Cover Image: Payback's a Witch

Payback's a Witch

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Member Reviews

I almost didn't try this gay-friendly story of a witch returning home to her tiny witchy town to serve as referee for the big every-fifty-year competition that decides the prominent clan until next round.

I really hated the premise of Bewitched the TV show when I was a kid--the idea that Samantha could only marry the dork (I agreed with the mother-in-law about Darren) if she gave up her magic and tried to conform to bland white middle-class Americana of the time, which even when I was living it had all the attraction of pasteurized cheese-food. Well, it was the early sixties, and conformity was the thing then.

Anyway, I liked the show when magic was the main element, and the same happened here. I chose the book because how often do you get a rom-com with witches AND F/F? And the romance was worth it--Talia the hot Goth witch was fantastic. I fell in love with her coolth myself.

It did take a while for the book to get going, as there seemed to be a lot of apologia to get past along the lines of "Oh poor me, I don't have much magic so I'll move to mundane and give up what little I have." Blech.

But once we got past that, I really liked Emmy. She's smart and ambitious, and when she gives in to the referee magic, she was awesome. 

Thistle Grove was a delight in itself. I enjoyed the magical history and how the magic works. Set against this terrific backdrop the book grabbed me, as we watch Talia and Emmy draw toward one another as the tension of the competition heightens. Watching Emmy come into her own in love and magic made me glad I'd persisted.
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I admit that when I decided to read this book, it wasn’t the paranormal mystery I thought it would be. That is OK, because this was a very good book. Emmy is coming back home after being away from years, and she is still a little bit broken from the reason she left. This book explores the journey Emmy takes to get her life back on track and maybe find love in the meantime. I really liked the scenes where they were in the magical contest, and I thought that Emmy and Talia make such a great couple. Well-written and fun, I would be happy to visit this world again to see what happens in the great little town of Thistle Grove. Recommend. I was provided a complimentary copy which I voluntarily reviewed.
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Payback's a Witch by Lana Harper is an incredible story that is sure to give readers all of the spooky, witchy, fall vibes that I crave this time of year. An enchanting story that made me feel like I was in a Salem kind of magical town. Payback's a Witch was a fun fast=paced read that is perfect for this time of year.
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Thanks to Berkley for the free copy to review!
3.75 out of 5 stars

If you like dueling families, magical tournaments, women teaming up together, and sapphic moments in between, you'll love this book! It's for that witchy fall feeling that's perfect for your October TBRs.
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Lana Harper has written a sexy sapphic romp about witches out for revenge set in the most perfect autumnal town that made me yearn for long walks through crunchy leaves with a cup of apple cider in my hand. I loved this book!
Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn't been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She's determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup… with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can't she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?
I’ve been so happy with the amount of witchy Halloween holiday romances that have been published this fall. And I have to say, I think Lana Harper has written my ideal Halloween witchy romance with a rocking plot. We have four founding witch families that compete for power and prestige every 50 years. We have three witches each burnt by the town’s playboy witch who thinks he’s above reproach. And then we have the most delightful main character Emmy Harlow: a witch who’s run away from her hometown and her power after heartbreak.
Emmy is smart and ambitious and has moved to Chicago to prove to herself that she is more than a weak-powered witch locked into her small town. The only problem is that magical power wanes if a witch spends too long away from Thistle Grove. Emmy has to acclimatize to her magic returning to her as she’s home for four weeks to arbitrate the once-in-a-generational competition that declares one founding witch family member to be the most powerful and prestigious witch for the next fifty years. I loved reading about her struggle with returning to her small town from the big city. It’s been nine years since she left and she hasn’t been home a lot. Throughout the book, Emmy struggles with her own identity: who is she and where does she want to spend her time? Is returning home a failure or a sign of growth?
And let’s talk about home. In Thistle Grove, Lana has written the most perfect witchy town. I was sad when the book was finished because it meant I no longer was spending time there, however I was delighted to realize this is the first in a series. It’s clear that Lana spent a lot of time worldbuilding – there’s a deep level of magical history and a clear magical system in the book. I know this book is listed as a rom com, but I would consider it a contemporary urban fantasy romance.
Ok and let’s talk about the romance. Emmy and Talia went to high school together but weren’t really friends. Emmy was younger and didn’t think anyone as cool as Talia would be interested in her. Fast-forward nine years and the two reunite over their shared hatred of Gareth Blackmoore – the sexiest, wealthiest witch of their generation who has no apparent morals or kindness. Talia is a delightful dark and sexy witch who can commune with the dead as well as bake a delicious cake. She’s happy with her life in Thistle Grove and doesn’t understand why Emmy would ever want to leave. Despite their differences and their focus on the competition, Emmy and Talia find themselves slowly falling for each other. Their slow growing tumble into love runs parallel to Emmy rediscovering her love of her hometown and her own magical powers. Their relationship is steamy and powerful because they work on balancing each other and respecting each other. It’s a mature and well-balanced relationship that I delighted in watching blossom.
Payback’s a Witch is a terrific fall read that made me laugh, cry and cheer for Emmy as she discovers who she is meant to be.
Thank you to Berkley for the ARC in exchange  for an honest review.
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When I read the synopsis, it was absolutely everything that I was looking forward for the festive autumn season. And it bums me out to say that it didn't quite work out for me like I hoped it would. It took me a lot longer than I anticipated to get through this one.

