Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: The Dark Witch: Book One in The Cousins O’Dwyer...

Dear Ms. Roberts:

Winter, 1263. Sorcha, the Dark Witch, is being relentlessly pursued for her power by the evil sorcerer, Cabhan. Her husband is fighting in another war, and she’s home with her children: Brannaugh, Eammon and Teagan. Each of her children has the gift of magick as well, as evidenced by their special animal guides, a hawk, a horse and a dog, who protect each child. She’ll go to any length to protect and defend them, and the magick within her. But in order to vanquish Cabhan, she must harness both her power and that of her children. Sadly, in banishing Cabhan, Sorcha dies, and the legacy of the three who comprise the Dark Witch lives on, as does Cabhan, who will stop at nothing to steal their power.

Nora Roberts Dark WitchCounty Mayo, 2013. Iona Sheehan has sold all of her belongings and left her beloved Nan, and neglectful parents to move to Ireland and find work. She’s hoping to meet and make a connection with her cousins, Connor and Branna O’Dwyer. She knows the story of Sorcha and knows that magick lives within her, but she has no idea how to harness it. But she’s hoping in finding her cousins, they’ll complete the Dark Witch three and she’ll be able to learn to control the power within her.

Of course, Iona’s coming to Ireland revitalizes Cabhan. He wants her power and immediately identifies her as the weak link of the Three. Iona must scramble to catch up with her cousins who have known of their power and been taught from a very young age to handle it. Branna immediately invites Iona to come and live with her and her brother, Connor and to begin to learn about the magick within herself. Iona readily accepts and finds a job at the local stables working for a man named Boyle McGrath. Iona is an exceptional horsewoman, always having enjoyed a mental connection with horses.

The horse, big and beautiful at easily sixteen hands, tested his rider with the occasional buck and dance, and even with the distance, she could see the fierce gleam in his eyes. His smoke gray coat showed some sweat, though the morning stayed cool – and his ears stayed stubbornly back.

But the man, big and beautiful as well, had his measure. Iona heard his voice, the challenge in it if not the words, as he kept the horse at a trot.

And something in her, just at the sounds of his voice, stirred. Nerves, excitement, she told herself, because the man held her happiness in his hands.

But as they drew closer, the stir grew to a flutter. Attraction struck her double blows – heart and belly as, oh, he really was as magnificent as the horse. And every single bit as appealing to her. – Kindle location 1637

Of course, Alastair (the horse), is Iona’s animal guide for her adventure. The connection between Boyle and Iona is every bit as strong, but Boyle, aware of the impropriety of wanting someone he’s just hired to work for him, is reluctant to become involved with her. That being said, he can’t seem to stop hauling to off her feet and into his arms. But he’s cranky about it. As the two of them fall more deeply in love with each other, Cabhan’s power grows and the cousins must join together to again try to vanquish him before he steals the power of the Dark Witch.

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a Nora Roberts book as much as I did this one. The last series didn’t work for me, nor have the last few stand alones. But this book features two things that I’ve always connected with in Roberts’ writing: Ireland and witches. The “Born in” trilogy and the “Three Sisters” trilogies are my two favorites by her. So this series was already almost a “gimme”. The book sets up an interesting mythology by focusing the first three chapters on Sorcha and her battle against Cabhan, raising the stakes and investing the reader in the power and a mother’s determination to protect her children. By the time we arrive in modern day Ireland, I found myself fully invested in the urgency of the battle to protect the Dark Witch’s power.

I very much liked the heroine, and I always enjoy Nora’s cranky heroes, of which Boyle is most definitely one. But really their characterization doesn’t necessarily cover any new ground. That being said, the sense of place, of County Mayo, is so vividly drawn you can almost smell the peat moss burning. As always, the relationships between siblings, cousins, and friends are entertaining to read about. I also really enjoyed that when the couple hit a speed bump (and it’s a pretty good one), they handle it like adults, even though it pains both of them to do it. The final battle in the book doesn’t really seem like one, but that’s probably because there are two more books to come.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure if my enjoyment of this book came from the fact that I was finally reading a new Nora Roberts that I actually really liked, or if the book is really that well done. Either way, this is a book that I really liked and am happy to give a recommendation to, particularly for readers of Nora’s who haven’t really liked her more recent releases. This feels like “old school” Nora Roberts to me, and I mean that in the very best possible way. The Dark Witch gets a B+ from me.

Kind regards,


AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle


I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.


  1. Em
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 08:28:40

    I want to just say “ditto” to your entire review. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the setting, the characters, the backstory. I love when Nora does her supernatural thing. It works well for me. The “speedbump” and how it was handled after was well done, in my opinion. That being said, I felt like we didn’t get to know Boyle nearly as well as I would’ve liked but that’s pretty much the only real issue I had, especially knowing that this is a trilogy and that we wouldn’t truly get a resolution to the big bad problem.

  2. Bamaclm
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 10:20:59

    I guess I prefer Ms. Robert’s stand alone books. The Witness was outstanding.

    Her trilogies, on the other hand, are so formulaic – I’m halfway through Dark Witch and seems like I’ve read it before. There’s the latecomer to the trio, the weak one that has to learn. There’s the strong, sort of bossy one that knows everything. Only difference this time is the third one is male. There’s an evil that’s focused on only them and has been for centuries.

    I’m just not sure I’m interested enough to continue. Don’t think I’ll be buying the rest of the trilogy.

  3. Kati
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 10:45:24

    @Bamaclm: I will completely agree that there’s not much new ground covered here. But I love her Ireland set books and I like her lighter paranormals. So this one worked for me. On the other hand, all of her books that focus on home/inn renovations? Stab me in the eye. :)

  4. Meg
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 11:09:15

    @Kati: I enjoyed the Inn Boonsboro books until the third one. It was really a case where there seemed to be enough actual plot for two books, but it had to be stretched out to book 3. I think the Inn Boonsboro trilogy would be far stronger as a single book. As a history buff and someone who’s visited the town, I loved reading about the work that went into restoring the inn and the town itself. But, it kept going on and on, and the underlying romances weren’t strong enough to justify three full books. Now, a single book split into three novellas or a single title weaving in all three plots would have that extra punch.

  5. It's Me
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 11:36:42

    I feel like NR changed her writing style big time several years ago, it’s something I can’t quite but my finger on, I just know it drives me nutty. It makes me sad because I used to lover her stuff. If you say this one felt more NR old school, then I will definately give it a try.

  6. Anna Richland
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 13:07:56

    I saw Susan Cooper, children’s author of the “Dark is Rising” series, speak recently while on tour for her new book “Ghost Hawk”. The review of Dark Witch immediately made me thing of an adult version of the Dark is Rising series — something about the force of the young people being stronger when together, ancient evil, etc.

    It makes it much more likely that I’ll give this series a try. I’m not into wedding planning or inn renovations either, but this sounds great.

  7. library addict
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 22:31:25

    I agree with Em and wish we’d gotten more from Boyle’s POV. I thought the “speedbump” was almost too well handled. This was the section of the book I most wished we’d gotten Boyle’s POV.

    Still I enjoyed it overall and will read the next two installments. So far Fin is my favorite character. I’m betting his story will be last.

  8. Nick @ Bakingbeardy
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 16:59:39

    I was a bit disappointed this one – but that’s probably because if you’re Irish, it’s hard to buy into NR’s characterisation of Irish people (little things, but when she mentions an Irish person paying college “tuition”, it throws you).

    Glad she’s back in supernaturals, but that was a bit disappointing from someone who tends to love her Irish books.

%d bloggers like this: