Gwen Hensley thought her arrival in the small Kansas town would bring hope and the comfort of family, but something dark from her family’s past tracked her grandmother, Lizzy, down and murdered her before the young woman and her raven familiar, Lewis, arrived. The young woman must come to grips with her loss, a new environment, burgeoning magical abilities, and the truth of why her mother ran from home, but can Gwen really survive the knowledge of betrayals and twisted bonds?
The basic premise of Lucretia Stanhope’s Blessedly Bound intrigued me: a young, inexperienced witch begins her growth into a powerful magic user through the tragic loss of her family and has to piece things together by integrating the local community and through her grandmother’s journals. Unfortunately for me, this was only one half of the plot; the other was a tragic love triangle that distracted me from the intriguing mystery of Lizzy’s – and her husband’s – deaths and how they directly tied to Gwen.
The mystery and paranormal portion of Blessedly Bound interested me immensely. I enjoyed Gwen’s forays into investigation and how she slowly began piecing together her grandfather’s past. When she experiences burning at the stake via magic in the first chapter, I couldn’t tear my eyes from my Kindle, and I genuinely hoped that the intensity would hold over the course of the entire novel. The blend of Gwen’s normal sleuthing and magic-based approaches to getting answers helped ground me in the idea that this young woman really possessed some abilities beyond normal humans. At the same time, her attempts to bond with the people in her new town showed that even special people need connection and community to feel safe. Unfortunately, the author fell back on the trope of voodoo being antithetical to responsible magic in her creation of the main villain for the series, but the overall feel of the paranormal piece of the plot entertained me enough that I tried to let it go.
On the other hand, the first glimmers of romance shoehorned into the story worried me, because Gwen felt complete to me with just her search for answers. I didn’t see a point in her having once thought she was romantically interested in her familiar, Lewis, and I really didn’t enjoy the insta-attraction that emerged between Gwen and her grandmother’s neighbor, Sebastian (an enchanting and seemingly ageless gentleman with a secret). For me the romance angle distracted me from the main plot – the mystery around Lizzy’s death – and it sometimes pushed the mystery out of the way to take center stage in ways that broke the flow of the story. If it had been introduced more gradually, I might have enjoyed it more, but the sudden draw between Gwen and Sebastian didn’t feel earned. I don’t enjoy love at first sight/destined lovers-type stories, so I may have been biased against the way the romance presented itself in Blessedly Bound. Some readers may love the painful triangle of Gwen, Lewis, and Sebastian; for me, it added unnecessary drama to a story that already had enough going on to carry the entire book.
I also found the writing in Blessedly Bound uneven, with some chapters or paragraphs creating amazing imagery and others falling into the trap of telling rather than showing. It is much more interesting to read something occurring (See my reference to the amazing burning at the stake scene from chapter one above!) to being told that something is occurring. Obviously, everything does not need to be spelled out, and the key is to cut elements that don’t move the plot forward in any way.
Overall, I thought Blessedly Bound was okay, but I’m unlikely to rush out to pick up the later novels in the series. (I believe it’s up to six.) There’s a core to an excellent tale in the book, and I hope that Lucretia Stanhope grew and developed her characters and writing with each novel, because there is great potential in this book. I just didn’t quite feel it reached it.
3.5 Knitting Patterns out of 5