However, there was plenty to love and the characters being my absolute favorite. Love, love, loveeeee Emmy and Talia, but was hoping for so much more on the romance front. We definitely get bits and pieces, and they' were just perfect for one another. I liked the camaraderie between Emmy, Talia and Linden.

The pacing was a bit off for me, we'd have some parts where there was a bit of a lull and then it would pick up, then right back into a lull. I think that's what I struggled with the most, it kept taking me out of the store more than I liked it too.

Wasn't quite there for me, but am definitely interested in more by Harper.
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4 stars!

After experiencing a devastating heartbreak, Emmy Harlow leaves her hometown of Thistle Grove in hopes of forging her own path. Nine years later, she is reluctantly called back to be the Arbitrator of the town’s spellcasting tournament. After her arrival, Emmy is met with the news that her high school classmates Linden Thorn and Talia Avramov have also had their hearts broken by the same man. Now the three are teaming up to make sure Gareth Blackmoore won’t be the winner of the tournament.

It’s officially spooky season and Payback’s a Witch has the perfect setting for it! The town of Thistle Grove sounded like a fictional version of Salem, MA which gave me all of the fall/Halloween/witchy vibes that I could want. I found the story to be so entertaining and the characters were so much fun as well. I was definitely getting some “John Tucker Must Die” vibes while I was reading! There wasn’t a ton of world building when it came to the magic of the town. I personally did not mind that, but if you really enjoy worldbuilding then you might be left a little disappointed. There is a romance aspect to this story but I personally felt like it was more of a subplot. Just a heads up in case you were expecting the romance to be the main focus! Overall, this was a story of Emmy returning back to her roots and finding herself while also finding some potential love along the way.

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for this eArc in exchange for my honest review. Payback’s A Witch by Lana Harper is out October 5th!
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This is the perfect Witchy book! Emmy Harlow comes from a family of witches. She was ready to leave Thistle Grove and her family behind nine years ago and head to Chicago. 
Every 50 years is a Spellcaster tournament that determines which of the four witchy families will run Thistle Grove. It is time for Emmy to return home to serve as an arbiter for the tournament.
Her first night in she runs into Talia, a competitor in the games, an old crush and perhaps current crush.
The games are so much fun, I loved Talia and Emmy and all of the magical aspects of this book. This book has me wanting to leave Chicago to visit Thistle Grove!
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Sort of a rom com meets revenge thriller...with magic.

