Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

From the publisher
: Amy Goodnight’s family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

Why I picked this book: Confession – I had absolutely no business buying another book because I have a stack of review copies to attend to. But how could I pass up a book titled “Texas Gothic”? I spent a good 20 agonizing minutes at BookPeople picking up the book, setting it down, picking it up again and then setting it down. My conscience was telling me to be practical and wait until after I read my stack of books…but the devil on my shoulder always wins.  Come to think of it, this is the exact process I go through in the ice cream aisle at HEB. Texas Gothic is the literary equivalent of a big calorie-laden tub of Blue Bell.

Why I loved it: OMG – where to begin? The hot cowboy next door, the foreboding “Mad Monk,” the Nancy Drew mystery, the hilariously quirky main character – everything about this book roped me in like a steer at a Texas rodeo! Plus it’s set in the Texas Hill Country, a deeply storied region steeped in ghostly legends and lore.  And if that’s not enough – the author (a fifth-generation Texan, I might add!) researched a forensic archeological dig project at my alma mater, Texas State. As a student, I was always interested in the body farm, so this was a real treat. I’ve also been very fascinated by the ghosts and legends of the Texas Hill Country, specifically the Devil’s Backbone. I consulted with Bert Wall, author of a series of books about the haunted hill country, and the Texas Ghost Hunters for a special Halloween story for my college newspaper. Read more about it here.

The romance: The chemistry between Amy and Ben McCullough, the rugged cowboy next door, really revved my engine. They have the whole love-hate thing going on – and it works! Imagine pairing up Nancy Drew with a young, hot Clint Eastwood and throwing some ghost-hunting and witchcraft in the mix. I’m not sure what was more fun, solving the mystery of the missing gold mine and the evil “Mad Monk” or watching Ben and Amy’s relationship develop.

Favorite scene: The author did a fine job using the eerie backdrop of the hill country’s lonely roads and rugged canyons to her advantage. I really got the creeps when Amy pulled over on the side of the road on a dark, moonless night to investigate a ghostly apparition. Lo and behold, she falls down a sinkhole and finds herself trapped in a dark cave caked with bat guano. The thought of being inside a dark cave with a dangerous ghost – and possibly some murderous gold-digging humans – on the loose, really gives me the heebie jeebies!

What I want more of: I’m hoping the author will write another novel about the Goodnight sisters, but with a focus on Phin, the absent-minded genius of the family. I got a big kick out of her nutty experiments and scientific theories. And unlike her self-conscious sister, she has no qualms about waving her “I’m a magical witch” flag around in public. The dynamic between the two sisters is quite hilarious.

Overall: This book is a surefire winner for fans of whodunits and the supernatural. It’s a welcome departure from high-fantasy YA thrillers filled with fairies, sprites, swoony vampires and Hogwarts rip-off academies. If you’re in the mood for a good paranormal-infused mystery with fun characters and hilarious dialogue, give this book a shot.

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