Even though she won’t deny her love for pretty (and pricey) things, Nineve Blackmoore is almost painfully down-to-earth and sensible by Blackmoore standards. But after a year of nursing a broken heart inflicted by the fiancée who all but ditched her at the altar, the powerful witch is sick of feeling low and is ready to try something drastically different: a dating app.
At her best friend’s urging, Nina goes on a date with Morty Gutierrez, the nonbinary, offbeat soul of spontaneity and co-owner of the Shamrock Cauldron. Their date goes about as well as can be expected of most online dates—awkward and terrible. To make matters worse, once Morty discovers Nina’s last name, he’s far from a fan; it turns out that the Blackmoores have been bullishly trying to buy the Shamrock out from under Morty and his family.
But when Morty begins developing magical powers—something that usually only happens to committed romantic partners once they officially join a founding family—at the same time that Nina’s own magic surges beyond her control, Nina must manage Morty’s rude awakening to the hidden magical world, uncover its cause, and face the intensity of their own burgeoning connection. But what happens when that connection is tied to Nina’s power surge, a power she’s finding nearly as addictive as Morty’s presence in her life?
Let It Snow I’VE NEVER BEEN what one might call a winter person. Witches are supposed to feel naturally aligned with the Wheel of the Year, receptive to the charms of every season—and nowhere is that easier than in Thistle Grove, where every type of weather is utterly and gorgeously flamboyant, the most extravagant cosplay version of what it might look like anywhere else. In theory, I could appreciate the extremeness of its contrasts; all that diamond-faceted white, blazing against the blue of windswept skies and the stark black silhouette of Hallows Hill. I could even get behind winter chic, when it came to sleek après-ski wear. And then there was Yule, with its fragrant wreaths and crackling logs and sea of candlelight. Arguably the most luminous and magical of the solstices. But in practice? Winter is horribly inelegant and messy, almost impossible to calibrate. One too many layers leaves you sticky and sweltering, while one too few lets the chill creep into your bones. Your hair turns into kindling, or poufs into a staticky halo immune even to glamour spells. You can’t even run properly in winter, unless you’re a die-hard marathoner with no self-preservation instincts left intact. All around cruel and unusual. At least we rarely suffered more than two months or so of such yearly punishment in Thistle Grove. But this year, strangely, winter seemed to suit me. This year, I found every fresh snowfall soothing, almost meditative. There was one raging right now beyond the frost-rimed window of the Silver Cherry, where I was grin-and-bearing my way through a jewelry-making class; a feathery whirlwind, like being inside a shaken snow globe filled with drifting down. It felt hypnotic, a chaotic escapade of white that made it hard to hold on to any single thought for long. Which, these days, was more than fine by me. These days, my thoughts and I didn’t tend to be on the best of terms. “Sweetheart,”Jessa said, in that delicate tone she’d taken to using on me, like one harsh note might topple me over, damage me in some irreparable way. She didn’t have to be quite that careful with me, but I loved that she wanted to be. “You’re doing your depressed mime face again.”The words themselves didn’t tend to match up with the spun-sugar tone all that often, because she was still Jessa, and I loved her for that, too. “What?”I mumbled, finally tearing my eyes from the window. “My . . . what?”“You know.”She rearranged her adorable, ringlet-framed features into a truly dismal expression, drooping puppy-dog eyes and a dramatically downturned mouth like a melancholy bass. “Like you’re about to perish of chronic woe. Or possibly planning to re-create that scene from The Giver, where the kid and his little brother escape into the snow to die with their emotions.”“It’s been a while since middle school English class, but even so, I’m fairly sure that wasn’t supposed to be the takeaway,”I told her with a snort. “And hard pass on that cold demise. If I absolutely have to die somewhere with my emotions, I’d rather go all nice and toasty.”Dragging my attention back to my little work tray, strewn with a glittery mishmash of wire and beads, I saw that I’d been halfheartedly tooling around with making earrings before the blizzard got the best of me. Once upon a time, I’d have crafted something gorgeous given an opportunity like this, painstakingly applied myself until I had it just right. Too bad “once upon a time”felt like several eons and an infinity of wrong turns ago. “Burn you at stake, then, noted,”Jessa quipped—though of course, thoroughly