Updated: Jan 24
Serpent & Dove
by Shelby Mahurin
Published by HarperTeen
Book 1 in the Serpent & Dove Series
Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou's, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou's most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.
RATED: 17+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Violence Upper Young Adult Exciting
Steamy Scenes Supernatural
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin is the first book in her Serpent & Dove series, and follows two characters: Lou (Louise), a witch hiding from her coven in the city of Cesarine, where witchcraft is outlawed, and if caught, witches are burned, and Reid, sworn to the church, a witch hunter. When Lou and Reid are brought together by a misleading looking accident, both of their worlds change forever.
If you are wondering why I am posting this in the weeks I am dedicating to Christmas Stories, well, this book just happens to be around that time of year.
No joke, when I first read the synopsis of Serpent & Dove, I wasn't interested. Despite it being constantly recommended in fantasy book groups, and a suggested read on goodreads and kindle, I was still hesitating. But then two things happened: I started listening to Two Book Bitches, and damn it, they go and do a podcast on this book, and because I loath spoilers, and I love their podcast and wanted to listen to it, I was leaning towards it. Second, I was watching a favorite author of mine, Sarah J Maas, do a instagram live event with the author of this series, and SJM was literally gushing over Reid and Lou ... well I just HAD to read it.
I. Have. No. Regrets.
I loved this book! I loved that the setting is in a fictional world, yet is heavily inspired by the real world. There is Christianity. Women are seen as possessions. Women are burned at the stake (although, unlike our terrible history, witches DO exist in Shelby's world). I really appreciated the way magic is dealt with in this book. It's not the first time I have come across the whole idea that in order to perform a spell, there needs to be a sacrifice in order to maintain a balance, but this is the first time I have come across magic use that is a true sacrifice for the witch. Broken bones, loss of senses, loss of cherished memories ... it fascinated me. And blood magic equally interested me.
If I didn't know beforehand that Shelby was inspired by Outlander (specifically when Jamie and Claire are in Paris, and Jamie called Clare a la dame blanche (white witch), I would have known it after reading the book. Trust me, Serpent & Dove is unique and the plot is NOTHING like Outlander. But we have white witches (Madame Blanches), which is what Lou is, and twice, Reid says one of my favorite Jamie lines from Outlander (and is a pretty major spoiler for this book, so highlight if you want to see) TWICE ------------> "I thank ye to take your hands off my wife." <--------------. Reid's appearance is actually inspired by Sam Heughan, that very talented Scottish actor who portrays Jamie Frasier. So a tiny amount of points are taken away for me, JUST because that line is used. Otherwise ... hey, Outlander is an amazing series. I don't blame anyone from being inspired by it.
If the world, and plot didn't have enough draw, one of the best features of this book are the characters. I'm kinda in love with Lou. She gives no shits about being proper. She is crass, she swears ... she isn't ashamed that she isn't a virgin. She does bad things, but it is for survival, and not because she wants to be evil. She steals. She fights. Which is why when she is paired with Reid, who is ... well ... uptight about rules and propriety, it leads to some hilarious banter. Their genuine dislike for one another, turning to delicious sexual tension and of course, romance, is written so well. They *might* be in my top ten favorite couples that I have read this year.
If you are looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud, weep (which I did ... several times), and will keep you hooked from page one (this book has one of the best opening lines to a book I have every read. Serious chills) to the final page, and have you rooting for a believable enemies to lovers romance, you will not regret picking up Serpent & Dove. Now, off to finally listen to that podcast, and start the next book in the series, Blood & Honey (my review for Blood & Honey will come out after the New Year)
Reid and Lou meeting for the first time
Lou saluting at Reid when she is escaping from the robbery
Lou using magic to make the archbishop break wind when he was telling women to obey their husbands
Lou stealing Reid's journal
Lou singing Big Titty Liddy to get her way with Ansel
Lou saving Bas
Reid teaching Lou scripture haha
Reid lending Lou a romance book from his secret cubby ... and later admitting it does have a "love" scene
Reid taking Lou to the show, and Reid rubbing circles on the back of her hand.
