Friday, June 9, 2023

Review: The Enchanted Hacienda by JC Cervantes

Today I'm so excited to be sharing my review of, The Enchanted Hacienda, an enchanting new novel from NY Times bestseller JC Cervantes. Read on to see why I loved it.

ISBN-13: 978-0778334057
Publisher: Park Row Books
Release Date: 05-16-2023
Length: 368pp
Source: Publisher for review
Buy It: Publisher/ Amazon/ B&N/ IndieBound



From the New York Times bestselling author, J.C. Cervantes, THE ENCHANTED HACIENDA introduces us to the magical Estrada family.

"This is a contemporary coming-of-age story, with a sprinkling of magic, that’s one of my most anticipated reads of the year." —Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author, in Elle Magazine

“The warmth and humor of The Enchanted Hacienda immediately cast a spell over me.”
—Katy Hays, New York Times bestselling author of The Cloisters

When Harlow Estrada is abruptly fired from her dream job and her boyfriend proves to be a jerk, her world turns upside down. She flees New York City to the one place she can always call home—the enchanted Hacienda Estrada.

The Estrada family farm in Mexico houses an abundance of charmed flowers cultivated by Harlow’s mother, sisters, aunt, and cousins. By harnessing the magic in these flowers, they can heal hearts, erase memories, interpret dreams—but not Harlow. So when her mother and aunt give her a special task involving the family’s magic, she panics. How can she rise to the occasion when she is magicless? But maybe it’s not magic she’s missing, but belief in herself. When she finally embraces her unique gifts and opens her heart to a handsome stranger, she discovers she’s far more powerful than she imagined.

With unforeseen twists, romance, and a heavy sprinkle of magic, The Enchanted Hacienda is a captivating coming-of-age debut exploring identity, unconditional family love, and uncovering the magic within us all.

Read an excerpt:


Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it to.

Of course, you don’t begin to realize this until it’s too late and you’re sitting in your boss’s office being canned from a dream job.

“That’s it?” I say, blinking in astonishment against the afternoon light spilling in through the impressive floor-to-ceiling windows. “I’m just fired?”

“Not fired,” Stan says gently as he steals a glance at his watch. “Let go.”

I really hate semantics. Ironic for a book editor, I know. Ex book editor. And yeah, it’s at a small indie publisher, but damn if I don’t love it.

My eyes fall on the dreadfully limp orange lily on the windowsill behind him. Scientific name, Lilium, a flower with multiple meanings from beauty and birth to magnificence and majesty. But in this color, it can only mean dislike, hatred, revenge.

I want to laugh, wondering if Stan knows he’s got a dying bloom of revenge looking over his shoulder. Of course, I say nothing. I rarely tell people I spent my childhood summers on a lush and magical flower farm in Mexico, and I never mention that my family’s land grows enchanted blooms with the power to cast spells. First, people would question my grip on reality. Second, it’s a four-generation well-kept secret.

Stan’s gaze follows mine. “Yeah, I know I need to throw it out.”

“Lilies are used to break love spells or fend off spirits,” I say matter-of-factly. “Sometimes they’re used to keep visitors away.”

Stan turns back to me; an inquisitive expression passes over his pale face. “Did you study horticulture or something?”

“Or something,” I say, managing a ghost of a smile. I’m about to tell him it’s bad energy to keep a dying bloom around, but why bother?

“You’re such a great team member,” he goes on like he’s reading from a script. “But this is about seniority.” Then, as if he wants to wash his hands of the blood, “A decision from the top...out of my control really.”

I quickly do the mental calculations. I’m the only newbie unless you count that Kenny kid in publicity with the fancy-ass pens, who wears his pants an inch too short because he likes to show off his designer socks.

I pull my pride up off the floor, swallow, lift my chin and say, “Okay, so how does this work?” I’ve never been fired before unless you count that one time at KFC when I was a freshman in high school. “Do I get two weeks or...”

