Cover Image: Payback's a Witch

Payback's a Witch

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This is a story about coming home.  Emmy Harlow is from a magical town, Thistle Grove, home to the four magic founding families: the Blackmoores, Thorns, Avramovs, and Harlows.  Emmy has not been back home for a long time -- in part because of her desire to find her own, non-magical path in Chicago and in part because of her heartbreak at the hands of Gareth Blackmoore nearly a decade ago.  

But when it comes time for the periodic magic tournament where a Harlow serve as the arbiter and a representative of each of the three other families compete, Emmy is drawn back to town by the family obligation.  Her first night back in town, she runs into Talia, the sharp edged and very attractive member of the Avramov family, and the two have a night full of sparks.  Emmy is surprised to run into Talia the next day when she is having brunch with her best friend, Linden Thorn, and even more surprised to learn the three share something in common -- each has been with and dumped by Gareth Blackmoore.  As the three plot their revenge, Emmy finds herself increasingly drawn to the home she thought she had left behind for good -- and to the charming and mysterious Talia, who she can't keep thinking about -- as she begins to question what type of future she wants for herself.

This book was terrific!  Emmy's struggle between the competing impulses of wanting to make her own way in the world, independent of her family and her hometown, is a universal story, and the author here did an excellent job exploring these themes.  As a reader, we understood Emmy's desire to blaze her own trail, while also seeing the pull of home.  The author also deftly explores relationships, including the romantic and the platonic.  I also enjoyed the world building of Thistle Grove.  In the single book, the author built a compelling magical world, complete with an interesting backstory -- and, hopefully, the potential for a sequel.

Strongly recommended!
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Thanks so much to berkley for this free copy of Payback’s a Witch! This is an absolutely perfect read for October. Payback’s a Witch is a queer witchy revenge story set in a charming small town that’s full of creative magical trials, hook ups in a haunted forest, snarky banter, sweet lady kisses (points if you get this reference) and a unique system of magic. I’ve included the synopsis below and recommend if you’re looking for a witchy romance with an extremely satisfying ending for this spooky season.
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<i>*This book was given to me by NetGalley in return for an honest review*</i>    

A witchy rom-com?! Sign me up! I'm enjoying these recent lighthearted fantasy titles coming out, and this was no exception. Friendship, community, heritage, and love played heavy themes.
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I read Cackle! just before this and I really loved that book, so I was in the mood for some more witchy mystery but this didn't deliver for me. Too many smouldering looks and sexy banter but no real plot to speak of. The romance didn't develop, it just came out of nowhere. The big tournaments were actually low-key and quickly over and it felt like the same scenes were being repeated. The author has some crutch words that need to be cut down - moue is a word that should only be used once., ditto for biting/nibbling the inside of your cheek/lips. The book wasn't bad, just not what I hoped for and I did think the LGBTQ rep was great.
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Paybacks A Witch is the most  wonderful, witchy, sapphic romance that you absolutely need in your life. 

Emmy and Talia are everything that I’ve been looking for since I finished Delilah Green Doesn’t Care and I absolutely adore them. This story sucked me in from the very first page and it was magical. A revenge plot on an ex-boyfriend, a magical competition, a cute little witchy tourist town; this book is everything & was absolutely perfect for a spooky season read.
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I really enjoyed this cozy, autumnal Romantic Comedy of a book.  Lana Harper is amazing at creating the fall ambiance we all love and crave during the last three months of the year.  I wanted to live in Thistle Grove.  The struggle Emmy had with creating her own path or accepting her place in Thistle Grove was relatable to the non-magical readers.  The characters were well-fleshed out and the romance was spicy, making this a well-rounded and very enjoyable read!
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Lana Harper really captures the physical feeling of magic.

The depiction of Thistle Grove will give readers the “Halloween Town” vibes, but a little less corny. Lana Harper’s small town where real magic exists amongst the unknowing humans has a warm, apple-cider smelling, nostalgic magical feeling. When Emmy Harlow, our main character/witch, re-enters Thistle Grove after years of absence she feels a physical pull and push of magic welcoming her back. It was a small moment of the story, but it held such weight for me. Each time magic is present in this book, Harper weaves just the right words together that you almost feel the magic swirling around you.

