Cover Image: In the Shadow Garden

In the Shadow Garden

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Member Reviews

This is not my typical read— magical realism and I are not really friends. If a friend hadn’t tell me to read it next, I probably would’ve let it languish on my TBR.  
I’m so glad that’s not how things worked out because I really enjoyed this one!

In the Shadow Garden is a magical tale of full of family drama and rivalries. It’s a sweet story that makes a great palate cleanser between heavier reads. Definitely a great read for the spooky season!
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Fun book for spooky season if you are not a big horror fan! I do wish it focused more on magic than the mystery, but it was still entertaining all together !
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It's hard to say too much about this book without revealing at least some of the twists and turns it takes along the way.  So I'll say this -- Sylvia is one trippin', magikal bi-otch.  And karma...  If you love a good mystery, you definitely have to pick this one up for a long weekend!
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One Sentence Summary: Years ago, something happened in Yarrow, Kentucky and everyone forgot an entire summer, but when Kaden Bonner suddenly returns, the truth slowly comes to light.

My thoughts:

In the Shadow Garden immediately made me think of Garden Spells with a darker edge. But, while the garden was magical and fascinating, it was less about the magic of it all and more about the mystery of what happened that summer and a blossoming mature romance. It follows various members of the three founding families: the Haywoods and their magic garden, the Bonners with their magical bourbon, and the Bakers. It was difficult to tell who was supposed to be telling the story and who the primary character was as it started out strong with one and then switched to another telling most of the story. The mystery was probably the most interesting part, even if I felt the characters danced around it far too much. The romance felt too sudden and easy, but it had an interesting twist on a Romeo and Juliet story. It was also fun to read about two warring families.

In the Shadow Garden is set in the sweet Southern town of Yarrow in Kentucky. Appropriately, one of the families produces bourbon. But it’s a special kind of bourbon, one that can take a person’s worst memory. Their bourbon is only made possible by the corn gifted to them from the garden of the Haywood family. Their garden is darkly magical and utterly fascinating, though it did fall into being little more than a generic magic garden. It offers its bounty to whomever it wishes and imparts some magic to those who eat from it, but was most fascinating in terms of what makes it grow, which is closely tied to the unique magic of the Haywoods. Otherwise, Yarrow feels very much like a quaint Southern town. There were many times where I wondered where, exactly, all the people were. It seemed populated mostly by members of the three founding families, a couple of important personages like the mayor, and tourists. But it was fun to wander Yarrow with the characters, even if I did find myself wanting more of it.

But the story is mostly about the Haywoods, Bonners, and Bakers, primarily featuring what felt like a war between the Haywoods and the Bonners with the Bakers feeling like they were just onlookers, so, other than one of the romantic story lines, I couldn’t really figure out what their place was or what they were doing there, other than selling the produce from the Haywoods’ garden. The battle between the two families, though, was interesting and I loved how manipulative the matriarch of the Bonners was, even if I did tire of it by the end. She was just perfectly evil and it was all wrapped in a mother’s warped love for her family and their livelihood. It was a fascinating story of what greed and power can do, and how it can destroy lives and families. But it also spoke to the power and strength that lies in families. Neither of these families was particularly functional, but both still had something to say about family and what one might do for the sake of it.

There’s mystery and romance tied together in this book. The mystery was the more interesting piece to me, so I was frustrated when it kept being relegated to the back seat. It’s all about what happened that summer twenty years ago when a Haywood died and a Bonner vanished and the entire town gave up their memory of what happened the entire summer. I feel like I would have been frustrated about that sometime during those twenty years, but no one in Yarrow seemed to notice or care. Until the man who vanished returns and, even though his mother wanted him to return, opens a can of worms that eventually gets out of her control. There were some nice twists and turns, but I absolutely hated how it used one of the other characters. I also think this plot had most of the magic tied into it. I loved how it was used here. I was less impressed with the romance, as sweet as they were as they’re both second chance romances. One was between mature adults, but they managed to feel more juvenile than the other couple. The emphasis was also on them, but I didn’t care much for their entire relationship as it felt like it started up too quickly and burned too hot too fast. The other was between a couple of the younger characters, and they somehow felt more mature. I liked the pain that was behind it and how they still managed to come together despite it.