When Emmy returns home to Thislte Grove after a prolonged absence, she conspires with two other friends to get revenge on their mutual ex. And the revenge is tied into the Gauntlet, a tournament of the local witch families to decide which one will be ascendant. 

Diverting. I imagined Thistle Grove as Salem meets Branson in the middle of Illinois. Read a few chapters of the sequel (provided in the ARC)l, however, and was not impressed.
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Thank you Berkley Publishing for my copy of Payback’s a Witch! All thoughts are my own.

When I saw that this book was billed as “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” meets “The L Word” I was READY. It had been on my radar for months! I think it’s a great Halloween read for those of us who don’t do scary but do love the ~ vibes ~ of Fall. 


“Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn't been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She's determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?But most concerning of all: Why can't she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?” —Goodreads

What I Liked: 

The Premise—I love a good atmospheric read and this book too me right into the Halloween/Fall spirit.

The Setting—I found Thistle Grove to be so fun! I’m not a huge Halloween person but I found myself totally charmed by this witchy town and it’s history.

The Vibes—Total small town, rival family mess that I love in a festive story.

What Didn’t Work: 

Pacing—I didn’t get the “can’t put it down” feeling I love from books. The pacing felt a little off. Slow for the plot but then all the competitive moments in the Grimoire were so fast! 

Repetitive/Lack of Dialogue—I didn’t feel as connected to the characters because there was so much descriptive dialogue. GREAT for the witchy vibes, but I missed feeling like I was getting to know everyone in the story. 

Content Warnings: 

Toxic relationship (described) 

Character Authenticity: 3/5     Steam Rating: 1/5      Overall Rating: 3.9/5
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Emmy Harlow is back in Thistle Grove after nine long magicless years. Thistle Grove witches draw their power from the town so the further away they are, the weaker they become. It probably doesn’t help that the Harlow’s are considered the weakest witches in the town. Which is in part why Emmy left and never came back. The other part was Gareth Blackmoore stomping on her heart because he was part of the most powerful magical family in town and could never be with a Harlow.

A magical tournament brings Emmy back to town and to make matters worse Gareth doesn’t recognize her. Emmy finds out that her best friend Linden Thorn was also scorned by Gareth as was the beautiful and scary Talia Avramov. Together they team up to get revenge on Gareth, along the way Emmy finds herself enchanted by Talia. But will Emmy’s past still threaten to keep her from embracing Thistle Grove and Talia?

Payback’s a Witch was the perfect witchy blend of humor, steam, and serious moments. Emmy’s journey of self-discovery and growth as she returned to her beloved hometown was relatable.

I loved the witchcraft elements. I appreciated how real it felt that Emmy was torn between her obligation to her family and her past. The moments when Emmy realized what she really wanted and what she had let define her felt vulnerable in the best way. I thought that Emmy and Talia both complimented each other well and was rooting for them from the beginning. I love that their sexualities were never questioned and their relationship was accepted.

I do wish that there had been a little more detail when it comes to world-building because I really wanted to see more of this spooky and witchy town!

The best part is that this is just book one in Lana Harper’s new series The Witches of Thistle Grove! The sneak peek of From Bad to Cursed has me wishing it was out already!

Thank you to Berkely for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Emmy Harlow left her magical hometown of Thistle Grove for a reason, and wanted to lead a normal life without any magic. However, when she finds herself back there to look over the trials to determine the next leader of the town, Emmy may find more than she is bargaining for.

This story was magical in all sorts of ways! The world building is actually really well done, and painted a picture perfect image of the different families of the town, its history, and the magic that fuels it. Even at the end, like almost 90% in, you're learning something new, which is important for the end of the novel. While I understand why it was hidden from Emmy, it also just felt too late to include world building like that.

The magic system was also pretty unique in that each family focuses in on a special magic focus. However I can't really remember what the Blackmoore family had, since they were the big antagonists of the story. Speaking of, I wish we saw a bit more of Gareth because we only really get two or three interactions with him and the rest are stories of all the bad stuff he had done.

