Nothing good comes from living in the Devil's swamp.
Willow Bell thinks moving to the Okefenokee area isn't half bad, but nothing prepares her for what awaits in the shadows of the bog.
Girls are showing up dead in the swamp. And she could be next.
Everyone warns Willow to stay away from Beau Cadwellthe bad boy at the top of their suspect list as the serial killer tormenting the small town.
But beneath his wicked, depthless eyes, there's something else that draws Willow to him.
When yet another girl he knew dies, though, Willow questions whether she can trust her instincts…or if they're leading to her own death.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.61(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.78(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastline with family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She's the author of the Before & After series and the Untamed series. Rep'd by Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group.
Read an Excerpt
THE SWAMP BEATS AND THROBS and hums with life. Sickly hot air meets a limitless blue sky, and below, a forest of teeth and limbs reaches toward a jagged scar of land that separates two properties.
One belongs to my family.
Gran lives on the edge of the Okefenokee wetlands in a damned city named Waycross, Georgia, in a damned county called Ware, as she would say. A place where nothing exciting ever happens, life trudges on, resisting change, and the people like it that way. It's a world built on legends and secrets that run like a vein through the heart of history.
Most claim only the craziest live this far out. And they're partially right.
"The brightest light casts the darkest shadow," Gran says.
I eye our property through the kitchen window. I happen to like the shadows, the seclusion of the trees, the whispers of the forest. Especially at night, when everything takes a less defined form, when the swamp comes to life.
"I'm telling you, this world would be better off if they remembered that. 'Specially that neighbor of mine, never mindin' his own business. Telling me I need to stop feeding the gators. I can feed the gators any damn time I want. It's my land. I wish he'd just move on already, bless his heart." I'm a replica of Gran. Except Gran is much older, wrinkled like a rippled reflection in water. My hair is hers, dark and thick, though hers has now faded to gray. And our eyes are identical, a solid brown — so brown that my pupils bleed into them. I am younger and more beautiful, she would say. But Gran says all kinds of things.
"By 'move on'" — I pause to turn off the stove and shuffle eggs onto Gran's plate — "do you mean 'die'?"
"Hell right I do," she says, grabbing a biscuit, a scoop of sausage gravy, and four pieces of bacon. "Maybe then I'll have some peace around this godforsaken swamp." "Gran, it's not nice to wish people dead."
Gran despises the next-door neighbor, Mr. Cadwell, making sure to ignore his greetings and glances. He's nice enough, I suppose. But I don't know him like she does. Word has it they even dated once, long before she decided that he was evil.
"You're new here, Willow," she says. "Just you wait and see. Twisted, that's what that family is, the whole lot of them."
It's true that I'm new. I've been here five days, though I've visited plenty of times over the years. Never long enough to know the old man next door for anything more than a passing hello lost on the wind. I glance outside again. Marsh is everywhere, pushing the smell of earth and fungus through the open window. Patches of water are blanketed in green algae, alligator eyes popping up like floating marbles. Cypress trees protrude from the murky water, reminding me of notches of bone, little leaves growing from them. Lifeless branches float along for the ride. The swamp is the kind of place a girl can get lost in and never find her way out.
Though Gran's land is mostly wet, there's solidness, too. My eyes trace the long path that cuts the property between Gran and Mr. Cadwell in half. I'm expecting to see nature — the kinds of birds Dad and Mom study, snakes, grass, and forever sky — the same things I've seen every morning since moving here with Dad and Mom to help Gran, who's ailing but doesn't like to admit it.
I get halfway down the path with my stare before my eyes snag on something. A serving spoon falls from my hand with a clatter into the sink.
"Who," I whisper, "is that?"
Across the way stands a boy. He's staring at me, wearing a twisted grin like he knows me. The wind ruffles his depths-of-the-ocean black hair. He's wearing a dark shirt and dark jeans, and I cannot tear my eyes from his.
Gran hobbles over and looks out the window. "What is he doing so close to our side?"
"You know him?" I ask.
I can't stop staring out the old, weathered screen.
"Hell right, I do. Grandson of the evil next door. Trouble in living form. Someone oughta hand that boy a Bible. Change his life forever and ever, amen." Gran curses a lot. "Hell" is her favorite word.
"Hell, you'd better look away first," Gran says. "B'fore he snares you for good."
I wonder if she's right. I want to look away first. Okay, that's a lie. I don't want to look away at all.
"Mother!" Dad's voice enters the room a moment before he does. "Did I just hear you cursing around Willow again?"
I rip my eyes away — though it's hard — to see Dad clad in shorts and a T-shirt, ready for another day of observation. He and Mom are ornithologists, scientists who study birds. Mom follows Dad into the kitchen and takes a seat at the table; her strawberry-blond hair is braided and slipped through the adjustable hole in her hat. Dad's hair is like Gran's and mine, his eyes, too. Mom's eyes are blue, and I'm secretly glad mine are not. I enjoy being like Gran.