Emmy Harlow is destined to be the impartial judge of a magical competition between the founding families of Thistle Grove. She dreads the obligation, but is determined to complete the month long task for her parents. It’s a role she was born to play, and when it’s over she is certain she will leave Thistle Grove for good.

Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.

Meet Talia Aramov. She is what I’d call a hot and mysterious vixen. Talia is a competitor in the gauntlet, and surprises Emmy with the news that they’ve been “burned” by the same guy, Gareth Blackmoore. While Emmy is excited to get a little payback against her ex that drove her out of Thistlegrove in the first place, she quickly realizes that a chance at a sizzling affair with Talia is even more appealing.

Emmy’s decision to flee from home after a messy breakup with Gareth was a painful choice for her. Aside from missing her family and best friend Linden, it also meant giving up all of her magic. In her grief, Emmy thought her life would be better this way. She’d slowly acclimate to Chicago with a new chosen “family”. She didn’t count on her visit back home to stir up doubt of her decisions. Healing her friendship with Linden, and finally facing her own pain begins to awaken Emmy. She realizes some hard truths about life, and realizing what home truly means. Not to mention the attraction to Talia that grows deeper and deeper with time.

“Payback’s a Witch” has a wholesome feeling, full of friendship, romance, and self-healing.

Initially I was expecting “Payback’s a Witch” to be a funny rom-com with a little big of magic woven throughout. I was pleasantly surprised by the more complicated nuances of Thistle Grove’s people. These characters held deep emotional ties to each other and to Thistle Grove. Reading this book felt like a modern-day Hallmark movie, and I say that as a compliment. The romance story between Emmy and Talia is a very satisfying storyline with the witch gauntlet revenge plot adding an element of fun and excitement. Payback’s a Witch is a magically enjoyable read.
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I thought that Payback's a Witch was a cute romance with some laugh-out-loud moments. The gauntlet plotline provided action and entertainment to the story, however, I felt that it took away from the romantic aspects. I wanted to see more of a connection between Talia and Emmy. They seemed to compliment each other well, but we didn't get enough private moments. There were also conflicts in Emmy about the life she created and whether or not she belonged in her hometown. Overall, this was a fun read with interesting characters and a nice touch of love.
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Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…especially when three witches devise a revenge plot. 

3.5 ⭐️ for regaining power, finding one’s place, and witchy lesbian romance.
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4.25 🌟

This book is like John Tucker Must Die set in Halloweentown during the TriWizard Cup Tournament. If you enjoyed The Ex Hex this is def one to add to your TBR! I felt like Thistle Grove and Graves Glen definitely exist in the same world! 

Her descriptions transported me to Thistle Grove, and I felt like I could really picture what it might look and smell like, the epitome of fall. 

This is gave me all the seasonal witchy feels with a diverse cast/romance! I loved the dialogue, the banter, and the cozy small town magic ✨. 

Bump this one up on your fall TBR for sharp writing, revenge vibes, accessible fantasy, and a truly magical romance! 🧙🏼

Thank you @netgalley and @berkleypub for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! ✨
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Overall: This gives the best witchiest “John Tucker Must Die” vibes that you need for you this time of year.

Pros:
Revenge. Okay, I am a sucker for a good revenge plot and this one gave me those sweet 00s vibes.
Magic Competition. With the fancy magical town leads.

Cons:
Logic. Gareth Blackmoore was not enough to abandon your hometown for years for. Sorry not sorry.
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Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper is a small-town romance set around a magical contest that happens every 50 years to determine the community’s supreme witch dynasty.

Emmy Harlow is back in Thistle Grove out of duty. She left after high school to escape a complicated family history and indulge her desire to forge a life without magic. As a Harlow, it’s her duty to fulfill her role as Gauntlet Arbiter of the semicentennial spellcasting competition. Her family’s magic has never been that powerful, so out of the four families, they function as the magic rule keepers.

Her reappearance has nothing to do with Gareth Blackmoore. Nothing at all. His family is the reigning Gauntlet champion.  More importantly, he broke her heart in high school, and her quick exit from Thistle Grove may have been influenced by her regret and grief. 