Stan fills in the or part of my question with, “I’m afraid not, Harlow. You need to clean out your desk today.” In my boss’s defense, he looks stricken, like he isn’t in the biz of firing starry-eyed twenty-seven-year-olds from their dream editing jobs. “But you can wait until the end of the day if you like, or...” He clears his throat twice. “Most everyone is out of the office at a bookseller meeting, so now might be...easier.”

I feel a cramp in my heart. Is that even possible?

“But what about my books?” I just acquired my first adult speculative novel. I imagine the beautiful heart-thundering manuscript sitting in

my inbox, catching fire. A small voice rises inside of me. See? This is what you get for wanting too much.

“We’ll be reassigning your book.” He emphasizes the singular noun like an insult.

Reassign? That can only mean one thing: Charlotte with seniority and cold blood flowing through her reptile veins is going to get it, but she’ll never get it. She’ll never understand the magic sprinkled between each word, floating off each page.

A prickly heat rises up my chest, spreads across my neck. I can practically feel the red splotches popping up all over. I suddenly wish I had worn that cashmere turtleneck I just bought instead of this silk blouse.

“And I’m happy to write you a letter of recommendation. A glowing one,” Stan says like he just wants me to get out of his office so he can be done with the deed and go about his day of giving away my lifeblood to a lizard.

I drag myself to my cubicle and “clean out my desk.” It doesn’t take long. I leave a light

footprint and only have a few personal items: a photo of me and my two sisters, Lily and Camilla, from our trip to the Swiss Alps last year, a Go Fast Don’t Die jacket from the back of my chair, and a vanilla candle my boyfriend, Chad, gave me that I hate the smell of so much I never burn it. Unfortunately, my only bag is a clutch that won’t fit all the contents of my professional life, so I snag a freebie canvas book bag from the back room and stuff my belongings inside. I catch the elevator, ride thirteen floors down, speed-walk through the lobby, and then have my breakdown the second the September sun hits my face.

The tears come; the blubbering isn’t too far behind. A few people stare at me with wide eyes, probably tourists. I collapse onto a bench and take deep breaths, trying to pep talk myself out of this one. It’s okay. I’ll find another job. It’ll be better with more opportunities.

My shoulders slump with each affirmation.

Who am I kidding? This was the job I had waited for, had risen at sunrise to get to the office early because I was so excited to be a part of this team.

Blubbering semi under control, I find my phone and dial Chad to tell him the news, to tell him to make me that tomato soup he’s so good at, the one he always accompanies with little grilled cheese strips for dunking.

“Hey, baby,” he says.

As soon as I hear his voice, the terror of putting into words what happened hits me like a grenade and I freeze.


“Can you...” I don’t know where to begin. I’m suddenly shaking and struggling to get words past the lump that’s taken up residence in my throat.

“What’s wrong?” he says, sounding alarmed. That’s Chad. He smells problems like a police dog sniffs out cocaine. I can already see how this is going to go. He’s going to begin with the surface “issue” of me getting fired and what that means for my career. Then he’ll go to the next layer and realize that a girlfriend with no job means reduced social status for him. He’ll never get to the deepest layer though. The shame and utter sadness I feel. So why was he my first call? Because I’m

a lifetime subscriber to the Get It Over With channel. I just have to get the words out and then everything will feel better.

“Nothing... I just...” I take a long deep breath, and what comes out next sounds as broken as I feel. “Cannedcutbacksnoseniority.”

“Hang on,” Chad says, and I can hear him talking to someone in the background but it’s muffled like he has his hand over the phone. He’s probably clearing his paralegal or some other attorney out of his office so he can comfort me in privacy.

I hear someone phony laughing, and then, “Okay, I’m back. Are you sure they fired you?”

“Chad,” I say, wholly insulted as I begin walking to the subway. “I am absolutely sure.”

“I told you...publishing isn’t predictable.”

“Seriously?” Anger rises hot as I try to jerk my sunglasses free from my blouse’s neckline but they get tangled in a gold chain, and before I know it, I’ve pulled too hard and they fall to the ground. A lens pops out. “Shit!”