"It's not good to curse around her; she's only seventeen," Dad continues.
In Florida, Dad and Mom studied birds so much that I hardly ever saw them. Here's no different, but at least now I have Gran to keep me company.
"Doesn't matter, and you know it," Gran says. "A heart is a heart is a heart. A few words here and there won't change that."
My stare goes to the window again. The boy is gone.
"Quit looking for that boy, you hear?" Gran says, knowing.
"I'm not looking for him," I reply. But I'm a lying liar.
"What boy?" Dad asks.
I join him and Mom at the table.
"No one," my lying self answers.
Maybe I should take him a Bible and say it's from Gran, and then I'd have a reason to meet him.
"Stop thinking about him," Gran says.
"I'm not!" I say, frustrated. But only because she knows me so well that I can't hide myself from her.
"Are too, girl. I'm no damn idiot."
Dad shakes his head and sighs. "Mom, the cursing. And what boy?"
"There's a new neighbor," I say. "Or maybe he's an old neighbor. Who knows? I've never seen him before today. But he was there on the path and now he's not. That's all."
Mom smiles. "Well, how old is he? Maybe you can make a friend."
We all look to Gran for the answer.
"Don't need to know nothin' about him. He's rotten like the mushrooms 'round here. Soul black as the night," she grumbles.
Clearly Gran isn't a fan. We drop it and eat our breakfast, Dad and Mom jabbering about some new species of bird they think they've discovered. Gran watching me like a hawk. And me wondering about the gorgeous black-souled, trouble-in-living-form grandson of the evil next door.
I KNOW THE MINUTE SHE ENTERS the classroom because all eyes swivel to her, though she's only a devil's minute late.
"Hi," she says, smiling at the dull-as-death teacher who's droning on about the history of blah blah blah.
"Hello," Mr. Dull says. "Are you Willow?"
It's odd of her to show up for her first day on a Friday.
There's only one high school in our county. Each new student is sent here. That's not why she's interesting, though. It's because she's the girl I saw next door, the one who looks like the old lady, if the old lady had tripped over time and fallen backward.
"Great," he says. "I've been looking forward to meeting you ever since they notified me of your arrival. Please find a seat. We've only just started. And here, take this."
He hands her a textbook like he's giving her a baby, something precious. No one but him cares about the required reading, but she's polite enough about it.
"Thank you," she says, and turns to find a seat.
That's when her eyes loop with mine. I see that she remembers me, too.
"Hi," I say boldly.
There are whispers. My friend Grant, sitting in front of me with a head of curls, turns around with a smile that says, This should be interesting.
Mr. Dull says something about everyone being quiet in order for him to continue to bore us to absolute death. Or maybe that's how I heard it. Willow moves to take a seat a few down from mine in the back.
"Mind moving over a couple of seats for the new student?" I whisper to the girl next to me. Rachel or Raquel or something similar.
Rachel-Raquel begins to laugh, thinking I'm joking, but stops when she sees the serious look in my eyes. Quickly, she swipes up her book and moves to the other chair, forcing Willow to sit in the only available seat — next to me.
"Hello," I say again, flashing a grin.
Mr. Dull is talking too loudly to hear me.
With a small laugh, Grant whispers, "Here we go."
"Hi," she says, opening her book.
"Willow." I say her name, testing it in my mouth.
Her dark hair brushes her desk and hides part of her face. But I already know she's beautiful.
"What's your last name, Willow? Is it Bell? Are you related to Old Lady Bell?"
She is, and I know it. And she knows it. I just want to show her that I realize who she is, I suppose.
"That's none of your damn business," she says with a small smile.
They're definitely related.
"Didn't your mom teach you it's impolite to curse?" I tease.
"Didn't your mom teach you to read a Bible?" she fires back. "From what I hear, you need that and more with your black soul."
I can't help it. I laugh.
"Is that what Old Lady Bell is saying these days?" The woman never has liked my family much. Hasn't had any reason to.
"What's your name?" Willow asks.
People are staring, but I don't care.
"Beau Cadwell. Grandson of Parker Cadwell next door. The evilest family in all the swamp."
Or so people say.
Willow bites down on her pencil eraser, and I find my eyes drawn to her lips.
"Well, Beau," she says in a sweet tone. "I don't think we're supposed to be friends."
"I suppose not."
Her eyes are darker than anything I've ever seen. They're the type of dark that takes over the swamp after the sun falls from the sky.
"You might be trouble for me," I say, joking. "And I am not nice," I add, not joking.
"Everyone is part good, part bad," she replies.
I don't think she realizes just how offset those parts of me are.
"Even so, you should probably not associate with me," she says. "My gran would hate it."
"Would you hate it?" I ask.
