While there are four founding families in the witchy town of Thistle Grove, the Avramovs and Thorns have always been at odds from way back in founding days. The Avramovs use death magic and lean toward the darker side, while the Thorns are all about green magic and a love of nature. The animosity extends into present day, and Isidora Avramov is still angry about the way veterinarian Rowan Thorn got her kicked out of her position volunteering at the animal shelter years ago. Rowan is just so sunny and squeaky clean and he drives Issa crazy.
When a Thorn witch is attacked by a form of dark magic, eyes turn toward the Avramovs in suspicion. As the Thorn heir and family of the injured party, Rowan is tasked with leading the investigation into the attack. And since the Avramovs are sort of assumed to be behind it all, despite the protest of Issa and her family, Issa is selected to work with him to find out what really happened.
As Rowan and Issa work together to get to the bottom of the attack, their relationship slowly begins to thaw as they find some common ground. They learn more about one another, more about each other’s magic, and start to have more respect for each other’s ways. An attraction also begins to bloom between them, and while neither one would have ever suspected it, they are now both totally hot for one another. But there is a dangerous witch still out there, one who seems to be escalating their attacks. If Rowan and Issa can’t figure out who is behind it before it’s too late, lives will be on the line.
From Bad to Cursed is the second book in Lana Harper’s fun and charming Witches of Thistle Grove series. The series follows the descendants of the magical town’s four founding witch families and this story focuses on the Thorns and Avramovs. While we do see Talia and Emmy here from Payback’s a Witch, and there are some callbacks to events of the first book, I think you can start here from a plot perspective. That said, I think the first book lays out more of the world building, as well as giving a stronger sense of these families and their characteristics, so starting from book one is even better.
This is a pretty standard enemies to lovers set up, with Rowan and Issa at odds at the start and ultimately falling for one another. It doesn’t break any new ground as far as the trope is concerned, but they are an engaging opposites attract pairing and I found them really great together once they get past their dislike of one another. Not only are they very different personalities, with Issa being more wild and risk taking and Rowan more straight laced and grounded, but their approaches to magic are totally different as well. And while both are very close to their families, the Thorns and Avramovs are also quite different. So there is a lot here the pair must work through to find that common ground. I liked that after their initial resistance, both Issa and Rowan are open to learning more about one another and accepting each other. This isn’t a super high heat book, but there is great chemistry between them and a nice sensuality to the more reserved Rowan that really works for the story.
I found the investigation interesting, in part because it gives us a chance to meet and interact with various side characters and get to know the town and the families a little better. This isn’t hard core intense in terms of mysteries, but it is fun to follow along with Rowan and Issa as they figure out who is behind the attacks. My favorite part of this series is the four founding families and the creative way Harper has crafted their personalities. I also like how the books so far have centered around events and holidays in the witch world, so we get a chance to see a little more of that magical world. The world building overall is on the lighter side, but I am enjoying how it all comes together.
I also really appreciate the diversity of the series, with all kinds of representation in terms of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. The first book features two women and bisexual rep, while this one is male/female (and the next looks to be female/non-binary). I’ll be honest that I can’t remember if either of these characters identifies as LGBTQ in some way, but the rainbow is well represented across the book. We also learn that both families have a lot of mixed race marriages, and Rowan himself is Black. So there is a lot of diversity here in the series, which I really appreciate, and I am enjoying the variety of romantic pairings.
I am having a lot of fun with this series and find it an engaging paranormal with a nice dose of lightness and snark. We learn the next couple at the end of this book (we get a preview of the first chapters at about the 90% mark here) and I am super excited as they both seem intriguing. If you enjoy stories featuring magic, strong female characters, and a diverse cast, this series is definitely one to check out.