Lou taking Estelle's pain away from the flames
Lou talking Reid into going Christmas shopping, and when he is cold, she covers him with her cloak.
Reid telling Celie that he is going to honor his marriage vows
Reid telling Lou he won't touch her until she asks him ... and her trying to kick him out of bed for it lol
Reid calling Lou's buff about stripping naked in public
Lou showing Reid her secret home, and him giving her his mother's ring, a wedding ring.
They have sex!
Lou saving Reid and Ansel
Reid deciding that despite the lies, he loved Lou, and would go after her
Coco telling Reid how her and Lou met
Reid saving Lou's life
Where to Buy
Lou: "Good morning, Babette. You know, it's uncanny the way you always appear within seconds of our money. Can you smell it?"
I turned to Coco, whose lips twitched in an effort not to grin.
Lou: "It's like she can smell it."
Lou: "You're hanging out with the wrong ladies, Chass."
Reid: "Are you a courtesan, then?"
I sighed dramatically
Lou: "Alas, no, and hearts all over Cesarine are breaking for it."
Reid: "Stop laughing."
Lou: "I couldn't even if I wanted to."
She clutched a hand to her side, shaking, and a snort escaped her lips.
Lou: "This right here - this exact moment - it just might be worth marrying you, Chass. I'm going to cherish it forever."
Reid: "You're to be my wife."
Catching up to her in two strides, I reached out to grab her arm, but stopped short of touching her.
Reid: "That means you'll obey me."
Lou: "Does it?"
She raised her brows, still grinning
Lou: "I suppose that means you'll honor and protect me, then? If we're adhering to the dusty old roles of your patriarchy?"
I shortened my pace to match hers.
She clapped her hands together
Lou: "Excellent. At least this will be entertaining. I have many enemies."
I couldn't help it. I glanced at the deep bruises coloring her eyes.
Reid: "Imagine that."
Lou: "I wouldn't, if I were you. You'll have nightmares for weeks."
Reid: "I told you to behave."
Lou: "Oh, please. I winked. It's not like I stripped and sang 'Big Tittle Liddy' -"
Lou: " 'February twelfth - God took special care in forming Celie.' "
His eyes grew impossibly wider, and he lunged for the journal. I dodged - cackling - and ran into the washroom, locking the door behind me. His fists pounded against the wood.
Reid: "Give me that!"
I grinned and continued reading.
Lou: " 'I long to look upon her face again. Surely there is nothing more beautiful in all the world than her smile - except, of course, her eyes. Or her laugh. Or her lips.' My, my, Chass. Surely thinking of a woman's mouth is impious? What would our dear Archbishop say?"
Reid: "Open - this - door. Right now!"
Lou: " 'But I fear I'm being selfish. Celie has made it clear that my purpose is with my brotherhood.' "
Reid: "OPEN THIS DOOR -"
Lou: " 'Though I admire her selflessness, I cannot being myself to agree with her. Any solution that separates us is not a solution at all.' "
Reid: "I'M WARNING YOU -"
Lou: "You're warning me? What are you going to do? Break down the door? Actually, do it. I dare you. 'I must confess, she still haunts my thoughts. Days and nights blur together as one, and I struggle to focus on anything but her memory. My training suffers. I cannot eat. I cannot sleep. There is only her.' Good God, Chass, this is getting depressing. Romantic, of course, but still a little melodramatic for my taste -"
To Ansel's annoyance, I begun to hum.
Ansel: "No humming either."
I ignored him
Lou: "Big Titty Liddy was not very pretty, but her bosom was big as a barn. Her creamery knockers drove men off their rockers, but she was blind to their charms -"
His face burned so vivid a scarlet it rivaled my husband's.
Ansel: "What are you doing? That - that's indecent!"