Willow twists the metal-clothed eraser between her teeth for a moment before speaking. She holds my stare like she holds her breath. "I'm still trying to decide, Beau Cadwell."
I like my name on her lips. I like her tongue on her lips. I'd probably like my tongue on her lips, too.
"You are trouble, after all, I hear." But she doesn't say it like she's scared of trouble.
"Then we definitely shouldn't be friends." I don't mean a word of it.
"Okay." Her eyes leave mine. She looks around the dingy classroom, like she's just now taking it in, walls buried behind history posters and a chalkboard covered in something that is supposed to pass as legible handwriting.
Half the class is staring at her. Some of the guys look like they want to order her up for dinner. Some of the girls look like they want to burn her alive for talking to me. Just because things ended badly between most of the girls and me doesn't mean they need to hold a grudge. What does it take to get girls to move on around here?
"Do you want to be friends anyway?" I ask.
She lets her eyes find their way back to me. "Okay."
And just like that I have an in with the new girl, Willow Bell.
Grant fist-bumps me when Willow isn't looking.
From across the room, near the front of the class, my twin sister is watching. She sends a razor-sharp smile my way, knowing that I'll probably do to Willow what I do to all the girls here, which is break her perfect little heart into so many pieces that nothing can fix it.
"HI, I'M JORIE," says the girl who plops down next to me on the concrete bench.
Around us, people talk, most rehashing the details of the day as they wait for the bus home. I catch bits and pieces of conversations — a football pep rally, a bake sale, an opening on the school debate team.
"I'm Willow," I say. "How do you get your hair to do that?"
Jorie's hair is like a zebra, black with white stripes, or maybe it's the other way around. I never could tell that about zebras — black and white or white and black? And her hair is the same.
"It's a weave. My momma's a stylist." She pops her gum loud-like. "She does all kinds of hair but specializes in African American techniques, learned from her momma. They're as black as the night sky all the way back as far as time goes until me. I got a bit of my daddy in me. His skin is light like yours."
I like her skin. It's not quite light or dark. I like her accent, too, though I can't place it.
"Where are you from, Jorie?" I ask.
"The bayous of Louisiana originally, but I don't remember it. Was just a baby when we moved here. You?" "I'm from Georgia originally, a county two hours north of here. Moved to Florida for a bit before coming back. My parents study birds, and that's a good place to do it." It's a lame thing to say, but it's the truth.
"Wanna sit with me on the bus?" Jorie offers. "Then you won't have to worry about people bugging you about Beau."
"Why would they do that?" I have no idea how she knows that I've met him.
"Because he's Beau," she says.
Like that explains it.
Jorie's all elbows and knees and sharp angles. I wonder how she stays in shape. I'm curvy and always carrying around what Gran calls biscuit weight. Not that I'm overweight — I'm not — I'm just soft. I once asked Gran over the phone what I could do to lose ten pounds after I saw this quiz in a magazine that said I could look my best with a little weight shed. She said I'd have to quit eating biscuits. But that's crazy talk. Who has ever heard of giving up biscuits? No, thanks.
The bus pulls up, and we pile on. It's not completely full, so I don't think I need to sit with Jorie to avoid sitting by someone else, after all. But I'm happy to, all the same.
"What did you mean about Beau?" I ask, once we're settled in, bags down between our legs to make room. The bus jerks away from the curb.
Jorie pops her gum three times before she answers. Her kohl-rimmed eyes remind me of almonds dipped in chocolate.
"You really don't know, do you?" she asks.
"'Course not," I reply. "Just moved here a week ago, and today's the first time I met him. He seems nice."
Jorie laughs. It's a boisterous sound that turns heads. She smacks a hand on her thigh and says, "Girl, stop playing. Beau is not nice. Never is that boy nice unless he needs something. Hot? Yes. Taken? Yes. Smooth as a pearl shined? Yes. But nice? Never. Not once."
I hear all of Jorie's words. Each one after the other, but the only one that sticks is this: taken.
"He has a girlfriend?" I ask.
"I knew it." Her eyes slide my way. "You like him. Every girl who likes boys does. It's not just you. But you have to learn to fight it, or he'll devour you."
I'm not so sure I consider that a bad thing.
"And yes, he's taken. Every day of the week. The girls don't last more than a couple of weeks, but they are always there. One after the other," she says.
The thought irks me. Don't ask me why, because I don't know.
"Well, he and I aren't anything to each other, so I'm sure there's nothing for me to worry about," I say. "I don't even think he's hot."
Yes I do.
"Atta girl," Jorie says. "Keep lying to yourself and eventually you might actually believe it. It's a start."
"I'm not lying," I say.
"You're lying now," she says.
"Maybe," I admit.
"Like I said," Jorie continues. "Almost all girls fall for him. But be careful. He's an inch shy of as wicked as they get."