It turns out both her best friend, Linden Thorn and high school cool girl Natalia Avramov have recently been jilted by Gareth. All three witches want revenge. They concoct a plan where the Thorn family and the Avramov family will work in tandem to unseat the Blackmores. Linden and Talia want to know if Emmy is in.
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This seems easy enough. However, the more time Emmy spends with Talia, the closer they become. Talia may have her own reputation for breaking the hearts of Thistle Grove’s young women, but her command of the dark magical arts is a powerful draw for Emmy. Emmy is in town to do one thing –preside over the magical tournament. Once completed, she’s heading back to her life in Chicago.

There’s one problem. She can’t stop thinking about the outrageously competent, startlingly gorgeous, wickedly funny Talia and what kind of future they might share.

Harper does a nice job creating Thistle Grove - a small town with loads of personality. While Emmy’s been away the city has added numerous modern businesses, so the main street includes upscale coffee shops and sushi bars mixed in with the spell supplies and magical texts shops. The town was founded by four witches, and their family dynasties and influence are still at the heart of the town’s comings and goings.
Despite being witches, the romantic leads are very relatable. Yes, they perform amazing magic, but they also experience the same existential crises faced by their non-magic counterparts. Emmy has struck out on her own to make a life that’s separate from her inherited identity. Talia is afraid to leave Thistle Grove for the opposite reason. Without her magic, she doesn’t know who she’d be. Her family name defines her. As with most romantic pairings these main characters perfectly complement each other. Together Emmy and Talia can face any challenge.

Payback’s a Witch takes a few chapters to really kick into gear. At first it felt like the story was going to simply revolve around the shared animosity towards the ex-boyfriend. As the story takes off, the boyfriend fades into the background, and the women take center stage.

Payback’s a Witch is the perfect Halloween story for those who don’t want to be scared out of their wits. It’s a quick, fun read that put me in the mood for tricks and treats. It’s full of magic spells, sexy witches, small town charm, and a villain easy to hate. It’s about going home and finding out you still belong. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
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This book was so much fun to read! While it is a romance, there is only a little spice (maybe 2 chili peppers). This book is well written, and involves a magical competition between the founding witch families. The main character is in her mid to late 20s, and the romance features a female female romance of two bisexual characters.
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A huge thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book!
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I was originally nervous with Berkley asked me to join the blog blitz for this title since fantasy is not typically a genre I read often, but I was completely wrong! As it turns out, this was my favorite read of September!! The world of Thistle Grove is fleshed out so clearly and I wish that it was a place I could really visit, with magic or not. Despite being fantasy, the world rules are rooted in reality, and the magic is woven in without the need for lots of exposition which, personally, I much prefer to worlds that need maps and a glossary.
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Emmy Harlow is an interesting central character, and her discovery of her family's worth within the town is compelling to watch unfold during the tournament. The connection of her and Talia is fast paced and compelling, and brings the reader into a deeper understanding of how these various families fit within the same space. The plan to take down Gareth feels like a necessary plot point, but somewhat glossed over in order to reach the next thing, despite the tasks being the the driving force in moving the piece forward. Definitely give this book a read this spooky season if you're looking for a light, LGBTQ witchy romance!
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This is a great story of returning to your past and finding that the things you ran from before are now the things you want to run toward. Loved the female friendships and empowerment. Super steamy scenes!!
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This is the perfect witchy, sapphic, revenge story I didn't know I needed. I loved all the characters and how Harper sets up the town and families. There's some great bisexual representation and I loved the romance aspect of the story. Cannot wait for the sequel.
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Fun, spooky and romantic! I really enjoyed the world building here. It was a great read for Halloween!
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Loved this witchy queer romance, perfect for October! I loved the backstory of all the magic families and the way the Emmy bonded with Talia over getting back at their ex. The feeling of the town was really well-drawn, and I loved the magical elements.
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This was a spellbinding book and rife with strong female characters. Harper penned a novel that shows there is power within all of us, and we just have to find it.
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This book was truly delight. Its a great October read with witches, exs, competition, and a great atmosphere, what more could you want? It gave me a lot of Sabrina the teenage witch and Halloweentown vibes and if that's your jam and you want a sapphic romance, then this book is for you! 

My favorite part about this book was the atmosphere, I just wanted to jump in and live there. There were times that the pacing of the book felt off and some of the plot didn't make sense to me. However, that didn't stop me from enjoying where the story took me.
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