Vivi smiled and leaned over the circle, closer to the candle. “You broke my heart, Rhys Penhallow,” she said. “And we curse you. You and your whole stupid, hot line.”
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Once I got my hands on a copy, I was worried: would the book live up to my expectations? I am so happy to report that yes, yes it did.
Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.
That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.
Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.
The Ex Hex is a contemporary rom com that has paranormal elements. Think more Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the 1990s vibe and less The Craft. It’s a laugh out loud book that features a delightful cast of characters and a wonderfully witchy town made for long walks through cemeteries. If you are looking for deep magical worldbuilding, this isn’t the book for you. Rather magic is just one element of the novel.
At its root, The Ex Hex is really a second chances romance that sees Vivienne, a history professor who learned about her powers later in life as a teen, have her heart broken by the first witch she dated Rhys Penhallow, a fun-loving dreamboat who has a swoony Welsh accent. While we get a bit of a peek into their first romance at the tender ages of 19, most of the action happens 9 years later when Rhys returns to Graves Glen for the first time since breaking Vivienne’s heart and they discover that the silly curse she cast on Rhys with the help of some vodka and her cousin Gwyn, worked. Now, Vivienne and Rhys find themselves working together to figure out how to break the curse because it’s not just threatening Rhys but the whole town. It’s fun watching Vivienne and Rhys get to know each other as adults. A big aspect of their issues as teens was miscommunication and not something terribly tragic that makes the reader wonder how the two lovers could ever come back together. Instead, it’s a delightful ride to watch Rhys and Vivienne fall in love with each other all over again. They have some fiery chemistry and a zingy relationship that really proves that sometimes you have to meet your special someone at the right time to make it work. And sometimes, that right time is while fighting to break a murderous curse.
While I really loved watching Rhys and Vivienne fall in love, there was also a fun cast of secondary characters that rounded out the book: Rhys’s father and two brothers who help and meddle as much as they can from Europe, and Vivienne’s aunt and cousin who took her in as a teenager when her parents die. Gwyn is a strong and supportive best friend but does not veer into a wacky secondary character. She grounds Vivienne and supports her when needed with some tough love (and an ill-advised curse). She is the sister of Vivienne’s heart, and I can’t help but hope that we get a book about her story.
All in all, The Ex Hex is a perfect Halloween rom com. It’s a laugh out loud book with a lot of heart and a pinch of magic. Best read with a mug of cider beside you and a purring cat on your lap while a full harvest moon shines brightly in the sky.
Thank you to William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.