Review by Kayleigh

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Series Name: The Witches of Thistle Grove #2

“Don’t look now,” Talia said, elbowing me with a smirk, “but thine sworn enemy approacheth.”

I followed her gaze to the second row from the stage, where Rowan Thorn was flashing broad, apologetic smiles at people as he clambered over their knees with his long legs. Even though I’d known he’d be here, my shoulders rose toward my ears of their own accord, my hands clenching into fists in my lap. 

It was remarkable how just the sight of his face could spike my blood pressure, like the mercury shooting up in an old-timey thermometer.

Lana Harper’s second witchy romance is a knockout winner full of chemistry, magic and hope.

Wild child Isidora Avramov is a thrill chaser, adept demon summoner, and—despite the whole sexy-evil-sorceress vibe—also a cuddly animal lover. When she’s not designing costumes and new storylines for the Arcane Emporium’s haunted house, Issa”s nursing a secret, conflicted dream of ditching her family’s witchy business to become an indie fashion designer in her own right. 

But when someone starts sabotaging the celebrations leading up to this year’s Beltane festival with dark, dangerous magic, a member of the rival Thorn family gets badly hurt—throwing immediate suspicion on the Avramovs. To clear the Avramov name and step up for her family when they need her the most, Issa agrees to serve as a co-investigator, helping none other than Rowan Thorn get to the bottom of things.

Rowan is the very definition of lawful good, so tragically noble and by-the-book he makes Issa’s teeth hurt. In accordance with their families’ complicated history, he and Issa have been archenemies for years and have grown to heartily loathe each other. But as the unlikely duo follow a perplexing trail of clues to a stunning conclusion, Issa and Rowan discover how little they really know each other… and stumble upon a maddening attraction that becomes harder to ignore by the day.

It’s no secret that Lana’s first book in The Witches of Thistle Grove series, Payback’s a Witch was one of my favourite reads of 2021. Could the second book live up to my hopes and wishes? The answer is a resounding yes. Lana takes us back to Thistle Grove where we are thrown back into the witch families that build their lives and maintain their magic in the sweetest small town imaginable. Talia, one of the MC’s from book one is still here, but it’s her little sister Isidora (Issa) who we root for in this book. Issa is feeling stuck in life; she has hopes and dreams but is feeling constrained by not wanting to let her family down by leaving. Bored and listless, she calls up demons for fun and dreams about launching her own fashion line. One thing that energizes her is her sworn enemy Rowan Thorn, a witch and a veterinarian whom Issa loves to hate. Their savagely fierce relationship is strained when they suddenly have to work together to figure out why a curse (Issa’s family specialty) is threatening the health of the Thorn family and Thistle Grove. The book is a fabulous read. Because Lana has already set up the world in Payback’s a Witch, she could really dive into fleshing out the four founding witch families in Bad to Cursed. While it’s not necessary to read book one before book two, I would recommend it. 

Is there anything better than enemies to lovers? You don’t have to answer that – in my heart the answer is always yes. And oh boy, does Lana build out an enemy to lover’s relationship that strained my heart with wicked joy. Issa and Rowan have some serious history and their mutual dislike creates such a lovely friction as we watch them stumble through working together to figure out what is going on in their town. That friction, as you can imagine, turns into a steamy burn throughout the book. While I won’t give anything away, watching Issa and Rowan fall for each other is such a delight. They are nuanced characters dealing with family expectations, dreams and desires. Could it be that instead of being sworn enemies, they are guilty of some prejudices? You’ll have to read the book yourself to figure it out. Rowan and Isidora have an interracial relationship which was thoughtfully discussed in the book. There’s a bit of a slow burn to their romance which made me feel so needy – when they did finally get together I was so darn happy for them! Lana’s love scenes are quickly becoming some of my favourite. 

Both Rowan and Issa of course have some growing to do throughout the book. For me, Issa’s growth was the most profound, and I think she’ll really touch readers. Issa is 25 and going through a quarter life crisis: she has a job that she likes with her family business, and making her mother proud is one of her biggest goals in life. But she has other goals and dreams that she is afraid of following because they could fail, and she could sever relationships with her family. So instead of dealing with these fears, she self sabotages in some spectacularly witchy ways. I think a lot of people will see facets of themselves in Issa. She could have easily veered off into a dramatic stereotype but Lana layers her with heart and wit and she is very vulnerable and real. She’s a standout character for me.

Thistle Grove is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to visit. It’s a charming small town filled with witchy tourist attractions (for all the regular humans like us). We get to learn more about the four main families in town and their magical businesses in the book. A stand out scene from me is when Isidora and Rowan visit his family’s orchards and Isidora learns about the different personalities that plants, flowers and trees have. 

If you like a bit of paranormal in your romance and enjoy some mystery, then you need to pick up From Bad to Cursed.

Thank you to Berkley Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.