Bittersweet in the Hollow by Kate Pearsall is about a young woman named Linden James, who is trying to find out the truth about her strange disappearance experience last year.
The rural Caball Hollow is surrounded by the vast National Forest. It is home to the James family who own a farm and local eatery, the Harvest Moon Diner, in the area.
The family is well known in the area for their delicious food and it’s an open secret that they’re witches. However, that isn’t the only “secret” they are keeping, this one not so open. Linden and every female in her family tree, is born with an unusual ability. Linden can taste what other people are feeling.
Linden usually loves her gift until it costs her her relationship with Cole Spencer to sour one night. The pair grew up together and then their relationship blossomed into a romantic one. Everything was going great between the two of them, until Linden did something she was told by her family she should never do. She decided to tell an outsider more about her secret ability. She thought Cole would be excited but she tasted his confused and fearful emotions instead. Then he started pushing her away and told her to go back home.
Linden was upset from her interaction with Cole and left him to go back home. She later decides that she shouldn’t let Cole get in the way of her plans. She decides to join her friends in the depth of the forest for a party. Everything was going well, until she woke up hours later in the woods with no memories of what happened that night. All Linden can recall are hazy bits that suggest that a lot more happened to her that night than she can remember.
A few months pass and now, it’s another hot day in summer and one of the hottest summers so far. Things seem to be going well, until another girl, Dahlia, goes missing in the forest. It seems to be very similar to Linden’s experience last year except this time, the missing girl is found dead. When her body is found, it is clear that the girl was murdered.
Linden knew Dahlia and Linden was also the one who found the body. She is determined to find out what happened to her friend. However, as she begins digging, it becomes clear that someone is trying to keep the past buried and they will do anything to keep it that way. Will Linden be able to find out the truth about her friend’s murder and her disappearance last year, and if there’s a connection?
The book was an interesting read and had some vivid imagery. It had some spooky and paranormal elements. However, I felt that the book was dragging some of the time and it took a while before the author got into the meat of the story. At times, there was a lot going on and it was hard to keep track of who was speaking and what was going on and how it related to the story.
The romance between Cole and Linden could have been fleshed out more. It seemed to me that they were once pretty close but then they had a falling out. It seems obvious that they both liked each other and Cole was always still friendly and nice to her even though they didn’t talk. Linden seemed to have feelings for Cole as well. I also didn’t understand why Cole pushed her away that night. If he knew “something”, it seemed that they had a strong relationship and they both trusted each other— It just seems weird that he wouldn’t tell her especially when she was so open with him.
I love the relationships and the scenes with Linden and her sisters and family. The dynamics were fun and most of the time, Linden was open and honest with her sisters. They did things together and they didn’t keep any secrets from each other. I do wish that the sisters had more of a role when Linden was searching for the killer. I did like side plots with Rowan’s and Hadrian’s cat and mouse antics with each other. They seemed like a cute couple and I liked their scenes together. I also liked the scenes with Linden’s aunt, Sissy, I thought she was a fun character. I wished to learn more about her backstory and why she decided to come back home. The James family are portrayed as strong and powerful witches but they rarely showcased their abilities and didn’t help Linden with her quest to find answers.
I thought I would have been able to guess who the killer was and I was able to guess it towards the end. However, I didn’t get the motivation and that was surprising to me. I wished the author spent more time explaining the ending and certain loose ends.