back in a spell coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Nina Blackmoore is still struggling after her fiance dumped her a week before their wedding. Not only did Sydney leaving mean Nina has had to re-envision the future she saw for herself, Sydney’s critical final words have left the normally confident Nina out of sorts and unsure of herself. Her efforts to try dating again are going poorly, as Nina just can’t get out of her own head and second guesses everything. So Nina’s best friend encourages Nina to go on a dating app and choose someone who is not likely to be a long-term fit, someone she can just have fun with, without any pressure about making it all work. When Nina meets up with her date, Morty Gutierrez, she is totally attracted to him, though Morty is definitely not like the people Nina usually dates. But things get off on the wrong foot right away, and when Morty learns Nina is part of the family that has been pushy about trying to buy his family bar out from under him, the whole night falls apart.

Nina’s family is wealthy and powerful in the small witch-filled town of Thistle Grove. In fact, they used to be the most powerful family around until they lost the Gauntlet of the Grove and the boost of magical power that comes with it. Nina knows what people think of the Blackmoores, and she works hard to not live up to their power-hungry reputation, but years of being a Blackmoore have still affected her. So when a strange dream leads to Nina waking up with vastly increased powers, she falls back on her instinct to keep the news within the family. That is until Morty suddenly shows up with powers of his own. Morty isn’t a witch; he doesn’t even know witches exist or that Thistle Grove is full of them. There is no reason he should be gaining magical abilities… except if somehow he has been magically tied to Nina.

With Nina and Morty now essentially “witch married,” Nina is able to tell him the truth about the witches of Thistle Grove, as well as start teaching him some magic. As they spend more time together, the pair realize that they are a better fit than they initially imagined. Not to mention that the mental and emotional bond now between them allows them to share each other’s feelings… particularly in the bedroom. The two are all heat together and things are incredibly intense. But Nina still has no idea just how she acquired these new powers and what exactly they mean for her or the town. She can’t deny that her enhanced abilities make her feel amazing, but when she learns the truth about what is really going on, Nina will have to decide if she should claim the power for her family alone, or if she must put the needs of the town before herself.

Back in a Spell is the third book in Lana Harper’s entertaining Witches of Thistle Grove series. Unlike the first two books that feature all witch main characters, this one includes a non-witch in Morty. It gives a nice twist to the story as we get the experience of someone who has no idea magic exists, that the town is full of witches, or how any of the witch politics work. The witch families keep the non-magical folks pretty much in the dark about everything (as well as magically unaware of what is going on), so Morty is coming at this all totally cold and so it’s fun to share in his excitement. He also is able to offer some perspective as someone not caught up in all the family politics and is able to help Nina sort through things when she is struggling. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed in this series is the world building and this story focuses on a different aspect than the first two in terms of this mysterious new power Nina gains. I don’t want to give away too much about what is really happening, as that is something that unfolds over the course of the book, but it is a new aspect of the magical world we haven’t really delved into before and it was fun to explore.

This is also the first book that features any of the Blackmoores as a romantic lead, which was a little odd at first, as they are basically villains in the first two stories. The Blackmoores are supposed to be power hungry, arrogant, and selfish. Nina’s brother, Gareth, is the antagonist of Payback’s a Witch and while Nina isn’t as hated as him, the family is all painted with a pretty negative brush throughout the series thus far. So it was a little bit of a hard shift for me to suddenly have Nina as the heroine of this story, especially as things get off to somewhat of a rocky start. The Blackmoores are a wealthy family and there is definitely some snobbishness that comes through during her date with Morty at a dive bar. She just comes across as stuffy and somewhat arrogant and entitled. There is also the fact that Nina sets up the date with Morty specifically because he seems like someone she would never actually want to date, allowing her to use him for a little getting her sexual groove back with essentially no regard for his feelings. Things do settle down fairly fast, however, and we see Nina’s softer side before too long. We also see Nina face situations where she tries to be conscious of her privilege, her more selfish instincts, and her negative reactions. It is a work in progress and there is some nice growth for Nina over the book, so I think it ultimately comes together well, it just took a bit for me to re-orient my perspective on her.

The story has somewhat of a fated mates feel as Nina and Morty become magically bound together when they are essentially enemies. They are then forced to work together to figure things out, at least until they know if they can break the magical connection. Nina and Morty are able to work past their rocky start pretty quickly, largely on the strength of their incredible attraction to one another and the fact that their mental link means that the sex between them is incendiary. But as they spend time together, a true affection and caring grows and I enjoyed them together. They are very much an opposites attract pairing, with Nina much more controlled and structured and Morty much more wild and free. But one of the things we see over the book is that neither quite fits into one box and they end up being a really good match. Morty’s support and confidence in her help Nina find her way when she gets a bit lost, and I found them sexy and fun together. FWIW, the blurb refers to Morty as non-binary, but the book never uses that term, either by Morty to describe himself or from others (at least in the review copy I had). Morty uses he/they pronouns in his dating profile, but when asked preferred pronouns, he says he/him and describes himself as fluid, and the book uses exclusively male pronouns and terms for him. Overall, I do think this series is well done in terms of incorporating a variety of orientations (both Morty and Nina are pansexual, and Nina had a female fiance) and there is just a nice inclusion of diversity throughout.

I found this story another entertaining installment in this series. It was nice to get the perspective of someone not from the witch community to give the book a different slant than the first two, as well as exploring new aspects of the world building. I liked getting to see a different side of the Blackmoores (at least Nina and Gareth) and just adored everything about Morty. So this was a great addition to the series and I am looking forward to more.

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