I liked Emmy as a main character. She is smart, caring, and a bit more modern than I would have liked. She actively used hashtags either in her internal dialogue or external and it felt a bit forced in to make Emmy more "in the know" since she left the town. Even I don't say hashtags when speaking unless I'm referring to a specific trend. However, Talia sometimes does it too and either way it still bothers me.

Now Talia! I loved her so much. She's charismatic, smooth, but also a bit withdrawn. I loved Emmy and Talia's relationship and its progression. They are able to get to know each other more while also having that chemistry draw towards each other. It made me root for them the entire time. Also, they don't feel the need to identify with a sexuality! I can assume both of them are least bisexual though, based on their discussions.

The side cast of characters was also unique and diverse and lovable. I felt for Linden so much as I have a friend who left our hometown and somedays I wonder if our friendship is as strong as it once was.

Payback's a Witch is a perfect queer witchy story to start off your spooky season, with lovable characters and an even more lovable setting.
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Emmy Harlow heads back home to Thistle Grove after being away for years. The longer she spends away the less magical ability she has as a witch. Plus, her family is known for being the least powerful of the four founding families to begin with.

Emmy fled town when she realized she’d only ever be seen for her abilities with magic (or lack thereof) and so went out into the world to make a ‘normal’ life for herself. It didn’t hurt that she’d just had her heart stomped on by Gareth Blackmoore. The Blackmoores are the most powerful family in town and the only thing worse than being dumped by Gareth Blackmoore, is him not remembering you at all when you come back into town. To really add salt to the wounds it turns out that Gareth also did the dirty on Emmy’s best friend, Linden Thorn, and the uber-hot Talia Avramov. The three of them get together to talk revenge…but Emmy quickly gets distracted by the oh-so-enchanting Talia.

This witchy read was ever so delightful and had the perfect amount of hilarity, depth, and steamy moments. I loved Emmy’s growth after being away and coming home to face how she felt about her past, and carve out her own future. The characters were all so wonderfully written and practically leapt off the page.

And the best news of all? This is book one in a new series called The Witches of Thistle Grove! I can’t wait for book two!
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ayback's a Witch continues the trend of witchy rom-coms I've read this fall and I'd have to say that this one is by far the most witchy. I absolutely loved the history of the founding witch families of Thistle Grove that Harper created and the idea of the scions coming together for a tournament every 50 years was a great setting to explore the differences in these families and the way the tournament and found family's traditions have impacted the history of these families over the years.

At the root of this one is a story about the outer world's expectations of you based on something you can't control. In this case, it's Emmy's family name, but I could see parallels to race, gender identity and sexual orientation as well. I also really thought it was good depiction of how your actions can impact those around you who love you and want to support you. All of this heavy and relatable imagery is wrapped up in a story featuring magic, a revenge pact, unbridled chemistry between two beautiful witches, as well and strong family and friend relationships. I absolutely loved the journey and would love to see what's next for these characters and Thistle's Grove.

I give this one ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 & a mild to moderate 🔥 rating.
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Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for the advance review copy—all opinions are my own!

PAYBACK'S A WITCH featured some of the loveliest, most evocative, descriptive writing I've read in ages. Lana Harper's gift for this shimmered on the page and made for such an atmospheric reading experience. I felt immersed in the magical witchy town of Thistle Grove, the autumn season, a world of spells and enchantments, seances and haunted woods. The central revenge plot was compelling and Emmy's character growth, while bittersweet as she reckoned with the pain underpinning her choices and the pain her choice to leave Thistle Grove had caused, was well-developed and satisfying. 

