books

Amy Lane

Books

Hedge Witches Lonely Heart Club: Shortbread and Shadows (2020), Portals and Puppy Dogs (2021), Pentacles and Pelting Plants (2021), Heartbeats in a Haunted House (2022)

 

Hedge Witches Lonely Heart Club


Shortbread and Shadows (2020)

Shortbread and ShadowsBartholomew Baker has had a crush on the guy who usually has the stall next to him, for two years. But Barty is painfully shy, struggling to try and make baking works so he can quit his day job, and, well, his coven just messed up a spell really badly.

(E)ven Lachlan, who knew nothing about magic or omens, could tell that a giant flock of birds flying upside down was bad.

Lachlan has had a crush on Bartholomew for a year and a half, but despite making sure their stalls are always next to each other, he’s gotten nowhere.

He’d also seen Bartholomew get into the conversation, grow somewhat animated, and then stop himself, as though hearing an unkind voice.

When the spell gone wrong affects Bartholomew at the fair, Lachlan jumps into help, and the two can finally be open about how they feel about each other.

The story was cute, and the world building was interesting, and I was very glad that Lachlan had been crushing on Bartholomew, because otherwise things might have been creepy.

I don’t much care for the virgin / rake trope, but at least there some reason for it here. Though I might have liked the story a tiny bit more without that trope. Or the boinking. (But we all well know my thoughts on that front.)

There were several cute and amusing passages, and lots of baking, which is what led me to pick up the story in the first place. (Baker AND magic? I’m in.)

And I was highly amused by this passage:

Dad’s… I don’t know. Europeanish.” Bartholomew snorted, but it worked to calm him down. “Well, that’s my family. Sorry. Nothing to see here, folks. We’re a plain white people, the cheapest of bread.”

That is half my genes right there. Europeanish. Plain white people.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 7/10

Portals and Puppy Dogs (2021)

Portals and Puppy DogsAlex is glad his roommate Bartholomew has found his true love, but Alex’s life is still a mess: he put in for a transfer, so he could try and move on from his huge crush on his boss, but Simon wants to know why Alex wants to leave, and with everything so messed up with the spell gone wrong, Alex doesn’t have the energy–or the inclination–to lie.

Experience had taught them that if the ritual wasn’t performed, the snakes would all head for the apple tree in front of Bartholomew and Alex’s house, turning the rather average bit of flora into a writhing herpetological nightmare by morning.

Simon runs an accounting firm with his two best friends–once of whom is in an ugly divorce–and his partners want to know why Alex–their best employee–wants to transfer. So Simon decides to take him out to lunch, to ask.

“You just look perfectly average!” Simon exclaimed, and even as the words came out of his mouth, he saw the pit he’d dug for himself with the spiders and snakes in the bottom. Abort abort abort!

As the coven continues to try and get their friends back, Alex comes to terms with his own truth–his own deepest desire–and wants to see if just maybe things will work out.

“I’m afraid I’m so tired that I might spill embarrassing true things before I’m emotionally ready to be that vulnerable,”

I could have down without two virgin heroes in a row. I get that Simon is supposed to be demi (as noted previously) virgin and rake is a trope I don’t much like. Hopefully were done with that.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 7/10

Pentacles and Pelting Plants (2021)

Pentacles and Pelting PlantsJordan’s coven screwed up.

Badly.

“It’s more personal than that,” he said. “The magic itself was offended. We hadn’t just told a polite lie on paper— we’d told a polite lie to ourselves.”

Tow of their friends as lost in space and time, the problems in their neighborhood are getting worse, and they can’t seem to figure out how to make things better, so they ask them magic for assistance.

What the get is a pissed-off wizard who was pulled through a portal halfway across the country.

And what does Mack the wizard get in repayment?

To sleep in a vengeful witches cottage.

“Are you kidding me?” he asked from the doorway.

True to form, the music was barely quiet enough to make it possible to fall asleep while listening to it, but loud enough to seep into the dreams of anyone in the cottage. “Could be worse,” Jordan said. “I had a week of ‘Wichita Lineman’ last winter. Enjoy.”

What I particularly liked about this book was the focus on what the magic could do. It was interesting to consider, and just as likely as those with magical power would be just as obnoxious as those with political and financial power. (ie Mack’s family)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 7.8/10

Heartbeats in a Haunted House (2022)

Heartbeats in a Haunted HouseThis book recovers the events of the previous three, only told from the points of view of Dante and Cully, who are trapped in the house, because they couldn’t admit what everyone around them could see: they’d been in love with each others from the moment they met.

The family back stories were especially interesting here: Cully’s father loved him, and tried to support him, but didn’t understand him, and seems to fear how the world would treat him, and so tried to make him self-reliant.

Dante’s family loved him, and tried to remain a part of his life, but were also completely unable to accept him for who he was.

As troubled as those familial relationships were, they were not irrevocably broken, which made them all the more complex and interesting. Because all each wants is to be seen and accepted for who they are.

“Huh. I’d never thought of a dog like that. A dog without a purpose?”

“No!” Oh God. Cully was so stupid. Dante would never understand. But he had to keep trying. “It just… it doesn’t have to feel obligated,” he’d said. “It doesn’t have to have chores. All it has to do is be pretty and friendly. And it has to love me, because that’s all I am.”

I think my biggest issue with the series was I don’t feel like the issue with the neighborhood was completely resolved. Yeah, they got Dante and Cully out, but it never felt like they actually solved the underlying issue of what was causing problems in the neighborhood–the final spell was to retrieve their friends, I don’t remember it dealing with the abnegation spirit.

Despite that it was a good series, and did lots of interesting things with the world.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 7.5/10