Maybe I like wicked. Maybe I top my pies with wicked, and maybe I order wicked every day; she doesn't know. I can handle it, I tell myself. But that might be the lying liar in me.
"Him and that sister of his, both," Jorie says. "You'll mostly find him with those two goons, Grant and Pax. I'm sure you've seen them. One looks like a bird and the other like a gorilla. You might get a chance to see him alone more than most people, though, because he's your neighbor, right?"
"Hard to tell," I say. "I've never seen him before, and I used to visit often."
A memory hits me. A stringy young boy — same age as me at the time, eight — running around the yard, chasing squirrels as though he means to catch one.
"If you're looking to eat it, you have to set a trap, you know," I say. "And try being quiet when you approach them — it helps. Plus, who are you and why are you on my gran's property?"
"I'm not. I'm on my grandpa's side. See?" he replies. "That's the dividing line back behind you."
He was right. He was technically on his side.
Excerpted from "Wicked Charm"
Copyright © 2018 Amber Hart.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“Wicked Charm” is standard young adult mystery and romance fare. It’s enjoyable and an extremely quick read, making it a good choice for a beach read. It just isn’t memorable. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Willow and her parents have just moved in with her grandmother, who lives on the edge of the swamp. Willow is instantly attracted to her neighbor Beau but, while everyone warns her to stay away from him, they grow closer every day. When his ex-girlfriend shows up dead in the swamp, Beau is the obvious suspect, but he has an alibi. When more of Beau’s ex-girlfriends show up dead, Willow can't help but wonder if she’s next. And if Beau isn’t the murderer, who’s hiding in their swamp? The story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Willow and Beau, but their voices are so similar I kept forgetting who was narrating. While Beau is described as “wicked”, he never does anything to warrant that title and, because we get the story from his viewpoint, it’s obvious that he’s not the killer. I would have preferred the story to be told only by Willow, keeping open the possibility that Beau is the culprit. I guessed the identity of the killer straight away and then proceeded to collect the not-so-subtle clues left by the author. Even though not much happens (apart for a few murders that take place off-page and of which we are given no details) and there is no build-up of suspense (because we know Beau is innocent), I kept reading to see how long it would take for everyone else to figure it out. I don’t know if I missed something (like the fact that it's summer break) because the characters are never at school; they just spend their days swanning around the swamp or the swimming pool, drinking sweet tea and suspecting each other of being the murderer. Towards the end of the book, there is much talk about how terrible storms can be in the swamp, and I was expecting an exciting climax, but the storm never eventuates. Then, once the murder is caught, too much time is spent wrapping things up. The story is saved by the brooding and atmospheric swamp that serves as the backdrop and has a personality all of its own. An okay read if you’re looking more for romance than murder mystery. I received this book in return for an honest review. Full blog post: https://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com/2018/02/wicked-charm-by-amber-hart.html
The best thing that this book has going for it is the atmosphere: it is set near a swamp, and there is a serial killer on the loose and did I mention the swamp is super eerie but also kind of pretty, and there are alligators who can be reasoned with? Anyway, the story begins when Willow Mae moves to town with her parents to stay with her grandma, and they and one another family are the only ones who have houses at the edge of the swamp. Like, it is in their backyard. Willow is super into the bad-boy-next-door, Beau, who is said to be wicked and whose soul her grandma doubts over. And pretty soon, bodies of girls connected to him turn up strangled around the swamp and he is Suspect no 1. Willow is charmed by him, but she is also a bit wary. On the whole, though, this book is more a romance than a mystery so if you came for the latter (like moi) you might be a liiiiitle disappointed. For the first quarter of the book, I thought it was a paranormal romance mystery. Willow’s grandma was constantly cursing out the neighbors, Beau has some almost-magical charm to have gone through most of the school’s girls, despite everyone knowing he is player, and the draw that Willow feels towards him. I thought it would turn out that Beau and his sister really had made some Faustian deal or something. But then the bodies start turning up, and for a while it is a bit spooky and eerie. You see the beauty of the swamp through Willow and the danger through Beau, though it isn’t as defined as that. Their alternating perspectives are distinct enough in voice to present a rounded story that is a little about revenge, a lot about the romance between these two, and a bit of mystery thrown in. About the murders, well, I felt they took a backseat to the main romance plot. Sure, there is a connection between them and a flirty romance, but it also starts as an insta-love. He is attracted to her because she is ‘different’, a trope I don’t think I enjoy anymore. She is attracted to him, despite everyone and everyone’s grandma warning her, because he is interesting? Kudos to the girl for making up her own mind, but really, the whole town was warning her. He could really have been as ‘wicked’ as they said (oddly enough, this word comes up a LOT during the book). As for him, I wish there was more characterization to him than ‘player with a heart of gold’; he didn’t even seem to linger on the deaths of so many girls! Overall, it is a good romance and super atmospheric book, so it is enjoyable but not exactly what I came for. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Entangled Teen, via Netgalley.