The romance between Talia and Emmy was lovely, though it felt a bit waylaid by the plot's momentum toward the final Gauntlet competition as well as Emmy's decision about her relationship with Thistle Grove (to leave or stay, to immerse fully in her relationship with the town or relinquish that privilege to her cousin Delilah). Not so much a complaint as a praise that I would have devoured even more romance between them, because I liked them so well as a couple. They had such a natural chemistry that had me rooting for them from their first encounter at Morty's.

To me this is the perfect read on a cozy weekend, curled up on the porch swing with a blanket around your shoulders, amid autumn wind and rustling leaves, a warm mug of cider in hand as you escape to Thistle Grove.
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This was such a perfect book to get me in the mood for October and spooky season!! I loved the sapphic romance and queer representation, and the fact that their narrative wasn't focused on coming out. This was such a fun read, I want more!!
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Emmy Harlow gave up everything for a chance at a non-magical “normal” life outside of Thistle Grove. But when a magical tournament is near and it’s her families duty to oversee it, she won’t let them down. Even if it means facing the ex that drove her away. 

My feelings on this book are mixed. I loved the magic, the magical tournament, and the hot sapphic romance. What I didn’t love was the overall motivation of the story being revenge against some old ex-boyfriend.  It felt weak to me and the rest of the story felt like it deserved something stronger than that.  A simple opposing family rivalry would have done the trick. 

The story hovers toward cozy mystery territory (only minus the mystery) which had me wrapped comfortingly in its pages even with its flaws. 

*Thank you to Netgalley & Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.
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Payback's a Witch
By Lana Harper 

A perfect witchy season to read Lana Harper's latest, Payback's a Witch. 

The story is centered on Emmy Harlow who is a reluctant witch who needs to come home for the spellcasting tournament  - since she has not returned home to her magical town of Thistle Grove for many years, her powers have also diminished. But never mind that, the last person she wants to see is Gareth Blackmore who broke her heart many years ago. Enter Linden and Talia - they are also victims of Gareth's charms and with the three of them together for a revenge, Emmy also has a romantic interest and i found that relationship super cute and romantic. 

This is the first book in the series and cannot wait to read more about the magical families and the Thistle Grove world.
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Payback's a Witch is "John Tucker Must Die" but make it witches and sapphic. I loved it an unspeakable amount. 
 It's being billed as a rom-com, and while I think I'd label it as more women's fiction (blerg, I know) than romance, Emmy and Talia's relationship is still a central focus. It's absolutely more emotional than I expected -- what right did this book have to make me cry multiple times?? Emmy is exploring what she thinks are the limitations of her identity as a Harlow living in Thistle Grove, and realizing those limits are much weaker than she thought they were. I also found the scene where she and Linden discuss the way their friendship changed after Emmy moved to be particularly poignant.

I admit to herbs-ing bits of the tournament scenes; my walnut brain is not made for understanding battles or whatever. But the magic system is really accessible which is definitely my preference.

This book is like if Emily Henry wrote paranormal adult fiction -- if you like her books but are a seasonal reader and looking for a fall version of some of her work, you will love this.
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Witches. Romance. Magical Secrets. Competition.

This book had all the things that I love in a magical story! When Emmy returns to her childhood town for a magical tournament, her plan is to get in, lay low, and get out. After a bad break up years ago, she chose to leave & allow her powers to fade. Coming back home, she reconnects with 2 women who also had a bad experience with this guy. The 3 of them decide to join forces and get revenge. Mixed into this story of revenge is a magical tournament that Emmy must host, and 3 people from the other main families of the town must participate.

I really enjoyed the magical system. The founding families have their own strengths and play a different part in the town. The outside world doesn’t know that they are magical, and I loved that secretive part of the story.

I enjoyed the revenge story line & the romance between Emmy and Talia. I liked that Talia is such a strong personality mixed with Emmy’s softer one. My 𝙛𝙖𝙫𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚 part of the story though, was Emmy journey of hosting the competition and really understanding her family’s history in this magical realm. I loved the growth and exploration that she goes through!

I was provided a gifted copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.
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