normie as she was, my best friend had no idea how close to home that hit. As far as I knew, Jessa had never once seriously considered the notion that our charming postcard of a town really was settled by witches, exactly like Thistle Grove legend would have you believe. To her, I was just Nina. Best friend and partner in crime from our shared law school days, now in-house counsel to my family’s extensive business interests. Not Nineve Cliodhna of House Blackmoore, second in line to the most powerful witch dynasty in Thistle Grove. “Don’t worry, buddy,”I assured her. “I do still have considerable will to live. Just not, like, enough zest to care about these earrings, apparently.”Jessa pooched out her lower lip, abandoning the complicated (and suspiciously BDSM-looking) beaded choker she’d been working on. “But that’s the point,”she insisted, smooth brow wrinkling with concern. “That’s what these classes are for, Nina. We’re supposed to be nurturing our creative selves, meeting new people, rediscovering your zest. Unearthing it.”She looked so crestfallen that for the barest moment, I entertained the idea of assembling the pitiful bead hodgepodge into something pretty with a simple transmutation spell of the pumpkin-into-carriage variety, but even more basic. The raw materials were already right in front of me, half-threaded. I could have done it with just a few words, using a single, purely distilled thought as a vehicle of my will. But that wouldn’t have been honest or fair, which was part of the reason I never did magic in front of my best friend. For the safety and the continuing preservation of our town, as per the Grimoire—the spellbook that also held sway over the conduct and governance of Thistle Grove’s witch community—only long-term, witchbound partners were permitted access to that secret. And for all that I adored Jessa to pieces, our friendship wasn’t the kind of love the founders had had in mind when deciding who should be privy to our magic. Letting the oblivion glamour cast over the town take hold of her, erasing her memory of whatever spell I’d worked, would have felt . . . traitorous. A little gross, even. And it would have been a cop-out at best. Jessa was the kind of delightful whirlwind of a person who effortlessly transformed strangers into friends—or short-lived partners, as the case may be—wherever she went, and I knew she’d been hoping a little of that joie de vivre might rub off on me. Tonight’s jewelry-making class was the fourth hopeful outing of its kind, following a disastrous wine-and-paint night (during which I’d gotten the not-artistically-conducive kind of wasted), an equally catastrophic pottery class that had reminded me of Sydney’s love of ceremonial teacups and sent me spinning into a meltdown, and a flower-arranging class that had only managed to unearth memories of the ivory-and-rose-gold palette I’d chosen for the flowers at my own wedding. A wedding that was never going to happen, much like the perfect life with Sydney that had been meant to materialize thereafter. A life that now seemed not just fictional, but so fantastically unbelievable that I, a flesh-and-blood descendant of the sorceress Morgan le Fay, couldn’t conceive of it as a reality. “You’re talking about me like I’m some archeological dig, Jess, and we’re troweling for ancient potsherds of joy. What if there’s no zest to unearth? What if I’m just a barren wasteland?”I dropped my chin, the familiar, hateful well of tears pressing against my eyes. I was so damn sick of crying at the slightest provocation, like some weepy damsel stuck in a mire of never-ending distress, but I’d apparently won the sob lottery. Team #Leaky4Life over here. “Permanently broken?”“Everyone’s fixable, sweetheart,”Jessa assured me, slipping a soft arm around my shoulders and tilting her temple against mine. She favored those subtle skin-musk perfumes that you couldn’t detect on yourself—the kind I’d never go for, because what was the point if you couldn’t catch indulgent whiffs of it throughout the day?—but that made her smell gorgeous, a vanilla-cedar scent that hit somewhere between gourmand and woody. Being hugged by her felt like free aromatherapy. “Even that guy you dated, with the towering manbun?”I asked, a little damply. “You say that like there’s only been one . . . which, would that were the truth.”“The one who drank so much bulletproof coffee it was like he was speaking in fast-forward all the time,”I clarified. “And did biceps curls while taking dumps.”“Fuck no, not him.”She shuddered delicately against me, sticking out her tongue—which was pierced, something no other estate lawyer I knew could ever have gotten away with. Apparently a deceptively angelic face like Jessa’s covered a multitude of sins, even when it came to the most uptight of clients. “Everyone but Chasen, then.”“Of course that was his name. And what about dictators? Or sex cult leaders? Or serial killers?”