“Don’t be mad, I just mean that... I want you to be happy. Secure.”

Meaning an active member of society, worthy of a boyfriend who’s partner at Coryell, Stray, and Ball.

I retrieve my busted Guccis, and weave between a throng of schoolgirls in private school blazers and plaid skirts.

“Can you make me your tomato soup tonight?” I ask, hating how pathetic I sound, and probably look.

“Babe,” he says, like I’ve just asked him to slay his firstborn child. “Tonight is my big promotion dinner celebration. With the partners. Remember?”

All I hear are curt sentences, each carrying the weight of a single message: How could you forget?

I press my fingers to the bridge of my nose and squeeze. “Right... I...don’t think I can go.” I swallow hard, cursing the sun for being so damn bright. Doesn’t it know my life is putrefying on the sidewalk right now?

I am so not in the mood to hang out with the tightly wound, Rolex-sporting, inflated egos that Chad calls partners. I’d rather get salmonella.

“Harlow!” Chad practically hisses. “I need you there. We talked about this.”

I’m being selfish. I know I am. This is a big deal for him, and I can’t let my getting fired ruin that. And it doesn’t matter that I’m a heap of humiliation, and that I have to say goodbye to a book I fell in love with that Charlotte will edit to unreadable oblivion, and I’ll have to see it on bookshelves with her name in the acknowledgments and...

I stop the one-way train of pity party consciousness barreling through my head and do a mental reset. “My eyes are insanely puffy,” I say, reaching for witty, but coming up woefully short.

To Chad’s credit, he tries to match my tone. “You have a bathroom filled with eye creams.”

I manage a minuscule smile, so small a stranger might mistake it for a grimace.

Chad lowers his voice. “Come on, Harlow. It’s just for a few hours. A short reception then dinner. You don’t even have to stay for dessert.”

Except dessert is my favorite food group.

I nod. “Okay. You’re right. Sorry...”

“Meet me at five thirty? I’ll text the address.”

“It’s not black-tie, is it?” I would for sure remember that detail, given dress codes should be illegal in all fifty states.

“No, but elegant.” Code for the understated version of me. As in no leather, no smoky eyes, and NO heels that make me taller than Chad.

Check. Check. Check.

After we hang up, I wonder what I just apologized for. I wonder why Chad never said he was sorry that I just lost a job I loved.

By the time I get off the subway in the East Village, I’ve adopted a new resolve. A plan to pull myself together, at least for tonight. First step? I stop at a flower stand a few blocks from our apartment building. There isn’t much of a selection. To the average Joe, the stand is a plethora of vibrant colors, rows and rows of roses, carnations, hydrangeas, daisies, lilies, a few sad little peonies. But none of those send the exact right message that I’m looking for.

I pick out a trio of lovely sunflowers, bring a bloom to my nose and breathe in its clean earthy scent. I feel a sharp tug in my chest, a sort of homesickness I always feel when life

throws me a curveball. After I pay for the bouquet, I head home, realizing that Chad doesn’t know the symbolism of the Helianthus, the sunflower: devotion, opportunity, ambition, happiness, and good luck but I’m sure he’ll appreciate the gesture.

If my mom or Tía had grown these in the enchanted soil of our family’s land, it might have taken months and would’ve required very specific conditions using very specific threads of magic. The real family power, though, is in how they combine blooms, or how they concoct elixirs, using petals, leaves, and stems to create prosperity, love, health, hope, protection, or even to cause separation, doubt, fear, and misery. It’s all so complicated and beautiful and alchemical, and the magic happened to skip me entirely. Unlike my two sisters and pair of primas and every other ancestress before me. And also, unlike my sisters and cousins, I wasn’t named for a flower.

My mom told us the story countless times when we were growing up: the Aztec goddess Mayahuel whispered the given names of each child in the family. So while my sisters are all

named after beautiful blooms, I was given the very regrettable name that translates to heap of stones.