In the Shadow Garden felt very much like a soft story of magic and family. While there’s some danger and a whole lot of manipulation and even a gross overuse of family powers, I loved the twists and turns. There are some very nice elements in this book, but too much of it felt too easy and other parts felt like the characters were wandering around the main issues in this book. Overall, it made for a fast, simple read, even if I did get some of the characters mixed up and the fact that each chapter switches to a different character and sometimes their voices were way too similar, it was a pleasant read. The magic garden was my favorite part and I appreciated the mystery, but wasn’t won over by the romance.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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In the Shadow Garden by Liz Parker is a solid debut women's fiction novel with magical realism and a smattering of romance. The ebook version is 336 pages. We follow a multitude of characters with third-person points-of-view.

The Haywood family has held a symbiotic relationship with The Shadow Garden in Yarrow, Kentucky for as long as anyone can remember. They help ease pain and suffering from the townsfolk, and feed it to the garden. They even helped the local bourbon distillery with seeds for a special dark corn. Once a year, at the Harvest Festival, the townsfolk sip the bourbon and willingly let their worst memory of the year disappear. But twenty years ago, the whole town forgot an entire summer--a summer in which one person died and one person disappeared.

There's a family tree included at the beginning of this book, and it is very important that you keep that handy, so bookmark it if you're reading digitally. I will say that over the course of my read I started getting confused between the names, but the tree really helped with that.

There is a dash of romance here, and I was thankful the author focused on two people who were around age 40 than the romance around the couple who were around age 20. I also really enjoyed the author's expansion of the idea that when you heal from trauma, you can create beautiful things out of pain. This extended metaphor was great.

I'm a big fan of tea, so I really enjoyed reading about the different blends that the Haywoods create, and how they interpret tea leaf readings. There's a glossary in the back of the book with information about the tea leaf symbols described in the book that I really appreciated.

I think the pacing was better in the second half of the book compared to the first, where the story probably could have been tightened up a bit. I ended up reading the entire second half in one sitting!

I would have also loved a bit more worldbuilding here, like more of an explanation about how the magic works and how it came to be.

If you liked Practical Magic you'll probably like this book! This felt like a perfect end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall read.

Tropes in this book include: family drama, small town

CW: grief, loss, stolen memories, child abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, death

The publisher provided an ebook galley of this book for me to review. All opinions contained herein are my own.
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What if you could take your feelings of sorrow, hurt, grief, loss, etc., and surrender them up? And if, in turn, the person to whom you surrendered these feelings could use them to nourish a beautiful, if capricious, garden? That’s what In the Shadow Garden explores. Liz Parker’s dark romance thriller, set in a small town in Kentucky, is about what we do with our worst memories. But it’s also about friendship, family, and who we let into our hearts. Parker’s ability to conjure up a perfect storm of emotions is impressive. However, unlike its eponymous garden, this novel didn’t end up bearing fruit for me.

Thanks to NetGalley and Forever for the eARC!

Yarrow, Kentucky. Three founding families: the Haywoods, the Bonners, and the Bakers. Except you can really ignore the Bakers, because they don’t figure much into the plot. The Haywoods are witches—most of them—and able to help ease the feelings around trauma. The Bonners make bourbon, and their distillery has never been more successful—or lucrative for the town of Yarrow—than since the Haywood matriarch allowed them to grow “dark corn” from seeds from the Haywood shadow garden. But twenty years prior to the start of this book, something terrible happened. The entire town chose to forget that summer. And now, with the death of a Bonner, everything comes back to what happened in 1997.

I love the premise and the setting Parker creates here. There are some great seeds of conflict, from Addison’s inability to wield her family magic effectively to Irene’s attraction to a prodigal Bonner son. The family dynamics, both within and among the families of Yarrow, are well done. The dialogue between family members is crisp. There’s a lot about the atmosphere of this book that made me think of Gilmore Girls for some reason—I think largely because of the grown-up mother/daughter relationship between Irene and Addison. That’s about the highest praise I can offer!

Beyond that, however, there isn’t much I can say that I enjoyed. The mystery/thriller aspects of the novel are underdeveloped. Most of the plot is predictable, the villains obvious and their motives uncomplicated. Even the secret of Addison’s parentage is obvious from pretty much the first time her hair colour gets mentioned. There’s a single red herring that is only half-heartedly dangled in front of our faces before it is hastily resolved to make way for the romance, which is tepid. Now, that’s my cup of tea when it comes to romance—but I was hoping to recommend this to one or two of my friends who enjoy romance more than I do, and I don’t think I will, simply because there’s no steam here. We get told there’s an attraction between the two characters involved, but it’s wooden (or at least, doesn’t seem distinct from any of the other relationships in this story).

