Hearth & Cauldron – Shawn McGuire

*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Blurb: “When an item is stolen, dark energy attaches to it. Food made in a stolen pan could cause all sorts of problems . . . And most of the coven just ate these scones.”

Visitors claim they feel summoned to Whispering Pines, Wisconsin, but can’t explain why. Residents say the same thing. Kitchen witch Reeva Long tried to leave many times only to have fate call her back. Most recently, a year ago to settle her estranged late husband’s estate.

Now Reeva owns Hearth & Cauldron, a quaint, cozy shop where her customers learn to make delectable dishes and find perfect pieces for their homes. When a thief makes off with a pair of vintage fluted muffin pans, Reeva wonders if her time in the village is up again.

Rather than run, Reeva decides it’s time for a reset and invites the village witches over to bless her cottage. Everything goes perfectly until later in the evening when they’re having refreshments and an elderly witch becomes deathly ill after enjoying a scone and a cup of tea.

Did the poor woman’s failing heart finally give out? Were the fluted markings on those scones a coincidence? Or is something more nefarious going on?

Hearth & Cauldron is the first book in The Hearth & Cauldron Mysteries. If you like your mysteries on the cozy side with mischievous pets, plenty of quirky characters, and a dash of paranormal you’ll love this series.

This series picks up where the Whispering Pines Mysteries series ends. While it’s not necessary to read Whispering Pines to enjoy this one, there are plot points that occur in it that will make Hearth & Cauldron even more enjoyable.

This is the first book in a brand new series, set in the same village and among the same characters as the thirteen book Whispering Pines mystery series, and this is also a mystery, but the change of main character from ex-cop-turned-local-sheriff Jayne O’Shea to prodigal villager and prominent hearth witch Reeva Long makes for a whole fresh new look at the familiar for long-time fans.

I confess to finding it a little disconcerting at first, to be visiting Whispering Pines without Jayne (she is still there, but not present in person in this story, which actually works really well as it gives readers chance to settle in to Reeva’s narration without distractions). It felt a little sneaky, especially when it meant we would be leaving Jayne and Meeka out of a possible crime… that’s their thing!

Despite that, it didn’t take long at all for me to not only get used to the switch but to find it a refreshing change. Reeva has none of Jayne’s sceptical discomfort towards the Wiccan religion or the many different practices – which Jayne lumped together (albeit respectfully!) as ‘woo woo’. On the contrary, Reeva is fully immersed in Wicca and her daily routine is made up of a series of rituals pertaining to those beliefs, which is only fitting considering her new role in the village. This different perspective on life in general also translates to Reeva’s investigation methods, which are more focused on promoting positive energy and seeking to dispel negative energies, while still including the mystery story essentials of suspects, clues and motives… and a few twists of the non-cinnamon variety!

It is useful to note at this point that, while this book can stand alone perfectly well as the beginning of an entirely new series, I would definitely recommend reading books 1-13 of the Whispering Pines series first, as they provide so much back story for the town and characters and are also wonderful cosy mysteries in their own right.

Coming back to Reeva’s investigation though, you will find that as well as the challenges of deaths and more petty crimes, she has plenty of emotional work to do as she has to come to terms with the deaths of loved (and not-so-loved) ones, the after-effects of her sister’s actions, her long-held feelings for Gabe, the villagers’ mixed feelings about her and her yearning for a more fully-lived life in every aspect. That’s a lot of character developing material and I can’t wait to see how she gets on over the course of the rest of this (hopefully long-running) series.

For now, though, this is a great start to the new ‘spin-off’ series for new and old fans alike – for anyone, really, who enjoys a well-written mystery with a warm, small-community heart and a touch of mystical spirit.

“A reset?” Ruby declared, hands over her heart. “I love that, Reeva. More than anyone I know, you’re entitled. And this is the perfect time.”
It was because it wasn’t just a matter of wanting something new for myself, I needed it. The difference between a perfect cake and one fit only for the garbage bin could be a matter of a minute or two too long in the oven. Some days I felt like my life’s timer was ticking perilously close to the crumbling, overbaked cake stage. I needed an infusion of excitement. The question was, would a reset work for me, or would something happen, once again, to destroy my plans?

– Shawn McGuire, Hearth & Cauldron

Find more from Shawn McGuire at her website here, or follow her on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Hearth & Cauldron releases on Amazon TODAY!

You can find my reviews of the Whispering Pines series here: Family Secrets (#1); Kept Secrets (#2); Original Secrets (#3); Hidden Secrets (#4); Rival Secrets (#5); Veiled Secrets (#6); Silent Secrets (#7); Merciful Secrets (#8); Justified Secrets (#9); Protected Secrets (#10); Burning Secrets (#11); Blind Secrets (#12), Wayward Secrets (#13).

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