As I enter the small but bright postwar subdivided townhome with inlaid oak floors and oversize windows, my phone rings. It’s my younger sister Lily. She knows something is wrong. It’s both a curse and a blessing that the women in my family are so tightly woven together, connected by some unexplainable thread of energy that makes it really hard to have a private life. And right now, I don’t want to talk, to explain, or relive. Not when I have to de-puff my eyes and paint on a smile big enough to carry me through tonight’s painful, self-congratulatory my dick is bigger than yours conversations. A minute later, she sends a text.

I consider ignoring it, but then realize if I do, she’ll call my only real friend in the city, Laini, who bartends at a chic hotel downtown and is therefore free at this time of day to go

on a wild escapade to locate me and confirm that I am alive and well, that indeed nada is wrong. So I reply, I busted my sunglasses.

Lil isn’t a shrink. She’s actually in her last year of OB-GYN residency in San Diego, but she’s an absolute fixer. If anyone has a problem, she thinks she can make it better. Need a vacation? She’ll book the whole thing for you. Mention you’re out of soap, she’ll ship decadent designer bars next day air. Tell her you’ve had a shit day? She’ll send a bartender friend over with two bottles of Macallan Rare Cask.

I can feel her smiling on the other side of that text, which only makes me smile too. Lmao ok. Mtg soon text you later.

I hate lying to her, but I can’t bring myself to initiate the Estrada Drama that I know is going to explode in my face once I tell her that I was “let go.” She’ll send me a plane ticket to come to San Diego so she can “fix” my life, which will likely include self-help books, time with her friends who have it “so much worse” than I do, and the ninety-minute life is too short harangue on why I should be writing books not editing them. Except how can I write anything if I have absolutely no idea where to start? If I can’t even find my own voice?

Her next message calls me out. You always text me during meetings. What’s wrong?

I laugh in spite of myself. My sisters have never really warmed to Chad even though he’s a smart, well-employed, charming guy. So what that he likes to work...a lot, or that he

doesn’t dance or watch comedies or like to travel outside of the country and has never been to our family farm in Mexico?

We’ve only been together nine-ish months, so it’s not like I’m ready to take him home anyway. Plus Hacienda Estrada is a surefire way to get someone to break up with you because once an outsider meets the family, gets our vibe, witnesses our bond, tastes our crazy, they run for the hills. And you better believe that my entire family (sans me) has employed the tactic successfully for the unrequited partner that can’t let go. Of course, it can have the opposite effect on the Keepers. Take Camilla for example. When she brought home the gallant Amir, she left with a rock on her finger, tied for life to the greatest guy in the universe who would burn down the world, himself included, for my sister. Deep down, I know the farm would never make Chad a Keeper.

I answer Lil’s question with one of my own.

She sends me a red heart. I send her my signature skull.

With a sigh, I tug off my heeled sandals. And as I make my way to the kitchen, I step out of my leather pencil skirt, slip off my silk blouse, lacy bra, and overpriced underwear so I can wrap myself in the feeling of glorious uninhibition. It’s the only time I can fully untangle all the threads that bind my speed-racer mind. My nude habit used to drive Chad out of his mind with lust. We always ended up twisted in the sheets, his needs met, me unsatisfied. Those were the good old days, which lasted approximately two months three days and sixteen hours. And then we became that couple who are scrolling on their phones over dinners in nice restaurants.

I place the sunflowers in a tall green vase, fill it with water, trying to remember their other symbolic meaning I can’t quite put my finger on as I set them on the entry table beneath a gilded mirror.

Black streaks of mascara are etched into my reddened cheeks; my ombre-dark hair spills out of the low knotted bun I so precisely created this morning. And my eyes are so

tragically swollen, I look like I’ve gone a couple of rounds with a heavyweight boxer. It’s definitely going to take a few cosmetic miracles to pull myself into the decent understated shape.

