I’ve been reading a lot of romances lately, and I know those aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Graphic sex is often a feature, and those hot and steamy scenes might be a fun time for me but they aren’t for everybody. That said, I think there are some things that they do well, and some things that they don’t typically do well, too. Both provide a place to learn if you’re a writer.
Enter American Witch. I’m a sucker for witch stories, so when Amazon advertised this book to me I couldn’t manage to say no. It had everything I wanted from a witch story – an awesome lady coven, sweet spells, intrigue – and also a lot of sex. But what was most striking about this book wasn’t any of those things. It was the fact that the central romance took place between two people who actually communicated.
If you read romance, especially paranormal romance, you’re probably familiar with the trope of the seductive supernatural man who is hyper-controlling. I talked about this a little bit in my post “Werewolves and women,” but it’s not relegated to werewolf stories alone – you see this trope crop up throughout the paranormal romance genre. It’s honestly pretty exhausting. Usually, this is the main driver of the emotional conflict in the story. That previous, and oftentimes current, manipulation is seen as a regrettable byproduct of romance with an ‘alpha’ male. Eventually, the lady lead just sucks it up and accepts his foibles.
Enter American Witch, which manages to throw most of those tropes on its head despite a set-up which indicates the opposite. It does this through the expedient method of actually having the romantic leads talk to one another.
I will start by saying that this book is not a perfect book. There are also scenes of spousal abuse (emotional and physical) and moments when the two romantic leads are less than nice to one another. As in many romances, Molly and Josiah start off as somewhat antagonistic towards one another. However, as the plot and there relationship progresses, they take the crazy tactic of actually communicating to one another openly about their issues. Open communication is super important to both of them and to the success of their relationship longterm, and Molly and Josiah both pursue external goals which, while entangled, are still profoundly separate. They have their own lives and their own issues. When one of them crosses a boundary, the other one takes pains to point it out in a clear manner. When the other needs to negotiate a boundary or rule – which is a thing that happens in many relationships – they have a civil discussion about it. Neither of them want the other to experience risk or danger, but both respect the other’s need to live their life. The plot did not depend on stupidity or lack of talking to one another.
It’s regrettable that this was a surprise to me, I admit. I think that paranormal romance has a lot of room for growing in that regard (though I’ve read many LGBTQ+ romances that don’t have that issue). Content warnings aside, if you’re looking for a pulpy, romantic read you could do far worse than to read American Witch this summer.