The three best witchy romances of 2023

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Recently divorced Gillian Armstead-Bancroft has returned to Freedom, Kansas, with two kids, no money, seriously dented self-respect—and a curse that’s robbed her of her magical powers. Nothing in life has turned out as this always-good girl (and secret bruja) thought it would. And when a good girl is under a curse that turns all her good intentions to ash, the obvious fix is to try out being bad. Preferably with her childhood friend, Nicky Mendoza, who is now a successful artist and still the only man who has ever satisfied her in bed. Meanwhile, things are changing in the town of Freedom. The run-down East Side is getting a boost, and Gillian’s noisy, nosy family is leading the charge. There’s a role there for Gillian, if she’s willing to take it . . . and if she can let go of the idea that success looks like the life she left behind, which was all big-city sparkle, name-brand luxury and soul-crushing emptiness.

Angelina M. Lopez’s Full Moon Over Freedom, her sequel to After Hours on Milagro Street, delivers on all expectations. It’s both powerful and sweet to see Gillian and Nicky rekindle their romance. They’ve lived separate lives for the past 13 years, but from the moment they reunite, Nicky is once again the only person Gillian lets herself be truly honest with. And when it comes to her sexuality—her needs, her desires—their compatibility is off the charts. If you’re a reader who enjoys the “healed by the magic of great sex” trope, you will absolutely love this book. Mixing in with all of the classic plot elements is actual magic, which in Lopez’s hands is tangible, present and beautifully imperfect. Refreshingly, it doesn’t solve all of Gillian and Nicky’s problems and it also results in contact with the spirit realm, moments that are alternately unsettling and enchanting—sometimes both at once.

Gillian’s Mexican American identity, which Lopez shares, radiates throughout the book. Full Moon Over Freedom unpacks the Latinx history of Kansas, showing how the struggles of women in the past trickle down into the prejudices of today through an infuriating heartbreaker of a historical story based on a real court case. This is the work of a writer who knows and celebrates her community and her culture. It’s also a love story that embraces the unusual, celebrates the unsung and makes you believe the words of another famous Kansan: There’s no place like home.

Full Moon Over Freedom celebrates the unsung Latinx history of Kansas while telling a second-chance love story that’s powerful, sexy and sweet.
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Poet and young adult author Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s adult debut, Witch of Wild Things, is a story of family legacies and complicated sisterhood, told with romantic and lush magical realism. 

For the entirety of Sage Flores’ life, she’s known three things. First, the old gods have no love for Flores women and have thus cursed them. Second, she feels anything but lucky to have inherited one of her family’s many “gifts,” which in Sage’s case is the ability to identify plants and commune with their spirits. Finally, she wants no part of either her inherited abilities or retribution from meddling gods. The death of her younger sister, Sky, only solidified Sage’s decision to escape her hometown of Cranberry, Virginia, and never look back. But eight years after Sky’s death, Sage finds herself back amongst her old childhood haunts and slowly starting to accept her uncanny talents. 

Returning to her old job at the Cranberry Rose Company, Sage, accompanied by Sky’s ghost, uses her powers to discover new and rare flora in the area. One of her coworkers is a familiar face: Tennessee Reyes, the boy who left her heartbroken in high school. While Tennessee and Sage are workplace rivals at first, their competitiveness is easily quelled as they nerd out on plants and bloom as friends (and then possibly more) while out in nature.Their romance is sweet and subtle, something Gilliland unfolds carefully while Sage deals with the larger obstacles in her life, namely her family. 

Sage is the beautiful heart of Witch of Wild Things, with her herculean efforts to both protect herself but still allow for vulnerability. She’s delightfully funny and heartbreakingly flawed; rooting for her comes easily. There are magical family secrets to uncover, cultural identities to reckon with and relationships to mend, most notably with her other sister, Teal, whose ability to summon thunderstorms and lightning have stirred up plenty of trouble in town. Even when the plot momentum ebbs, Gilliland keeps readers enthralled with her luxurious prose. Sage’s work with plants gives Gilliland plenty of opportunities to create gorgeous imagery for readers to lose themselves in. And the sexy Tennessee’s knowing smirks will make readers weak in the knees right along with Sage. 

Transportive and bursting with heart, Witch of Wild Things is a tender masterpiece of magical realism.

Transportive and bursting with heart, Witch of Wild Things is a tender masterpiece of magical realism and a sexy love story to boot.

Lana Harper continues to enchant the hearts of readers with the fourth book in her Witches of Thistle Grove series, In Charm’s Way. These supernatural rom-coms are always enjoyable and fun, but this latest installment has some darker, broodier moments, too. 

Delilah Harlow is still reeling from the oblivion charm cast on her at the end of book three (Back in a Spell), and her healing journey takes her down a dark path. She’s lost memories and her sharp mind has been dulled, forcing her to turn to her paranormal community for help. But relying on others makes you vulnerable, which Delilah can’t abide, so she casts a dangerous blood spell to harness her power and bring forth its healing capabilities. What she didn’t account for was how the spell would make her a magnet for a hoard of dangerous monsters.

Fortunately, there’s Catriona Quinn, monster hunter. She’s half-human and half-fae, an expert in her field and a member of the Shadow Court, which helps hold the evil, violent side of the paranormal at bay. She’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a morally gray and beguiling core. Sassy and headstrong, confident and reckless, Catriona catches Delilah’s attention in the sexiest, most distracting way possible. Just distracting enough, in fact, to help Delilah get out of her head.

Harper creates a remarkably intimate experience for the reader by keeping them rooted in Delilah’s perspective as she works through her mental trauma. She’s angry about the things that were taken from her, and rightfully so, but her experience has shifted her personality in such a way that she’s able to lean into the rage and use it to heal herself. 

The characters are well developed, the dialogue is snappy and the plot is fast-paced and engaging in the supremely satisfying and entertaining In Charm’s Way.

Lana Harper’s latest paranormal romance, In Charm’s Way, movingly explores mental trauma (via an oblivion charm, naturally).

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