pooled ink Reviews: Spun with the forbidden sweetness of iced tea and the darkness of country nights, WICKED CHARM unfolds at a Southern pace a tale of two souls grown deep in the Georgia swamp as history, circumstance, and gruesome murders draw them together like a moth to a flame. Both wicked and charming this story is one that will seep into your skin like a Southern summer and stick like beads of sweat rolling down your neck. There is a depth to this book and a certain peaceful charm that had me mesmerized from the very first sentence. **Read the full review on Wordpress: Pooled Ink
Wicked Charm was a refreshing read, one that was not too heavy on the romance or the suspense. There was just enough of both to make the book a satisfying and memorable read. The setting of the book was also a wonderful aspect of the story. It was an unusual and very descriptive setting, and it was perfect for the suspense of the book. I’ve read many books before but never one that takes place near a Georgia swamp. I also really enjoyed the characters; not just the main characters, but I found Gran to be an enjoyable side character. She added a light humor to the story, one that made me laugh multiple times while I was on the train. What I liked about Wicked Charm: The mystery: I’m a sucker for mystery reads, so I was delighted to get my hands on an early copy of Wicked Charm. I really enjoyed the suspense and seeing the main characters go through suspect after suspect while trying to find the killer and while also dealing with their own personal problems. The mystery slowly came together and gave just enough for the reader to be left shocked. And then there was that heart-pounding chapter…you’ll know what I mean when you read the book. The chemistry: the romance between Willow and Beau is addicting; I could feel their feelings for one another as if they were jumping off the page. Their attraction toward one another was instant, along with the romantic tension. It was refreshing to be able to read from both of their views, to be able to see the struggles of both characters and how those struggles brought them together. The writing style: Amber Hart’s writing style is light and beautiful and so easy to follow. She has a way of enthralling readers from page one. Amber Hart also wrote well-drawn and well-developed characters that the readers see change throughout the story. Overall, I was very pleased with Wicked Charm. The characters, the setting, and the suspense came together to create a beautiful masterpiece. Amber Hart outdid herself with Wicked Charm! If you’re looking for a young adult mystery filled with an irresistible romance, then Wicked Charm is a book you need to read!
When I first heard of Wicked Charm, I was so excited because I thought that it was going to be a YA thriller with some romance. Instead, this book turned out to be a romance with some aspects of a thriller. I had set my expectations wrong so I definitely didn't enjoy this book as much as I otherwise would have. As it was, Wicked Charm was a light, fast-paced, and fun read. The story begins as Willow and her parents move to the Okefenokee area in order to take care of her grandmother. Willow immediately notices Beau Cadwell, the town heartbreaker and her new neighbor. Just as the two start to get close, girls start turning up dead in the swampland surround their houses. And all of the girls used to date Beau. Unsure of what to believe, Willow must decide whether she can trust her instincts about Beau. If she's wrong, there may be deadly consequences. Wicked Charm was beautifully atmospheric and the setting was almost another character in the novel. Hart makes the environment truly come alive. I loved how she combined the danger of the swamp with the beauty. The swamp was just creepy enough to always keep you wondering what was around the corner or hiding beneath the trees. It always kept you on your toes, never letting you believe that the characters were truly safe. I also loved how Hart portrayed small-town life, with the gossip, the family feuds, and the long-kept secrets. The plot itself felt a bit off to me. The tone kept shifting between romance and thriller, which was a bit jarring. The romance ultimately overwhelmed this book's potential to be a truly excellent thriller. I also never understood why the characters weren't scared at all after the first murder was committed. The reaction of the main characters and the town in general just didn't feel realistic. Additionally, I wasn't really able to connect to the characters, which definitely affected my enjoyment of the book. While Wicked Charm wasn't the story I was expecting it to be, it was still a fun and entertaining read. I would recommend this one to YA contemporary fans who like their romance with a little bit of suspense and danger. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Wicked Charm by Amber Hart is a young adult romantic murder mystery that pulls you in page by page. At first it is a slow build. You are getting to know the characters and just when you think it'll remain slow the intrigue and murder begins. As such I would say this was a very well-paced novel as I was as caught up in the drama as the characters were. Told in dual POV between Willow, the new girl in school, and Beau, the heart-breaker of the county we slowly get to know the intricacies of their lives and cannot help but wonder who is murdering the girls of Ware County. Stepping out of my usual romance reading and over to something Young Adult to very little acclimating thank, in part, to Amber Hart's writing. Enjoy!
