Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: May 13th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Paranormal
I received this book for free from St. Martin's Griffin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
It’s the trouble you aren’t expecting that gets you. And it’s all around you, Bronwyn, it’s all around you like the air.…
Bronwyn "BitsyWyn" Whalen hasn’t set eyes on the red dirt of Magnolia Creek, Alabama, for fourteen years—not since her mama died. But with her brother, Patrick, imprisoned for the murder of her childhood best friend, and her eccentric father, Jackson, at his wits’ end while her eleven-year-old niece, Byrd, runs wild, Bronwyn finds herself once again surrounded by ancient magnolia trees and the troubled family she left behind. She becomes immersed in a whirlwind of mystery and magic as she tries to figure out what really happened that fateful night her friend died. And as her bond with Byrd deepens, Bronwyn must face the demons of her past in order to unravel her family’s uncertain future. In Suzanne Palmieri's thrilling new novel, The Witch of Belladonna Bay, readers will learn if love and magic are enough to bring a broken family back together.
“I was Southern Belle mixed with rattlesnake. My venom hurt people.”
Bronwyn “BitsyWyn” Whalen is a layered character who is pretty normal considering the dysfunction she found herself growing up around. Not only was the relationship with her parents a source of heartache and contempt but growing up with “shine” in her blood didn’t make things any easier. When she goes back to her hometown after 14 long years away, Brownwyn is forced to confront her past in order to not only save her brother from his wrongful imprisonment but to protect her precocious niece, Byrd, from forces supernatural and otherwise threatening to hurt her.
While this is a departure from the romance-fueled books I read I found myself enjoying this story for the magic and suspense and the whodunit style of the story. Not only was I constantly second guessing what was going to happen but I found myself pleasantly shocked and heartbroken over the twists that Brownwyn, Byrd and the rest of the Whalen family encountered along this journey.
One of the biggest strengths of this novel, besides Byrd, Bronwyn’s precocious niece, was the Southern-Gothic tone in which this story was told. Lush in imagery, Magnolia Creek felt like a place I could have visited based on descriptions alone. I found myself wanting to sit on a a wrap-around porch, sippin’ sweet tea as I read along.
I did have a few issues that I ultimately feel could have been resolved had I read previous novels this author wrote that touched on other characters featured in this book. I feel like I didn’t exactly grasp the true understanding of Brownwyn’s “shine” or magic. It was more or less explained on the vague side of things and I had to re-read a few key parts to make sure I didn’t miss out on what exactly was going on. Also the multiple POV’s, including a few from Brownwyn’s dead mother, while informative kind of took me out of the present story.
Despite a few hickups and a lack of romance (I can’t help it. There was romance but a little more would have went a long way) I really enjoyed this book. Not only did I enjoy the author’s writing style but the characters, especially Byrd, were well written and full of depth and the story constantly kept me on my toes. The Witch of Belladonna Bay is a story about family and forgiveness with a touch of magic and a hint of Southern charm.