Book Review: Payback’s a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) by Lana Harper

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Pages: 336, paperback
Source: NetGalley

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?

Considering that I got to 48% of Payback’s a Witch, I probably should have finished it, but… honestly, I was bored. The technical aspect of the writing was fine, and the characters had pretty strong, distinct voices, but the pacing was all over place. Harper seemed to have trouble juggling all the different parts of the plot and figuring out how to have things move in a way that made sense. The character’s plot to get back at the man who hurt them made very little sense, and would have been easy to foil in real life.

I wasn’t overly into the relationship between Talia and Emmy, either, as I didn’t see much to support their relationship other than mutual lust-at-first-sight. That may be some reader’s cup of tea, but it isn’t mine, unfortunately.

Also, this is maybe a stupid quibble when Payback’s a Witch is meant to be a fun rom-com that you don’t think about too much, but I was a bit bothered by the history of Thistle Grove. The novel states that the four founders of the town gravitated to the area because the land “had an abundance of magic”.

The land that, by the by, is in America. So… what about the Native Americans who were there first? Were they using that land for anything? Or was it just happily empty of people and waiting for a bunch of colonizers to come take it?

Looking at the reviews, it seems I’m in the minority as far as Payback’s a Witch goes, so YMMV. It just wasn’t for me.

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