Review: Payback’s a Witch

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t even read the description for this book. I saw the cover and requested the book and that was it. But though the cover is beautiful, this book is more romance than fantasy and I wasn’t expecting that at first.

Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC for review. This is a spoiler free, honest review and all thoughts and feelings are my own.


Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
Published: October 5, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Pages: 336
Rating: starstarstar

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

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?

So, for starters, there were some things I liked about this book and things I didn’t. I’m still not sure what rating to give it because this book teetered on the edge of being more fantasy at times and then more romance at times and it’s hard for me to judge when the balance kept changing. But for the sake of my sanity, and yours, we’re going to say this book is primarily a romance novel with a subplot of fantasy to keep things simple.

So looking at this from a romance way, I have to say, I hate the instant love trope. Talia and Emmy have an instant connection and are immediately attracted to each other, which I can understand attraction, but the instant connection made my eyes roll a little bit. Thank goodness they don’t immediately jump into each other’s arms claiming their love – they take things somewhat slow. I thought Emmy and Talia’s relationship, once established, was really cute. It’s clear that opposites attract and I loved that there was some history between them already as they grew up in the same town and went to school together.

One thing that I hated though was the reason Emmy left. I mean, boys sucks, but even after a horrible break up I cannot imagine packing up everything and leaving town to get away. Like what? After only dating for a few months, this boys rejection wounded her ego so bad she stayed away for TEN YEARS!? I MEAN SERIOUSLY. I refuse to believe that anyone at 18 has done this or thought about doing this after a summer fling ended and then stayed away for so long. Especially with a person everyone knows to be a player and a jerk.

Though, I could relate to Emmy’s low self esteem. She constantly puts her value in other people’s hands, which I will say I do too often too, and can’t find her self worth. Even after going to school and starting a successful career, she still places too much emphasis on other people’s opinions and it made me so sad. It was nice to see this change over time though as Emmy went from seeking approval to accepting herself.

As for the magic, I thought it was really cool. The magical games were really intense and certain moments made me chuckle as I read through them. It really broke up the story and added some pizzazz to the plot and the world. Especially regarding the powers each family possesses. I like how they’re all distinguishable and have somewhat clear origins – it was really interesting and I want to learn more about them.

By the end of the book, I was happy with the outcome. I felt like the journey was more internal for Emmy and it made me happy to see her work through her negative feelings of herself and her hometown. Especially if it meant ending up with Talia who seems like a great partner for her.

But what got me the most excited was the preview of the sequel/spin off following Talia’s sister. I read those few chapters and was hooked! While this book was good, I’m interested to see if I like the next book even more.


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