not feel as intense as I thought based on its setup in the story. Another piece that lacked, for me, was revenge. It is a central storyline in the synopsis, but I felt it was more a device to bring together Talia and Emmy. There is still revenge taking place in the story, but it was not as much as I expected.
Emmy has a lot going on in this story as she is not only trying to run the tournament and has a growing relationship with Talia, but she also struggles with her relationship with Thistle Grove. Emmy has a life that exists in Chicago that she is happy with and plans to continue within the long run; however, she also is drawn to stay in her town and officially move back home. Through Emmy’s time as the host of the tournament, she learns more about the town and her family’s history. Talia was a great balance and support to Emmy’s struggle as she has stayed in Thistle Grove her whole life. This was a great point of contention between them as they connected, as the two of them had to work at finding a solution if they wanted to be together.
Overall, it is a fun witchy romance read where the two characters have lust at first sight. While I would have preferred a little more in the relationship, I did like the two characters together and loved their connection. I love the four main concepts: the revenge, the tournament, the self-discovery journey, and the romance; however, there were many moments where they felt competing rather than weaving together. The four pieces read as being addressed as individual pieces rather than as one puzzle. While I did not find it to be a perfect read, it was very enjoyable and I would easily pick up the next novel in the series!