Witch in the House
by Jenna McKnight
(Avon, $5.99 PG-13) ISBN 978-0060843694
***
Witch in the House, the first in a trilogy by newcomer to the paranormal scene Jenna McKnight, should have been at least a four-heart book.  It started off with two key elements: mystery and magic.  Throw in a crew of fun and interesting characters, a few broken hearts, a screwy town, and a secret and you have a recipe for the ideal cozy-up-on-the-weekend read.

I didn't dislike this book.  In fact, the blurb all the way through the first two-thirds of the book were tantalizing if not all that thought-provoking.  Jade Delarue is a B & B owner who practices - and whose family has practiced for over a hundred years - witchcraft on the sly.  In fact, she's built her business around it; the hotel only takes guests by special reservation.  When Jade, whose husband and two of his friends have been missing for six years and are about to be declared legally dead, casts a spell to bring the perfect man to her, she makes a rare mistake that brings Mason Kincaid to her door.  Despite her best efforts, she can't get him back out it.

Mason is a PI on a job forced on him by his business partner as a way of dragging Mason back to the surface after his fiancée leaves him at the altar.  Mason and Anthony are investigating the disappearance of Jade's husband for his insurance company, and finagle a stay at the B & B against Jade's better judgment.  She knows immediately that he's her mistake.  What she doesn't know - and what Mason and Anthony go out of their way to keep her from knowing, even after she and Mason become involved - is that they are not photographers and are essentially there to spy on her, her friends, and her associates.

Mason unfortunately fits the bill as far as Jade's perfect man goes.  And not only are Jade's usually dead-on spells failing her, her friends and her mother are working against her; they think Mason's the perfect man for Jade also. Naturally, things hit the fan when Jade finds out what Mason's really been up to.  Jade doesn't handle finding out Mason's secret as well as he did discovering that all of the witchcraft paraphernalia he's been checking out was hers.

When Jade discovers Mason's treachery, the book falls apart.  Since it's intended that the story continues into future books about Jade's two friends (the wives of the other missing men), there really isn't a climax for the mystery part of the story; the true intrigue in this one ends up being Jade and Mason's relationship and the secrets affecting them.  This plot is basically brought to a screaming halt as soon as Mason starts kissing Jade's butt to try to win back her trust, especially since it's painfully obvious the whole time that she's going to take him back.

Thankfully, there are still the fun characters, the ties between them, and the insight into an uncommon lifestyle.  There is humor here, as well as warmth and depth.  What lacks, as far as the emotional spectrum is concerned, is the development of Jade and Mason's oh-so-important relationship.  Once they give in and sleep together, it's boom! we're in love even if we're not talking about it.

This book had great potential and was a decent read despite its faults.  The author is brimming with potential of her own, and I'll definitely pick up the sequel to Witch in the House to find out more about the mystery of the missing husbands and the lives of three women who would be outcasts if their religion ever became public knowledge.

--Sarrah Knight


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