Rating: 3.5 stars
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When Rose’s girlfriend, Billie, tells her to pack her things because they’re going on a romantic weekend, Rose’s best friend is certain it’s going to lead to a proposal. That’s … not quite what happens. Honeydrop House is a lovely B&B owned by two older women who live there along with their niece, Hayley; a woman named, Serena; and a plethora of animals. Cats, dogs, frogs, cows, sheep, and rabbits. And a ghost. Oh, yes, and Rose is a witch. More than that, she — along with sunny and sweet Hayley and prickly, stand-offish Serena — form a magical triad.
Then, it’s time to go home. Back to the real world where Rose works as a life coach and her girlfriend does … IT work? Or something. The more Rose begins to look at her life, however, the more things start to fall apart. She has no idea what Billie does for work, or why it calls her away at all hours. She also has no idea why the brown and white goat keeps showing up in her yard. But more alarming, when a strange man attacks her, she has no idea where her goat learned to belch fire.
Wait, her goat?
Rose, no matter how firmly she ties on her blindfold, cannot deny that magic is happening. When she returns to Honeydrop House to find out what’s going on, she discovers a world of magic beyond anything she ever expected. Witches and warlocks, witch hunters and vampires, shifters and spells and demons. The worst thing? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The best? All of this comes with a coven of women that Rose soon learns she would be willing to die for.
And that might end up being just what happens.
Coven Be Charmed is the first entry in the Honeydrop House Witches series and spends a great deal of time building up the world through hints, dramatic confessions, and confrontations, and a big bad who ends up leaving more questions behind him. And, as a first book, it has a lot of lifting to do, not least of which is introducing Rose to her coven.
Rose is the middle child of a rather toxic family setup. Her mother obsesses over the golden children. Rose is the one left out and looked down on, even though she loves her family. She’s not only ignoring the signs of her own trouble with her family, but the issues in her relationship with Billie, too, who won’t even give her a clear answer about what she does for a job or where she goes when she’s gone. But Rose loves Billie, so she ignores all the flags and just gets on with her life. And when that life is upended, Rose does what she does best: makes a plan and follows through.
Hayley is young and sweet, and has known that she’s a witch almost all her life. Open-hearted and soft-hearted, she is very clearly taken with Rose (who isn’t oblivious to the charm or warm, loving nature of the other woman), but knowing that Rose has a girlfriend, draws back to become a friend. Rose and Hayley just click together, finding it easy to sit and chat or sit and do nothing. Unlike Rose and Serena who are constantly at loggerheads, not agreeing on many things. Serena, too, has feelings for Rose, but she keeps them under lock and key since she, like Hayley, isn’t going to push herself on someone who is already in a relationship. Which just makes her snipe more, glare more, and work harder to push Rose away.
Also at Honeydrop House are Lottie and Alice, the remaining two women in a triad who lost their third, Phoebe. The three women have endured centuries of life together, having come to Australia for a new start where they could be safe from evil warlocks, demons, and witch hunters. They were happy together, and even now, without Phoebe, Lottie and Alice still do their best. They’re friendly, but distant, and while they have some of the answers Rose needs, they don’t have them all.
The main focus of the story is on the building up of the relationships between these women — two generations of witches and two triads, though one has lost their third — and the setup of the world building. The plot and conflict are mostly in the background as a looming threat, and when it reveals itself, there’s not much time to get a feel for it beyond the vague shadowy figure of evil, which, along with the cliffhanger ending, makes the book feel slightly unfinished.
While I’m invested enough to continue the series, I would be cautious in recommending this wholeheartedly at the moment. This book doesn’t feel as if it can stand on its own, just yet. The writing is good, the characters are solid and well developed, but the pacing is a bit off kilter. However, there are breadcrumb trails aplenty to hint at what events will probably be coming up in the future (at least a good four of them), and I am very curious to see where they lead. My opinion of the book will probably change as more installments in the series come out; until then, it’s a very cautious thumbs up.