The magic aspects are somewhat better off yet still stop short of truly hooking me. I love the idea of the shadow garden and the description of the Haywoods’ magic. As a tea drinker, I approve of the number of cups of tea consumed by everyone in this book! (As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I was less interested in all the bourbon consumption, but you do you!) Again, Parker’s descriptive writing skill is not in question—how she spins that into a story, unfortunately, is less rewarding for me.

Really all I can say about this book is that it feels full of missed opportunity, a garden planted and tended to with love yet never fertilized in a way that would let it flourish. I wish I could have been more excited by this book, because it’s a great concept. Parker could have done so much with this story. But the characters are flat, the plot overly simple, and the narrative unremarkable.

This one is a pass from me.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the arc.  This review is wholly my own.

Let's start with the beautiful cover!!!!!  If that doesn't intrigue you, I don't know what will!

Magic Bourbon - - Erased Memories - - An Entire Summer Forgotten

The Haywood Witches are set to get to the bottom of these forgotten memories and exactly what happened during that summer that everyone wanted to forget.

Beautiful style of writing through multiple POVs.

Authentic & page turning.  You definitely want to grab this one. 

P.S.  The story is just as fabulous as the book cover!
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Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for access to this e-ARC (and oops, I went and bought the physical copy too). 

In the Shadow Garden was a dreamy, delectable story, tackling the complexities of memory and family bonds, and the pursuit of truth and self-discovery. In case it wasn’t already clear, I loved it. The magical realism elements were thoughtful and evocative, providing plentiful imagery and making me want a cup of that Lavender and Lemon Balm tea to soothe my woes. Parker writes with care and compassion for each of her layered characters, and I enjoyed the multiple POV approach that allowed for greater nuance in the unravelling of the central mystery. Ironically enough, another of my favourite magical realism novels titled When The Moon Was Ours also features an antagonistic family named Bonner. I dare say there might be a bit of magic in that name. I think that perhaps the story might have benefited from a little more space to breathe and allow us to see the interconnected relationships stretch and develop further (but hey, maybe we’ll discover more of the small moments that didn’t make it to the page from the author herself). What are you waiting for? Go grab this autumnal, mystical tale, your favourite tea, a cozy blanket, and dive in.
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3.5 stars! This was a cute little magical realism generational, small town, and found family story focusing on tea and Bourbon! It gave me a lot of The Good Which Vibes, which I find that show cute and charming! In this we have two magical families fighting for the shadow garden that belongs to the haywards, and when the monarch of the bonners dies long lost son Kaden comes to town and with him comes a lot of long lost secrets. I thought this story had a few to many POV and that’s where it really lost me! It was hard to keep track of all the people, it was really more of a plot driven story I think than character driven and that’s what I really prefer is character development and I think with less POV we could of had both! A very cute story for fall season non the less!!
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3.5 stars rounded up

Three generations of witches investigate where their magic went wrong as they uncover secrets that solve a twenty-two year old mystery.

This was a fun read! The perfect segue from summer into fall, not ‘spooky’ but magical and mysterious. For me, it was a little predictable, but worth seeing how it all came together in the end. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, all of whom seemed a little one dimensional for me; I was hoping to have more of a connection to them than I did. That said, it was still a satisfying read.

Pick this up if you like:
🔮 Small town charm
🔮 Gardening, tea, and bourbon themes
🔮 Witchy family drama
🔮 Many POVs
🔮 Practical Magic vibes
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Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for the ARC. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. #NetGalley #IntheShadowGarden

The intial premise and act of healing is fascinating and creative and I wish it was reality. The exposition flashback into why the Hawywoods and Bonners have a feud was clunky, but it was necessary information. And there seemed to be a lot of flashbacks and world building. But it was very much just presented without having it woven well. And I'm intrigued by the mystery at the heart of the story, but I find myself still struggling to understand who's who and what's happening. But once the action started it got really engaging really fast. The last half of the book was really good. The first half was really slow. The ending was very satisfying.
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What a uniquely magical book! In the Shadow Garden was such a lovely family drama with an intriguing mystery at the heart of it. It was slow to start, but the intensity really ramps up a little over halfway through. At times even feeling like a mad dash of excitement towards the end that kept my eyes glued to the page.
I enjoyed this book immensely and highly recommend it to anyone that likes a dose of magic. 

