This is my first book toward my witches and witchcraft challenge for 2014. I always think of Nora Roberts as more of a romance novelist. I've read a few of the "In Death" series she wrote as JD Robb and they were good but I usually stayed clear of her other stories because I prefer romance to be the back story in the books I read, rather than at the forefront. This book, Dark Witch, however, got good reviews and also seemed to feed my need for the paranormal.
Synopsis from Barnes and Noble: With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.
Ireland. County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives. When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package. Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive
Dark Witch's main heroine, Iona, is an interesting character. She is all of 5'3" and puts it all out there when it comes to her feelings and being honest, to the point of embarrassing others at times. I found this to be both endearing and annoying but I guess since her childhood wasn't satisfying, she knows what she wants or needs and let's everyone know without hesitation. Otherwise, she figures, how else will she get it? Her two cousins welcome her immediately when she arrives from America. Branna is hesitant, unsure, extra cautious. Conner is the opposite, more of a free spirit who trusts easily. He was the most charming character in the book and easy to like. Together they are "the three." The ones who will have to go up against Cabhan, the evil witch who is coming to steal their power for himself. Along with these characters, we also have Fin, who is an actual descendant of their enemy, Cabhan. but chooses to fight against him. Boyle, Ion's love interest and life long friend of Conner and Branna, and Meara, also a good friend. All of the characters were interesting and could easily have their own stories.
My favorite part of the book was the beginning. It starts in the 1200's and gives the background so that the reader knows what happened to the original Dark Witch and her family. The description of the setting, the old language, the spells, a mother's determination to keep her children safe. It was fascinating even through the sadness and brutality that set up the present day story. I was actually a bit sad when the story entered the present. I now have a craving for a whole story set in this time period.
No spoilers here for the plot. The book has some suspenseful moments as the villain, Cabhan, comes after Iona on several occasions, even in her dreams. The romance between Boyle and Iona happens quickly but I didn't feel it was too overdone. I especially enjoyed the fast bond between the cousins and their fierce loyalty to one other and to their friends. The only event that was a small letdown for me was toward the end. All throughout the story, the story kept refocusing on this uprooted tree that was supposed to be a way to the original home where Scorcha and her family lived. I couldn't wait to see how it looked once the characters finally went through but they didn't really spend a lot of time on it. I wanted more description to connect it back somehow to the very beginning of the book. I still enjoyed the book though and the story did wrap up so if someone didn't want to read the others, they don't have to, but there is also a cliffhanger moment that ensures there is more to come. I do plan to read the other two books in the trilogy but not immediately. I would give this about three and a half stars out of five.