Devon Murphy grew up in the small town of Rowan Harbor, a town where everyone knows everyone else and has their nose firmly in everyone else’s business. While languishing in his latest temp job somewhere in Minnesota, Devon gets a call from his grandmother asking him to come home and asking for help. Because she asked — which she never does, and wouldn’t do without a good reason — Devon drops everything and starts driving to Oregon. As the long hours and endless miles catch up with him, Devon, pushing past the weariness because he’s close to home, almost runs into a deer. His reflexes are fast enough to save the deer, but not enough to save his father’s car, which ends up crashing into a tree.
Tired, hungry, and with a head wound Devon’s mind begins to wander. Somewhere in between the haze of sleep and the reality of pain and disorientation, Devon sees a wolf. It’s big, this wolf, and manages — somehow — to open the car door, enough so that Devon can crawl his way out of the wreckage. It seems concerned, especially when Devon, fighting a concussion, can’t help but almost dropping off to sleep. With a growl and a last lick, it is gone.
It isn’t long before rescue comes, this time in human form. Mr. Anderson — an old man who has known Devon since he was a child — drives him to the hospital, where a nurse, who is a member of his grandmother’s knitting club, tends to his broken arm. It’s not long before he’s tucked into bed in his grandmother’s house, safe and secure and taken care of. Soon he’s up, his arm in a cast, and trying to figure out what his grandmother wanted and how he can earn his keep while he’s staying here. With as much damage as his car took, he’ll need quite a bit of change to get it repaired.
Soon Devon’s temping in his grandmother’s knitting shop under the watchful eye of the town, and it isn’t long before he learns one of the problems his grandmother wants him to look into. In Rowan Harbor, as in every small town, there are endless secrets. A new arrival to the town — Maria — is plagued with mysterious accidents. Nothing much at first, just small pranks, but an icy patch on the sidewalk could have caused her an injury, or a ladder that’s been half sawn-through indicating that things are escalating.
While pondering how to help Maria and find out whose after her, there’s also the matter of Oak, a… a spirit? A vision? A creature of the woods Devon meets in his dreams that speaks to him as if he’s someone important. The tree mentions the hunters, the witches, and the silent one as guardians of the town. Then there’s Jesse, Devon’s childhood best friend who quit college unexpectedly and came home, hiding his own secrets even from his family. Speaking of family, there’s something about Jesse’s brother, Wade. When he and Devon had first touched there was a spark, like static electricity, and now the whole town seems to be laughing up their sleeves when the two of them are in the same room.
Devon may have been raised in Rowan Harbor, but he hasn’t lived there in a while. His mother dragged him from city to city as she hopped from relationship to relationship, each husband or boyfriend wealthier than the last. His mother had a power over men, a power Devon inherited. In every relationship he’s been in, his partners bend over backwards to do his bidding. Every request is treated as though it’s an order. While taking an art class, the teacher told him she was going to leave her husband and children for him… which caused Devon to move, yet again. It’s made it hard for Devon to enter into relationships when he never really knows if the person he’s with is bound to him by this strange magic or not. However, something about the people in Rowan Harbor makes them immune. Even the human teacher offers up friendship and nothing more; she isn’t enthralled by him. It’s a novelty and a relief and Devon finds himself not only feeling happier, but feeling more at home.
We’re not so much seeing Devon’s character grow as seeing him relax and come into himself. He doesn’t have to put up a show for his grandmother or his best friend. He can just be himself. Devon is a friendly, pleasant character that you won’t mind spending time with, but — because this is the first book in a nine book series — Devon is mostly setting the scene. He’s showing off the town and the quirky characters within it.
Wade is one of the town deputies, destined one day to be the town sheriff. He’s also a hunter, both in the sense of being Wade Hunter and because, as a werewolf, he’s a guardian of the town and a hunter of trouble. We only see Wade through Devon’s eyes, and in their first meeting, Devon didn’t take kindly to Wade’s law and order attitude. As Devon gets to know Wade, his opinion of the man changes from a general sense of affability to friendship. Unfortunately, I never really got the sense that there was any passion between them.
Perhaps as soul mates — the spark between them signalling to the entire town that they were destined to be together — they didn’t need passion. Certainly the best relationships seem to be built on friendship and, as the flagship book and the flagship pairing, Wade and Devon need to be the rock for others to cling to for stability.
The relationship between the two men was tepid, to me, but the town itself was charming. We know there are witches and hunters — and I wonder if that deer in the beginning might not have been another resident of the town — the ‘silent’ people, and Devon’s family who might be elves or fae, but what else is there? There were more hints and questions than answers, and several characters singled out that were never quite dealt with that make me confident that, with so many books planned, we’ll get to see quite a variety of magical and not-so magical folk and their love stories in the Rowan Harbor.