“Now you’re just being difficult. Allow me to rephrase, counselor.”She shifted sideways against me, just enough to boop me on the nose. “You are fixable, sweetheart. Eminently so.”“Then why can’t I get into even this, the most emotionally undemanding of activities?”I asked her, that relentless ache lurching in my chest again. A panging disorientation that felt almost like homesickness, as my gaze skimmed over the dozen or so other people happily crafting beneath the cherry cutouts dangling from the ceiling, the recessed lighting spilling over them in a mellow glow. Mostly clusters of women around Jessa’s and my age, along with a few mothers with their tweens in tow. Even the solitary goth enby with the pentagram neck tattoo—likely a tourist drawn to the Silver Cherry by its affiliation with Lark Thorn, who was not only teaching this class but also sold her line of enchanted jewelry here—looked to be having a more exuberant experience with this mortal coil than I was. “What kind of mess can’t focus on stringing beads together? Or letting loose on a pottery wheel?”I swiped at my eyes, trying in vain to keep from smearing my eyeliner. “It’s been a whole year, Jess. How long is this emotional fugue state even supposed to last?”My voice rose enough that on the other side of the room, Lark Thorn abruptly straightened from where she’d been instructing one of the tweens. She turned just enough to flick a concerned glance at me over her shoulder, deep brown skin glowing against the vivid turquoise of her scoop-neck sweater, her dark eyes liquid with sympathy. The Thorns were empathically attuned to each other’s feelings, and acutely sensitive to others’emotional landscapes, too. Though I doubted Lark even needed their particular brand of ESP to detect the seismic rumble of my distress. The Nina I used to be had been unshakably sure of herself, vacuum-sealed into her composure. But these days, the old me felt like a fossil, a crumbling memory. These days, I was more of a tempest in a teacup. A flailing, distractible tempest that just could not seem to get it the hell together. I twitched my lips into an “everything’s just peachy over here”smile, wincing inwardly as she gave me a lingering look before turning away. I wouldn’t have agreed to come here tonight at all, had I remembered Lark’s connection to the studio. Given how the Blackmoores’standing in this town had declined since the debacle of last year’s Gauntlet of the Grove—not to mention the fact that my little brother, Gawain, had briefly come under suspicion when one of the Avramovs’dearly departed ancestors cursed the Thorns this past Beltane—the last thing I needed to be doing was signaling weakness in front of a member of one of the other families. The thought spurred me into taking a breath, stiffening my spine a little, and leaning away from Jessa as if she wasn’t, in fact, my load-bearing support column. Trying to act as though I at least remembered who I was supposed to be. “I don’t think heartbreak’s an exact science, sweetie. Though I will concur that maybe we’ve been going about this the wrong way,”Jess concluded thoughtfully, nibbling on her lip. “You
Nineve Blackmore is the sensible one. Buttoned up...
Pearls and sweater sets classic...
Ready for love?
Ìt seems so.
After a year of recovering from the broken heart that her ex-fiancèe, Sydney, left behind.
It seems that her bestie (non magical...btw.) Is determined to find the perfect mate to free her most buttoned up buddy.
Enter one Morty Gutierrez.
Decidedly non magical. At least in the spells and charms sense of the word.
But that does little to stop this beautiful, non binary person being absolutely "magically delicious" in every other respect.
Back In A Spell is the third offering in the Witches Of Thistle Grove series. And shows readers a softer and more emotional side of magic.
Most of which is brought to the fore by Morty.
But things really get interesting when the previously 'normie' Morty, is getting more magical. The closer he/they get to their lady love.
This book is a wonderful addition to the WOTG stable.
The sensitivity, humor, romance, and magic; make the hours spent reading pass faster then one can say ABBRACADABBRA.
This book is wonderful!
Where's the next one? Lol!
Lana is the New York Times bestselling author of Payback's A Witch and the forthcoming From Bad to Cursed from Berkley Books. Writing as Lana Popovic, she is also the author of YA novels Wicked Like a Wildfire, Fierce Like a Firestorm, Blood Countess, and Poison Priestess. Lana studied psychology and literature at Yale University, law at Boston University, and is a graduate of the Emerson College publishing and writing master's program. She was born in Serbia and lived in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania before moving to the United States, where she now lives in Chicago with her family.