What a great read, I wasn’t expecting to like this so much Wicked Charm By Amber Hart was a fabulous enchanting but nerve-wracking read. Set in the swamps of Okefenokee, Willow Bell and her parents have gone to live with her grandmother Old Lady Bell. And it isn’t long before she catches the eye of local teenage playboy Beau Cadwell. Beau with his riddles and many ex-girlfriends. He guards his heart due to the loss of his parents. He lives with his scarily mean twin sister Charlotte, and his grandpa on the land adjoining Willows grandmothers. But chilling deadly events are occurring in this small town. There’s a serial killer on the loose and ex-girlfriends of Beau are turning up dead in the swamp. Set against the vivid background of the swamp “Wicked Charm” has so much to recommend it. In some ways, it was like entering a different world, one of shadow, light and secrets waiting to be discovered. I Loved this aspect of the story, it was such a unique setting for a YA novel. So, Wicked Charm does exactly what it says on the tin and I found it very refreshing to read a story that makes no apologies for its simplicity. This was a clean YA that was heavy on the sweet romance and came accompanied by a big dash of intrigue. It had interesting diverse characters that made this easy to get lost in. I did kind of guess who the killer may be but this didn’t really detract from my enjoyment. I loved the ending and this was a very enjoyable read. NetGalley provided me with an ARC of “Wicked Charm” by Amber Hart of which I have reviewed voluntary. All opinions expressed are entirely my own
"A heart is a heart. A few words won't change that." This book was a YA thriller based in the swamps of Georgia. Willow moves in with her grandmother while her parents are studying birds in the area. She meets the neighbor young man, Beau, and it's an instant attraction. Although the attraction may be there, it isn't enough to guarantee smooth sailing. Beau's family is most definitely hated by Willow's Gran, and there's a lot of talk circling around Beau. Especially when girls begin showing up dead in the swamp and it seems the only connection between them is ... Beau. This story was definitely interesting and different from what I've been reading lately. I liked the romance element mixed in with a mystery/thriller. I also enjoyed the setting for the story! The swamp, and the culture surrounding that area, is really interesting to read about. I'm not from the south, so being immersed in their culture was something I enjoyed. There were a few awkward things for me. First, the insta-love was an issue for me. This type of romance is okay, but what got me was that it seemed to change Beau so quickly. I always feel that change is possible for characters, but it takes time and usually occurs after some motivation has pushed the character to do so. Another issue, which may not be an issue if you're truly a YA reading this book, was that the characters often seemed to express all the things they're thinking. My problem with that was that sometimes the dialogue and interactions didn't quite feel genuine, but that didn't take much away from the book. Overall I think this is a good YA story. It was an inventive idea and well thought out. Perhaps not as exciting of a read if you're an adult who loves YA books, but definitely suitable for the YA crowd.
As soon as I saw the cover for this book back in October, I knew I wanted to read it. After I read the blurb, I knew there was a good chance that I was really going to enjoy this book- because it sounded amazing. I decided that in 2018 I was going to be tougher when it came to rating books, that if I was going to give a book 5 stars, it had better earn them. And for the first time in nearly two months, I finally have my first five star book! In the first few chapters I felt like Wicked Charm was similar to a lot of young adult novels out there. Girl moves back to town, girl meets and begins falling for bad boy, etc. However, once I got past the first couple of chapters, I became hooked. This book is so unbelievably atmospheric. I've never read a book set mostly in a swamp before, but I loved it. The swamp takes on a personality of its own. It heightens the suspense and lends an eerie vibe to the story that almost has you feeling as if you're there with the characters. The story is amazingly written. I never suspected who was behind the murders. Not only that, but I was intrigued by all of the characters and all aspects they played within the novel. Beau the heart breaker with the traumatic past, Charlotte they mysterious sister, Beau's jealous friends, etc. And I loved the bits about the grandparents and their pasts. The second to last chapter was so unbelievably touching and the last had me smiling. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and am really hoping to maybe get a book about Charlotte next because I feel like she has a great story to tell. Wicked Charm is the perfect balance of dark and eerie paired with romantic and suspenseful. It's completely addictive and enthralling and one of the best young adult contemporaries I've ever read.
The main characters in this YA romantic suspense are Willow Bell, who has moved to live with her Grandmother in the Opefenokee Swamp and the boy-next-door, Beau Cadwell. Beau is very popular with the girls but has a reputation as a Cassanova, always breaking the hearts of the girls he dates. The story is told from their alternative points of view. . . . Willow and Beau attend the same school and share some of the same classes. Everyone warns Willow to avoid Beau but forbidden fruit is often the most tempting! When Beau starts to meet up with Willow, his previous girlfriend is found murdered . . . and she’s only the first. He is the number one suspect for most people, his bad boy reputation and previous relationships with the victims are all evidence against him. However this just spurs both Willow and Beau to start investigating the deaths and I enjoyed how the story is shared from their alternating points of view. As their investigations continue, their relationship develops but there are so many secrets to be revealed and a killer to be unmasked making this an enthralling page-turner. The uncomfortable, atmospheric setting is brought to life by the brilliant descriptions - I’ve never actually been there but feel that I have virtually. There are plenty of secondary characters, including Beau’s mysterious sister, who add to the mystery and suspense in this compulsive read which I have no hesitation in highly recommending and I’ll certainly look out for more from this author in future! I requested and received a copy of this novel. This is my honest review after choosing to read it.
