Paranormal · Romance

Review: The Ex Hex

Title: The Ex Hex
Author: Erin Sterling (Rachel Hawkins)
Page Count: 320
Publication: September 2021

[Amazon | Indie Bound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(More serious reviews: Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Not to be confused with the band Ex Hex.)

Reading this book has been a blur.

First, I’ve been following Rachel Hawkins / Erin Sterling on Twitter for some time so I have must have read something by her to follow her and her tweets are entertaining. (Also, this is how I follow most authors and journalists and then discover later on I cannot remember how I found them. This is not Hawkins (nee Sterling).)

Second, I saw The Ex Hex tweet promoted by another author that Hawkins (nee Sterling) maybe retweeted? Or I saw it in the wild? Nevertheless, when I read the description, I knew this book had to be mine.

(BTW, I am the proud owner of having library cards through three different systems and the average wait time is about 12 weeks per system.)

Paranormal romances can go in a variety of different ways: some bad (I’m looking at you Laurell K Hamilton and Stephenie Meyer) or good (hello J.R. Ward and Charlaine Harris). There really is no defining rule of what makes a great or awful story. You want charisma and heat between the characters, a fetching storyline that isn’t so up in itself you need note cards and sharpies to keep track, and a believable world.

This is why I love The Ex Hex. It’s got a pinch of Practical Magic mixed in with some Sabrina the Teenage Witch with the fun of Bewitched and a bit like Harry Potter but when Hawkins (nee Sterling) described it as “Hocus Pocus (But They F***),” which you know, is what sold me.

I’m a sucker for cozy romances – like cozy mysteries but with more skin and sex and less Jessica Fletcher. Hell, anything cozy. One day I want to own a bookstore in the Cotswolds with a sexy man at my beck and call while I solve mysteries in my free time. Alas, that is not to be but with books, I can be anywhere and do anything I want.

This is where The Ex Hex comes in. A fun romp of a witch who after a bad breakup, preforms what she doesn’t think is a spell but is a spell on the ex she has just dumped. Nearly a decade later, they are thrown back together when he comes back to Graves Glen, GA for Founder’s Day to give a speech and all that rot. But the curse is real! And Rhys is fucked and not really in a good way (well, he and Vivi do get it on considerably but that is later in the story). They must lift a curse and do it by the end of Halloween. Oh no! How will they survive?

The Ex Hex made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I wanted nothing more to snuggle up on a hot cocoa by my side as I read. I could feel the whispering of fall at the back of my neck as I took in this charming story. My basic bitch was coming out in full force and look, I’m a basic bitch and this fills all the notches.

This book isn’t about a girl not understanding who she is, Vivi knows exactly who she is, or that she’s an underdog, she isn’t. It does fall in with a second time around romance trope which is fine when done well and here it is. The sex scenes build and it’s not gratuitous, which is a relief. Rhys isn’t a superhero coming to swoop in to save the day or a bad boy except Rhys has very good hair that does That Thing which makes VIvi swoon. They are just two normal people crushing on each other hard and have a task to complete.

The ending is nice and tidy (mostly) and the couple gets their HEA. The only thing I would ding this book on is that while Hawkins (nee Sterling) does a great job of blending in Rhys’ Welshness with Vivi’s southern charm, there isn’t enough of a backstory as to WHY his ancestor left Wales and came to America and that is very relevant to the story as the relationship between the two families, Rhys’ and Vivi’s, goes way back since the time of the town’s founding. So, why did Penhallow leave Wales? Why is Rhys’ father a dick? What’s up with Wells and Bowen? And what about Gwyn and Aunt Elaine? Hawkins (nee Sterling) has created a believable world where she can play around with the other characters. She gave them relatable and whole lives that intersect with Vivi and Rhys and are formed and not cookie cutter cut outs. Hawkins (nee Sterling) has written across many genres but I get the feeling here, and I’m probably not wrong, she had a lot of fun with this story and that there is much more in the world of Graves Glen in the future.

I also give points towards Hawkins (nee Sterling) using Welsh/British-isms (torch for flashlight; mate instead of dude). It is what has struck me about this book is she also pays attention to the culture she’s writing about and not just winging it.

Let’s cut to the chase: So dear reader, if you want a fast, fun, sassy, and enjoyable read with believable characters and setting, pick up The Ex Hex. I read the first half in one sitting before bed one night and I would have gone on if I hadn’t had to work in the morning. If that doesn’t sell you, you have a rotten and cold heart compatible with Rhys’ father Simon (the dick).