Thank you, Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Imagine if you could just forget a tough memory with some bourbon. Or imagine that someone could dampen the intensity of a negative emotion for you. And that the ability is tied to a garden, a shadow garden. Would you want to just forget? Or keep the memory, but have it not be as intense? Think about trauma and healing. And overlay those thoughts on this book and different ways to potentially address trauma and its impact. 

I would love to discuss this book- let me know if you've read it and want to discuss . It's told from multiple points of view. There's a forgotten summer and multiple mysteries tied to that summer. There's a feud between two families. And there are signs that something's going to happen this summer. 

I enjoyed the multiple perspectives and the way the author shared information (clues) about the missing summer. There were connections, new and old, and an engaging story with characters I'd like to meet and a town I'd like to visit. 

Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy.  All opinions are my own.
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This was a compelling, witchy read that reminded me of books such as The Vine Witch and Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. It was heart-warming with a focus on relationships, magic in nature/baking, and a mystery that needs to be solved. I really enjoyed all the characters (though there were too many and it took me a bit to differentiate them), the different powers, and their use with food, tea, and bourbon. The whole premise of the Shadow Garden was interesting, but I would have liked more background/development on how it came about and works the way it does. This was a satisfying tale with a murder mystery, romances, disastrous family secrets, and the power of a memory.
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Overall, this book was not for me, I enjoyed it to finish but it was painfully predictable. It was a nice idea I like the idea of a magical garden and the characters were okay, their lack of communication with each other was kind of annoying.
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Thank you to Forever (Grand Central Publishing) and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. 

The town of Yarrow, Kentucky has an interesting (and dark) past. The two prominent families in the town have their own distinct types of magic that keeps the town prospering. The only problem?  They absolutely hate each other. Think Hatfield & McCoy levels of hatred. As the story progresses, you find out what happened to cause this level of enmity. 

This is an extremely atmospheric read that will have you immersed in the town and it’s inhabitant’s lives in no time. 

While for the most part this was a good read for me, there were a few things that didn’t quite work for me. One, the main romance was a bit to insta-love for me. However, this is explained late in the book. Secondly, I struggled quite a bit with the amount of characters in the book. There were way too many POV chapters, and it was jarring when the narrative was constantly shifting. 

All in all, I would pick up something from this author in the future and enjoyed my time with this book.
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5 stars

A lovely and atmospheric little book. The tea, the shadow garden, the bourbon, the small southern town, and the magic were all woven together masterfully in a well-paced and compelling story. The use of memory and healing from trauma gave the book some roots (hah see what i did there) in realism. There are chapters from several different points of view and a lot of family and other relationships between the characters but I was never lost or confused. I especially enjoyed the chapters from the shadow garden's point of view. Overall a delightfully cozy autumnal read.
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This was amazing and so much more than I was expecting. You get it all - witchy vibes, mystery, romance, betrayal, and exploration of family relationships. I read it in one sitting. I could not, and didn’t want to, put it down! It was that good! The story is told in 3rd person with multiple POVs, but I didn’t experience any confusion. I enjoyed the wide cast of characters. Addison did irritate me every now and then; only because of her bad decision making skills. Definitely had a lot of “wtf are you doing?!” moments with her character; but I think that only added to the story. The ending was tied up nicely, which I loved. This one is definitely in my top 5 reads for the year!
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Uhm, wow. 

The magic. The shadow garden. The bourbon. The family dynamics. The tea leaf readings. The heartbreak and romance. All of it! 

I loved loved loved this book! And this is a debut novel? I think Liz may just come to be one of my favourites - if there are going to be any more novels, I will GLADLY read any advanced copies! 😉 

It is told from multiple POV and, in my opinion, every character that we follow is for the most part likeable, with a couple bumps along the way. At the beginning of the book there is a family tree provided which was extremely helpful to start and I loved the addition of some fun extras at the back. 

The cover is enchanting and is what originally caught my eye so I am so glad that what was inside the cover was just as captivating. If you are looking for a great read with a witchy flare to start the fall season, go read this! 

Thank you so much @netgalley and @readforeverpub for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Well I love this book, it’s everything I wanted for witchy magic season. It’s small town, magic, romance, girl power, fall vibes (even though it’s summer), family…and love the mystery aspect. I didn’t want it to end, was really excited to pick it back up again, overall I’m giving a 4.5
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