Willow Bell has recently moved from Florida and is staying with her grandmother deep in the Okefenokee Swamp so her parents can study birds. One day Willow sees Beau Cadwell the sexy neighbor boy next door, their eyes lock, and she is instantly drawn to this mysterious boy. Willow's grandmother and everyone at school warn her that Beau will not only break her heart but also steal her soul with this wicked ways. Willow thinks there might be a softer side to Beau that nobody else sees and she is certain she can get him to open up to her. As their relationship intensifies, girls that have previously "dated" Beau start turning up dead and he is the primary suspect. Willow must decide if she can trust Beau's charming ways or if he has other reasons for getting close to her. Wicked Charm is a romantic YA novel set in the Deep South with a hint of mystery/thriller...but mostly romance. The novel explores love and loss and opening yourself to others in order to truly live. Willow and Beau are trying to navigate a new relationship but of course it’s difficult when there girls being murdered and one of you might be the killer. I did think that the murders would be a bigger part of the story line but I still really enjoyed this novel none the less. Although sex is implied the novel keeps it very clean making this one appropriate for even the younger YA genre. If a sultry southern romance with serial killers, gators, and snakes is your glass of sweet tea then this novel is the perfect read for you.
I'm a huge fan of Amber Hart's writing. From her riveting BEFORE YOU and AFTER US duology to her UNTAMED duology, she has a way of instantly drawing the reader in with her well-drawn characters, the instant romantic tension between her main characters, and with her unique and well-described settings. In her latest, thriller WICKED CHARM, all these elements come together exceptionally well. Set in the swampy backwoods of Georgia, Hart's descriptions of where main characters Willow and Beau reside are so tangible and visceral, readers can almost taste and smell the woodsy, algae- and gator-filled area. She evokes so much life from her environment that it's as much a character in this story as the people are. When girls start getting murdered in the swamp, Willow and Beau have to figure out who is doing it, and they are not discounted as suspects. From Page One to the end, Hart offers up another irresistible read that will keep the reader guessing and rapidly turning the pages.
My first Amber Hart novel and I think it was fairly good and well written and broke apart those famous YA tropes. Wicked Charm was a-okay. I liked it for how different it was in a not so different way. It had a thriller aspect added to its usual boy-with-bad-reputation likes girl trope. The other thing I liked was how Willow was not falling all over the guy. And how in control she was. And sure of herself she was. Beau was typically not a bad guy, he had redeemable qualities. He was trying for once. If you know what I mean. BUT I didn't really like the romantic aspect of this book. Lately the romantic aspects have been killing it for me. :/ I liked Wicked Charm for being different and making me intrigued. I guessed way before about the killer but was still so curious to find out if I was right. I was. Woot. I enjoyed this in the manner that I was curious. I did get reminded of Bella and Edward in the beginning due to some scenes. I was also reminded of Beautiful Creatures for some reason. At first I thought there was some supernatural element to this although I knew this was a thriller. Anyway, I liked this okay. Special thanks to NetGalley, InkSlinger PR, author and the Publisher for this review copy.
After reading and loving Pretty Dead Girls, I’ve been looking for more books in that genre. The blurb of Wicked Charm caught my attention but I wasn’t 100% thrilled with the story. The book in my opinion focused too much on the romance aspect between the main characters, Willow and Beau. There is a murderer on the loose killing teenage girls and I felt the main focus was Willow's love life. Don’t get me wrong I’m a HUGE romance reader but for this book I was expecting more mystery. I would have also liked more from the killers point of view as well. The last few chapters had more of a mystery/thriller vibe but it wasn't enough. When the killer is revealed along with the motives, I kind of wanted to roll my eyes. This was the first time I’ve read this author and even though the story didn’t work out in my favor, I do like her writing style. Amber Hart has such a great description to detail and this City girl felt like she was deep in the swamp. I’ll check out her romance novels and see if that’s a better fit for me.
