Dark Designs|Stefanie Spangler


I received a free ebook from Hidden Gems in exchange for an honest review.

Ivy and Violet are twins, abandoned by their mother and raised by their grandparents on their farm. One afternoon, sweet little Ivy is all alone in the barn, playing with newborn kittens. Enter Charlie Logan, a young farmhand who works for Grandpa Jack. Charlie clearly has evil intentions for Ivy, backing her into a corner and touching her hair.

The creep vibes must have been strong, because Grandpa Jack swoops in just in time to stop Charlie from touching Ivy. With a pitchfork pressed to Charlie’s back, Grandpa Jack tells him to disappear or be killed. Grandpa Jack isn’t messing around. Charlie takes off, leaving angry Grandma Audrey clenching her fists in a cloud of dust. Audrey decides this is as good a time as any to introduce the girls to the family secret: they come from a long line of magical women.

Fast forward a decade or so later and the twins are recent college grads, back on the farm. Ivy is obsessed with finding out what happened to her mom when things start getting weird on the farm. It turns out that Charlie Logan is back in town and he didn’t come empty handed. During a burglary, Charlie found a book of shadows and dove head first into dark magic with the intention of getting his hands on Ivy once again.

Clearly still a creep, Charlie has the whole town under a spell and no one except Audrey and the twins can see him for what he really is. As Charlie grows stronger, things on the farm get more dangerous. When his plans to take Ivy are foiled, he instead kidnaps a little girl. Violet, Ivy, and Audrey must race against the clock to defeat Charlie and save the girl.

I gave this book three stars. I had a lot of hope for this book. The cover was gorgeous, the premise was interesting, and who doesn’t love a little magical thriller? Unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me. There are so many intriguing plot lines that just weren’t hammered out. There is a HUGE gap between Charlie being a creep the first time and Charlie coming back and being a magical creep the second time. What has been happening? How did the girls develop their magic?

We get very little history or explanation of the family’s magical abilities, either. At one point, Grandma Aubrey just pulls out her own book of shadows and briefly mentions it was passed down through her magical family for generations. I need more! There also isn’t much of a backstory about Ivy and Violet’s mom. We’re told she disappeared when the twins were very young. That’s it. Ivy was obsessed with finding her for all of about half a chapter and then…nothing. That was all we know about mom other than a few brief mentions. That could have been such a big part of the plot!

I also have an issue with the fact that once the police get involved, they’re told “oh, hey guys, by the way, we have these magical abilities” and the police are like “okay, cool!” There’s no pushback, no resistance, no nothing. It’s just accepted within a few paragraphs. Where’s the fun in that? This family has almost zero barriers other than Creepy Charlie. And he isn’t really much of one.

Charlie is such a flat character. He’s very predictable and makes for a boring antagonist. Why why why did our heroines not have much trouble at all with just about anything?! I did like the other characters, but even Ivy is kind of dull. She’s whiny and flaky and doesn’t really seem to grow any throughout the story. Violet, however, is strong, independent, and sure of herself. She’s much more developed, which is interesting since she’s the protagonist’s sister.

The ending is another big issue. It was rushed and packed into one single chapter. It was too simple and everything was, as usual, too easy for the characters. I don’t like when things are wrapped up all neat and tidy with a cute little bow. There was some suspense, but it occurred long before the main event and then fizzled out as we came closer to the protagonist vs antagonist battle.

All in all, I did enjoy it for the most part. I’m sure it doesn’t seem like it from my above rant. It just didn’t blow my mind and didn’t feel very original. I was so disappointed because there were so many questions and loose ends that could have been followed to make for a great story. This author definitely has potential and did well for a debut, but as a stand-alone novel, this didn’t really cut it. I sincerely hope it’s book one of a series, because we could get some awesome Charmed on the farm type of stories.

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