I have always had a bit of a love/hate relationship when it comes to lesfic books that are either Urban Fantasy (UF) or Paranormal Romance (PNR). I absolutely adore these genres and I obviously read a lot of lesfic. As a result, I can’t seem to resist picking up a book that blends them; but, I tend to have higher expectations and often end up grumpily disappointed. I’m happy to say that with Under the Harvest Moon, Robin Hale delivers a fun and engaging light paranormal romance.
The romance part works particularly well – the narrative is first person POV from both Laurel and Rhea’s perspective so you develop a connection and understanding of both characters and see the push and pull from both sides (Laurel being the pull and Rhea being the push). They are both likable and you can’t help but root for them both. There’s an bit of insta-attract between them, but Rhea’s taciturn and cautious personality makes Laurel work for it. It is balanced nicely with the paranormal elements, and the nature of their magics fits particularly well with their personalities, especially Rhea’s elemental magic which is snapping and writhing beneath the surface, giving her a darker vibe.
Laurel is smart, sweet, funny and refreshingly guileless. She has a pretty wide-eyed innocence in the book – her trust and acceptance of everything may seem a bit odd, but throughout her life, her magic has been nudging her along – whether by throwing a dart at a map and ending up in Cincinnati or her horrible, terrible, no good, very bad morning when everything that can go wrong does go wrong and puts her in the path of Rhea and Jean. That isn’t too say she’s a passive participant, she’s more than willing to take the bull by the horns – or corner the Disgruntled Hot Gardner – and take a leap of faith that she’s on the right track. Of course, that leads to a bit of a bonehead move later on in the book, but I think it makes sense based on how she has followed her intuition for so many other things.
Rhea, as a counter-point to Laurel, is bit more of a tragic figure. She’s isolated herself, keeping her magic under tight control out of fear of repeating her past. (Not that is going to stop Laurel.) The way that Hale weaves the undercurrent of the barely contained power and energy of Rhea’s magic emphasizes Rhea’s struggle and gives her broody, tormented soul a nice bite. Laurel’s arrival and their interactions slowly pull Rhea out of her self-imposed exile and is forced to look at things from a new perspective. I have to admit, I really liked Rhea – but I’m a fan of the dark and broody type. The broodier they are, the harder they fall.
Would I have liked to see more world building – absolutely. The focus was mostly on Laurel and Rhea and their specific magics and the larger world didn’t get as much attention – which is why I would classify this as a light PNR. But this doesn’t appear to be part of a series, so intricate world-building may have bogged things down. That being said – I would be happy to read another book in this world if Hale does decide to expand it.
Overall, I was happily ensconced in the world she created and seemed to plow through this book in record time.