This was such a struggle to put a star rating on this. On one hand, there's a lot of bark but no bite. On the other, what is there is lovely in it's own right. Regardless, I have a lot to say about this. 1. The characters. Elaborating on what I said above, it's made very clear that Beau Cadwell is this horrible person who uses girls and then dumps them with no warning. However, this isn't really shown. From what we see of Beau, he's a genuine human being with some commitment issues (which isn't uncommon at all for anyone). Aside from one story, this isn't really made apparent. Therefore it isn't entirely believable. Conversely, what we do get to know of Beau (both from Willow's interactions with him and from his POV sections) is very real and understandable and relatable. Moving onto Willow, I really liked her character for the most part. The way the author wrote her dialogue really transported me into the Southern US. The supporting characters are also very well done. 2. The plot. First and foremost, this is a love story, not a murder mystery. The murders are used as a vehicle to further Willow and Beau's relationship. That being said, it is a sweet relationship. The blurb is slightly misleading in this regard. Beau is a suspect for all of 4 minutes and then he's cleared and it's quite obvious that he's going to be cleared. The real mystery is who is actually murdering all these people and to what end. Because the romance is placed before this, there isn't a whole lot of suspense built in but that doesn't mean it was boring. This reads more as a casual romance. You won't be unable to put it down, but it is well-structured all the same. 3. The romance. I have one main issue here: instalove (or at least instalust). It's the whole deal of the main girl looks out the window, sees main boy and instantly is taken under his spell and can't stop staring at him. And from then on, neither main boy or girl can stop thinking about the other. Personally, I find this trope a little tiresome. While the romance is sweet, it also moves pretty fast (nearly reaching third base on their first kiss), especially for two high schoolers. This is mostly personal preference. 4. The writing (and it's relation to setting). This author does such a great job of using aromatic and atmospheric language to describe setting. I could almost feel the damp air of the swamp and see the constant ebb and flow of water in and out. I only have one grievance: the prevalence of the word 'wicked'. I understand it's part of the theme (and the title, obviously), but it got to be a little repetitive. The Final Verdict: While this book wasn't all I expected it to be, it's lovely in it's own right. 3.5 stars
This story was so atmospheric, I could feel the stickiness of the swamp. The setting is similar to the Beautiful Creatures and Heirs of Watson Island series and the setting of the swamp becomes its own character. I loved both the slow burn romance and the mystery. And the cute, mysterious boy next door didn't hurt either.
Thanks to Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Wicked Charm by Amber Hart! Willow moves to a bayou town and hears rumors about Beau, the local young man who breaks every young woman’s heart. She wants to find out for herself if the stories are true or not. Beau and Willow get to know each other despite their families feuding and the secrecy surrounding both of them. A young woman is found in the swamp, having been murdered. Her name was Samantha and she had been dating Beau until that afternoon, when he broke it off. Another teen girl is found in the swamp, murdered in the same way as Samantha. Suspicions fly, as well as rumors, with the majority of the town suspecting Beau as the killer. The community is fearful with a serial killer loose and the police are working hard to solve and stop the murders. I enjoyed the southern setting and the food made my mouth water and crave the dishes. The suspense and anticipation built which made the book even more fun to read. I also liked learning about the characters and their pasts. 5 stars for a southern mystery! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration.
"Wicked Charm" is a YA instalove romance with a hint of murder-mystery. Willow has moved to the swamps where her grandmother lives with her parents. She is immediately interested in the cute boy next door, even though her grandmother warns her away from him due to her history with his grandfather. Beau is the hot guy next door, who frequently dates and dumps the girls in town. He has a solid reputation as a player/heartbreaker, and he's running out of girls to date- until Willow is new to town. Suddenly, he is interested in changing his ways to win the heart of Willow. As a side story, there are also teenaged girls ending up dead in the swamp, and all clues point to Beau (their former boyfriend) as the killer, although he maintains his innocence. He has an equally cold twin sister, Charlotte, who would be a heartbreaker, except that all the guys are too afraid to ask her out. They live with their grandfather (their parents are dead) on the swamp. Aside from Willow and Beau's grandparents' houses, there are no other residents for miles. The story alternates between Willow and Beau's points-of-view. I was hoping for more suspense and mystery with the killer, but instead, we have teenagers wandering around the swamp willy-nilly and occasionally trying to think about who the killer is (their parents/grandparents seem more concerned with whom they date than the dangers of wandering about with a killer loose). It never seemed very suspenseful (in my opinion- but I will admit that I may have a higher threshold), and the killer becomes pretty clear about 70% of the way through (and then there were some plot holes around it that I found difficult to believe). Another big question I had was how on earth they kept finding these bodies so quickly when only two families live near the swamp and- it's a swamp, so the water is not really clear. Maybe this was just me, but I was a little skeptical about how it all played out. As for the main genre, the romance was a little too easy in my opinion- Beau is just suddenly ready to change his ways and they both are instantly in love with each other, pretty much right away. However, if you can get past the how, the romance itself is pretty well done with a few intense kisses here and there. This was definitely the main focus of the book with everyone warning Willow away and her going for it anyway. Overall, I didn't really feel too invested in the relationship. I think this book would be better for younger YA readers who are looking for romance with a hint of mystery. The writing flows pretty well (although sometimes when the characters talk, they spell out everything they are thinking- which can be awkward in phrasing, but would be helpful for younger readers) and it definitely hits the romance elements! Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.