Totally taken by surprise regarding SPELLCAST by Barbara Ashford! This book was sugary sweet, but deeply introspective all wrapped up in a musical that was laced with a little paranormal tid-bits here and there. I still don’t know why I accepted this review copy, I’m not into musical theater, I guess it was the cover, or the originality, or maybe even the glowing reviews – but I’m so glad I did take it, read it and subsequently highly enjoy it. Don’t judge, just read. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.


On a whim Maggie Graham, unemployed, unattached and slightly frayed, ends up in Vermont looking for a bed and breakfast. Instead of finding a place to crash for the night she ends up auditioning for the Crossroads Theatre and being cast into minor rolls for three separate plays that will be performed that summer. Not know why she accepts the gig, Maggie ends up in a run down hotel, being paid $100 a week and now a part of a very strange cast of characters and an otherworldly staff – that casts people not by the character they could best play, but by the character that will teach them the most.

Maggie is the only one that has any prior acting experiences, but the ridiculously handsome, yet strangely ethereal director will only put her in characters that he thinks will make her a better person. It would seem that Rowan, the director has made it his life goal to help people through singing and acting and he has an almost magic voice that brings the motley cast together to make something spectacular. At first skeptical Maggie is soon drawn into friendships and helping others like she never has before. She finds herself eerily drawn to Rowan and his mystery and the aura of otherness that surrounds the staff of the Crossroads. Will this only be a summer fling for Maggie, a push towards her right direction, or will the Crossroads set her on her life-path…

I read somewhere SPELLCAST described as unassuming and it is true. This books description and cover can’t convey what it is. While a bit long, it’s entirety is a discovery of self and friendship and hope. Myself as a person could only hope that a Crossroads Theater would appear for me when I was faced with a large pot-hole in my road of life. Ashford constructed each character with precision and describes each scene as if she had experienced them herself. The plays the characters act out are almost real for me and I wish I had prior knowledge of them so I could get just a little better grasp on what is going on. This was a very entertaining read and I kept finding myself drawn back into the pages as if I had never left as soon as I picked it up.

The drawbacks that I found was that yes, it was a bit long. Ashford would go into details regarding the most trivial of scenes, yet her writing flowed so well that I couldn’t skim – therefor I felt it went on and on over trivialities. And then there was the ending. I will not spoil it, but I do have to say, that while the ending was how I think it should have been there was still that bitter part of me that wanted so much more…


This is an excellent read that I really can’t compare to anything else. Recommended for contemporary romance fans because of it’s only slight taste of the paranormal. Yet, I really wouldn’t describe this as a romance. There is enough to give it a flavoring, but not something I would describe as romance. I don’t know, but this one would probably fit in one of those random genres like Magical Realism or something. It is an adult read, with a bit of language and some sexual encounters.


Like this Like That

  1. The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel by Sarah Addison Allen

Parajunkee: Can you give us a little scoop on what will happen in Spellcast #2?

Barbara Ashford: Well, without giving away too much about the sequel – or Spellcast – all I can really tell you is that:

  • Maggie continues to work at the newly non-profit Crossroads Theatre.
  • To capitalize on its new after-school program, the theatre is presenting three musicals that feature young performers: Annie, The Secret Garden, and Into the Woods.
  • The sequel begins one year after the epilogue of Spellcast. During dog auditions for Annie.
  • The company includes both professional and amateur actors, leading to some friction.
  • Maggie’s absentee father continues to influence her life.
  • So does Rowan.

You can read an excerpt from the sequel on my website. I’m still searching for a title. So even though that plot description is hopelessly sketchy, send in your suggestions! I’ll add them to the growing list.

PJ: Was there a particular theater you were involved in or setting that inspired the Crossroads Theater and the motley cast and characters?

BA: Two theatres, actually – the Southbury Playhouse and Fort Salem Theatre. Southbury was an old barn like the Crossroads. Fort Salem was a converted church – home to “Anatevka” (a rundown floor of rooms where the cast lived) and the mottled black-and-gray backdrop described in Spellcast, which we
did, indeed, liken to the Shroud of Turin.

PJ: Your characters are crafted so well, each one with their own back-story and personal problems and personality, are they inspired by real people?

BA: Most are drawn from my imagination. I created profiles for all the major characters, complete with short bios, physical descriptions, quirks, etc. A lot of those details didn’t make it into the book, but they helped me shape their histories and personalities.

If anyone is inspired by a real person, it’s Maggie. She has my voice, my sense of humor. She’s more outgoing than I am, more fearless about confronting people, but a lot of her life came directly from mine: my experience working at a telephone helpline; my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware; my father’s tradition of marking up my letter to Santa Claus and returning it Christmas Day; my mother’s preference for clothes from Talbots.

Spellcast is a story about family – those we are given and those that we find. So even though it meant cannibalizing my life, I’m glad I used those details. I think they help make Spellcast a very real, very personal story – for me and for many readers. And it’s a small way to thank all the people who shaped me.

For more on Spellcast and the sequel, visit my website: http://www.BarbaraAshford.com.

PJ: Thank you Barbara for answering my questions! I can’t wait to read Spellcast #2 – or at least find out the title! I hope you get some great suggestions. I would love for my readers to experience the gem of a novel, so I’ll be giving away my copy to one lucky commentor.


  • One comment will win my ARC copy of Spellcast
  • Shipping is domestic only, sorry, I’m broke
  • Giveaway ends August 10th