History That Never Was

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Review of Against the Grain by Melanie Harding-Shaw

Against the Grain by Melanie Harding-Shaw is a lovely urban fantasy novella about magic, romance, and celiac/coeliac disease. Told from the perspective of Trinity, a coeliac witch who believes she’s cursed when it comes to matters of love and romance, it’s a quick-paced story set against a glorious New Zealand backdrop.

Trinity has always has problems with romance, as all of her partners inevitably become obsessed with her in an unhealthy way. So she’s moved around quite a bit, and she’s resolved to try not to fall for anyone in her new home of Karori. But she soon realizes that the idyllic area contains more danger than she expected, and with the help of her familiar, a demonic entity named Saifa, she resolves to get to the bottom of it. Along the way, though, there are two men who catch her attention, and she’s not sure if either of them can be trusted with her health or her heart.

While romance novels aren’t normally my thing, this novella has a romance subplot that works within the story and didn’t feel contrived or overblown. With the protagonist actively working against falling in love, it felt less like a standard romance novel and much more like a story that had the potential for more of a romance in the future of these characters. It was also very cool to see a character who suffered from coeliac disease as the protagonist, and for her disease to be big part of her life without feeling like it was the only thing in her life. As someone who suffers from a gluten intolerance that isn’t quite at the level of coeliac disease, I could easily empathize with the main character and her struggles to find good baked goods.

If you like sweet romantic urban fantasy stories, check out Against the Grain!

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