Review by Kayleigh

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Series Name: Witchlore, #1

“I exhale. SO many things have always existed right in front of me, without spells or glamorous or masks, and i just didn’t pay enough attention. I didn’t see. I didn’t understand enough to see.” 

Small Town, Big Magic is a witchy contemporary romance that entertains.

There’s no such thing as witches…right?

Emerson Wilde has built the life of her dreams. Youngest Chamber of Commerce president in St. Cyprian history, successful indie bookstore owner, and lucky enough to have her best friends as found family? Done.

But when Emerson is attacked by creatures that shouldn’t be real, and kills them with what can only be called magic, Emerson finds that the past decade of her life has been…a lie. St. Cyprian isn’t your average Midwestern river town—it’s a haven for witches. When Emerson failed a power test years ago, she was stripped of her magical memories. Turns out, Emerson’s friends are all witches.

And so is she.

That’s not all, though: evil is lurking in the charming streets of St. Cyprian. Emerson will need to learn to control what’s inside of her, remember her magic, and deal with old, complicated feelings for her childhood friend–cranky-yet-gorgeous local farmer Jacob North—to defeat an enemy that hides in the rivers and shadows of everything she loves.

Even before she had magic, Emerson would have done anything for St. Cyprian, but now she’ll have to risk not just her livelihood…but her life.

I really loved a lot of this book: the premise, the plot and the huge cast of characters. It’s a  super entertaining story that I enjoyed reading. I’m still thinking about parts of the story now, especially as the book ends on a cliff hanger and there are 4 books slated in the series. Am I ready for the next book? Yes! As an aside, Hazel Beck is actually two romance writers who’ve come together to write paranormal romance. 

I have to admit, out of all of the characters in the book, Emerson Wilde, the main heroine is the one I struggled with the most. I found her insufferable at times. A type A strong woman with her life together, she seems right up my alley. However I found two areas in her character that I had a hard time moving on from: firstly she is the organizer and planner in ehr group. Which is great. However she was fairly annoying in her belief that she was superior over everyone for so much of her life. I think I’d have a hard time being friends with her. While she was clearly set up to to be the saviour in her town, her attributes became grating: her independence becomes a weakness in the book, and I like how Hazel worked through her character growth, but at times Emerson seemed one dimensional in her focus on achieving perfection in all aspects of her life. The other quibble I have with Emerson is how easily she, a type A SERIOUS person just accepts and then masters magic (this isn’t a spoiler alert, you find out that Emerson is a witch on the back of the book). I didn’t find it believable that someone so grounded in reality wouldn’t even waver a bit at discovering that not only does she have magical powers but that her best friends, indeed everyone in town, is magical. I will leave out why she didn’t know, as that IS a spoiler. Let’s talk about what’s good about Emerson, because there is a lot: she’s loyal and strong and smart. Can she be a little inflexible, sure. Does she think she’s always right, yes. Is she a kick ass heroine who needs to learn to trust both other people and her heart, heck yes. I will say that Emerson’s faults do make her feel like a very real person. There is a lot of depth to her character development that makes Small Town, Big Magic a fabulous read. 

There is a big focus on found family in Small Town, Big Magic, and Hazel’s cast of characters really shines in this book. I love a team united against evil, and you get that here. Emerson’s friends have their own issues and backstories, including the mysterious immortal Nicholas Frost, and while we don’t dive deeply into their full stories in this book as it’s focused on Emerson’s journey, I do hope we find out more over the series.  

As far as romances go, part of the plot involves Emerson learning to open up to people and one of them is her friend Jacob. This is a sweet friends to lovers romance that I mostly enjoyed. The story is told from Emerson’s point of view only which worked for me as we as the readers feel her frustrations and confusion because we aren’t getting Jacob’s perspective. The only time I faltered about it is that their relationship delved into soulmate territory at times – a trope I love in YA fiction but not so much in my adult fiction. However, Hazel uses the soulmate idea as a line in the bigger story about fate, choice and destiny, so it did work for me in the end. I’d love to know what other people feel about the romance! 

Finally I must mention the setting: St. Cyprian seems to be the perfect midwest town. It’s lovely and charming and I hope I get to see more of it in the rest of the series. The setting is an important part of Emerson’s journey and is almost a character in itself. It reminds me a lot of Nora Roberts’ small towns/ Star Hallows and I mean that as the best compliment. It’s a place I would happily visit and wander through with a cup of tea and a terrific baked good. I bet St. Cyprian puts on a wonderful fall festival. 

Small Town, Big Magic is a fun and charming witchy romance book. First in a series, I can’t wait to read the rest. 

Thank you Harlequin for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.