“You’re not going to feel sorry for yourself,” I tell my reflection, forcing a stiff upper lip. “You’re going to pull your shit together, pull out the ice globes, pour a glass of merlot, put on a dress, and have the goddamn time of your life.”

As much as my voice is filled with conviction, my reflection isn’t buying it. Neither is my heart.

With a groan, I drop my gaze to the invitation on the table. It’s a crisp white linen card with a pink sweet pea tucked inside. It arrived yesterday from my mom, a formal request for my presence at the family’s annual Ceremony of Flowers happening two days from now. I was surprised when I received it because it’s four months early, which is bizarre since everything about the Estrada family magic is about precise timing. We have always planted the seeds and whispered the moonlit blessings at the same time every single year,

not a moment sooner or later. And as much as I’ve pestered, neither my mom nor Tía will tell anyone what’s up. I thought the sweet pea was a clue; the flower symbolizes adventure and travel, but maybe it’s Mom’s way of telling us all to have a safe journey to the farm?

For half a second, I consider getting a head start on packing, but I’m too tired, and in desperate need of that glass of merlot and a rose-oil infused bath if I have any chance of transforming tragic me into a quasi-happy me for Chad.

Tomorrow I’ll start packing and trying to get on with the rest of my life. But tonight? Tonight is Chad’s night. He’s worked hard for this promotion. And I’m not going to let him down.

A stream of dusty sunlight dances on the yellow petals of the sunflower. And that’s when I remember the other meaning of the Helianthus: false appearances and unhappy love.

Well. Shit.


My Review:

The Enchanted Hacienda
J. C. Cervantes 

Cervantes latest novel is enchanting, lovely and lively, full of love, loss, a good dose of magic and a lot of family drama, a fantastic mix of magical realism and women’s fiction. Introducing readers to Harlow Estrada an unsinkable heroine, a true friend and steadfast member of her all-consuming all magical family and to Mayahuel, the goddess of the Agave plant from Aztec mythology. As this exceptional author weaves this unforgettable tale she’ll take readers on some emotional journeys featuring some arresting backdrops and a cast of extraordinary characters. Harlow is the enigmatic star of the show, the scene stealer and readers will have no choice but to love her, and her chutzpah and will laugh and cry with her though her self-awakening.  There is a memorable love story between the mysteries and dramas but J.C. Cervantes will make her audience wait an excruciatingly long time before she lets them in on whether there’s a happy ever after or not but it’s definitely worth the wait. Fans of the genre and authors like Sarah Addison Allen will find this novel absolutely unputdownable.

Born into a magical family but having no magic herself Harlow Estrada is used to disappointment but has just keeps putting one foot in front of the other. That is until she finds herself at a crossroads; fired from her job and on top of that a dramatic breakup with her boyfriend. Her heart is telling her to go home, to Mexico, her magical family and the Enchanted Hacienda, their flower farm where her sisters, aunt and cousins infuse magic into the blooms.

Once home and surrounded by the love of family and magic Harlow starts finding her way and just maybe a magical awakening herself when she thinks the family’s patron goddess Mayahuel is visiting her in her dreams. When the farm choses her to be a temporary caretaker while her mom and aunt go on vacation, she’s not sure she’s up to the task and when she almost botches a magical binding, she sees it as a definite sign. When that botched binding finds her literally knocked off her feet by the gorgeous stranger she keeps bumping into she’s not sure what the Goddess is trying to tell her and she’s not sure she wants to find out either.

About the author:

J.C. is a New York Times best-selling author. Her books have been published in more than twelve countries and have appeared on national lists, including the American Booksellers Association New Voices, Barnes and Noble’s Best Young Reader Books, and Amazon’s Best Books of the Month. She has earned multiple awards and recognitions, including the New Mexico Book Award and the Zia Book Award.
She currently resides in the Land of Enchantment with her family and spoiled pups, but keeps part of her heart in Southern California, where she was born and raised. When she isn’t writing, she is haunting bookstores and searching for magic in all corners of the world.
Her work is represented by Holly Root at Root Literary.