This Enchanted Hacienda book review takes a look at J.C. Cervantes’ adult debut, a romance centered around a family full of magic and the one member born without.
This book was first pitched to me as “Encanto for grown-ups,” and I have to admit that was one of the major reasons why I picked it up in the first place. The other was that J.C. Cervantes is an author I’m already familiar with, thanks to her middle-grade Storm Runner series over at Rick Riordan Presents, and I was more than willing to spend some time getting invested in a series written for adults.
It’s true that The Enchanted Hacienda shares a few similarities with Disney’s Encanto, in that it’s about a family with magic and the one member who seems to be without it, though there aren’t many similarities beyond that. In fact, in an interview with the author, I found out the movie wasn’t a source of inspiration at all. Merely happy coincidence.
The world Cervantes creates is a beautiful one. Set in Mexico on an enchanted flower farm, we are introduced to the Estradas, who have the ability to harness the magic in the flowers they grow. Each female member of the family has a specific power, like interpreting dreams or erasing memories or mending a broken heart.
Throughout the book, you learn what each flower represents and how it can be used to spin spells that the family controls. Each woman has her specialty, and their magic can be as beautiful as it is dangerous. The Estradas keep a close watch on their farm, making sure their power never falls into the wrong hands or is uncovered by the wrong person.
Family is an important part of this book, and each member has a distinct personality and attachment to the magic. I loved meeting Harlow’s mother and aunt, as well as her sisters and cousins. It’s not hard to see the various directions this series could go as we become more familiar with each woman. There is a power in their bond to each other that is equal part magic and intuition. Learning the history of the Estradas was as interesting as following Harlow’s path to happiness.
Unlike the rest of her family, Harlow was born without magic—or so she believes. She’s never been able to coax the flowers into doing her bidding like the rest of her family, and though there will always be a special place in her heart for the farm, there is a little bit of bitterness there, too. How could there not be, when you’re so close to that kind of magic and unable to take part in it?
In the beginning of the book, Harlow loses her job and subsequently breaks up with her boyfriend after he insults her one too many times (good riddance), fleeing New York City to stay on the family farm until she can get her feet back under her. Though she never made it far as a book editor, Harlow knows that the written word is her passion, if only she could get out of her own head long enough to find a story that speaks to her.
There is a lot about this book that I love (and don’t worry, I’m going to make sure this Enchanted Hacienda book review doesn’t miss a single detail while staying spoiler-free), but one of the brightest threads for me was Harlow’s passion for writing and the way she finds the story inside of her. Though they are vastly different books, it reminded me of the way Rachel Hawkins depicted the writing process in The Villa. As a creative person, I found both of these books incredibly inspiring in the way they showed the heroine overcoming whatever life threw at her in order to tell the story that was in their heart all along.
Harlow’s love for writing, her family, and the farm also kept me interested in the story outside of the romance. I’m typically the kind of person who doesn’t mind reading less plot in service of other elements of the book, but there truly was a perfect balance in The Enchanted Hacienda.
We meet Harlow’s love interest, Ben, pretty early on in the book, and since there’s plenty else to keep us entertained, his comings and goings feel natural and perfectly spaced out. It’s healthy that Harlow’s whole world doesn’t revolve around this guy, and it makes us appreciate the scenes they have together even more. Fate seems to put them in the same place time and time again, and it’s hard to ignore those kinds of signs.
Ben is, at first, a bit of a mystery. He’s a dashing man—tall, dark, and handsome—who doesn’t reveal his hand to Harlow because, well, they’re strangers. There’s allure in the unknown, and both of them feel a desire to unravel the other’s secrets. The two of them go from strangers to acquaintances to burgeoning friends that clearly border on something more.
I love books that build up to a first kiss or to the first time a couple is physically intimate. There’s something special about all that anticipation that leaves you breathless, and when it finally does happen? It feels a lot like magic. Speaking of, there’s definitely more to Harlow than meets the eye, and I love that this book is also described as a “coming-of-power” novel. Watching Harlow go on a journey of self-discovery, both in life and love, was immensely satisfying, and I can’t wait for you all to uncover the truth about Harlow, Ben, and the Estrada family.
There’s so much to love in J.C. Cervantes’ novel, but my main takeaway is that she’s created a wonderful world that I’m excited to visit again. It’s easy to spot the plot points that will carry over into the next story, and I’m both excited and intrigued to find out what happens next. This is definitely a series I’m looking forward to sticking with until its ultimate conclusion.
‘The Enchanted Hacienda’ hit store shelves on May 16, 2023
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