Title: Not Your Average Love Spell
Author: Barbara Ann Wright
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Shelves: Female-author, female-fronted
Not Your Average Love Spell is neither your average fantasy nor your average romance. In fact, it’s a book that is far more than the sum of its parts. Barbara Ann Wright mixes so much into her story – romance, comedy, drama, action, adventure – that it threatens more than once to collapse under the clash of themes, but those clashes and contrasts only serve to make it stronger and more engaging.
Let me start by talking about the fantasy aspects. While this doesn’t offer the depth or complexity of an epic fantasy doorstopper, it is a solid little fantasy tale with a lot of really cool elements – knights, witches, monsters, and even dragons. Wright plays to all the tropes, from quests to battles, and expected set pieces, from libraries to castles, but in a way that keeps the story fresh while preserving the surprises. There is a question of magic that runs through it, and I liked what she did with that, exploring themes of fear, hatred, and discrimination in relation to it, rather than race (which seems a non-issue), sexuality (which is casually accepted), or gender (female knights are not only common, they’re respected).
As for the romance, that was surprisingly sweet and amusing, with four women at the heart of the story who are entirely likable. Camille is fantastic, the bubbly scholar who turns out to have the courage of a warrior; Sydney is the intellectual core of the novel, a woman who finds her beliefs and role deeply challenged, forcing her to grow and adapt if they’re to save the world; Rowena is harder to warm up to, a witch who keeps herself isolated from society and closed off from emotions, but I identified with her, and she became my favorite by the end; while Ember serves as the emotional core, an magically constructed woman who blends childlike innocence and wonder with some of the story’s most mature thoughts on love and humanity. There’s some angst and doubt there, some romantic tension, and several would-be-lover’s quarrels, but the spark of attraction and the emotional connections are undeniable. What’s more, Wright interweaves the relationships, mixing things up so that the romantic pairings we end with are not necessarily the ones we expected at the beginning.
Not Your Average Love Spell was everything I’d hoped for from the blurb – and much more. Whether you read it as a fantasy, a romance, or just a story that refuses to be closeted in one genre, this is an entirely satisfying read.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀
My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.