Lou: "Of course it is. It's a pub song!"
Ansel: "You've been in a pub? But you're a woman."
Lou: "There are lots of women in pubs, Ansel. We aren't like you think. We can do anything you can do - and probably better. There's a whole world outside this church, you know. I could show you, if you wanted."
Ansel: "No. No more talking. No more humming. No more singing. Just - just stop being you for a little while, eh?"
Lou: "I can't make any promises. But if you gave me a tour ..."
Ansel: "Not happening."
Lou: "Big Willy Billy talked sort of silly, but his knob was as long as his -"
Ansel: "Stop, STOP."
Ansel waved his hands, cheeks flaming anew.
Ansel: "I'll take you on a tour - just, please, please stop singing about ... that!"
I rose to my feet, clasping my hands together and beaming.
Lou: "And - and what was that torture device Father Orville was carrying?"
Coco: "You mean the Bible?"
Lou: "Very funny."
Lou: "You really think I could knock two fully grown men unconscious?"
It would be an act of God if I made it through the service without snoring.
After the library fiasco, I'd though it, ah, prudent to accept my husband's invitation to evening Mass. Though I didn't know if he believed Ansel's and my story about learning scripture, he'd latched on to the idea, and I'd spent the remainder of the day memorizing verses. The most diabolical of all punishments.
Reid: " ' A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.' "
he'd recited, eyeing me irritably and waiting for me to repeat the verse. Still peeved from our earlier argument.
Lou: "Rain and men are both pains in the ass."
He scowled but continued.
Reid: " ' Whosoever hideth her hideth the win, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.' "
Lou: "Whoever hideth her ... something about ointment and a hand ..."
I'd waggled my eyebrows devilishly
Lou: "Quel risque! What sort of book is -"
He'd interrupted before I could further impugn his honor, voice hardening.
Reid: " 'Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.' "
Lou: "Iron sharpeneth iron, so you're being an ass because I, too, am a piece of metal."
On and on and on it'd gone.
Honestly, the invitation to Mass had been a welcome reprieve.
Though my back ached, the exercise kept my irritation in check. I'd quickly learned counting didn't work with Lou ... namely, after she'd started counting right along with me.
Lou: "La Vie Emphemere ..."
She looked up from the cover, lips pursed.
Lou: "The Fleeting Life. What's it about?"
Reid: "It's ... a love story."
Her brows shot up, and she examined the cover with newfound interest.
I nodded, biting the inside of my cheek to keep from smiling.
Reid: "It's tastefully done. The characters are from warring kingdoms, but they're forced to work together when they uncover a plot to destroy the world. They loathe each other initially, but in time, they're able to set aside their differences and -"
Lou: "It's a bodice-ripper, isn't it?"
Reid: "Who is it?"
Ansel: "It's Ansel."
With a grumbled curse, she hopped down. I beat her to the door and pulled it open.
Reid: "What is it?"
Lou glared at him
Lou: "I like you, Ansel, but this had better be something good. Emilie and Alexandre just had a moment, and I swear if they don't kiss soon, I will literally die."
At Ansel's confusion, I shook my head, fighting back a grin.
Reid: "Ignore her."
He was such a brute. A somewhat adorable, pompous-assed brute.
Lou: "Not all witches are evil."
Ansel: "I know you believe that, but you can't force Reid to believe it. There is some things that can't be changed with words. Some things have to be seen. They have to be felt. I hope you can find your way forward together. He's a good person, and ... so are you."
Reid: "Do you promise to behave yourself?"
Lou: "Of course not. That would ruin the fun."
Lou: 'I don't know what the hell you're talking about, but you need to look in the mirror. There's a special circle in Hell for liars and hypocrites, Your Eminence. Perhaps I'll see you there."
Lou: "I want to thank you - for everything. Celie was right. I don't deserve you. I made a real mess or your life when I came into it."
His other hand came down on top of mine. Warm and steady. To my surprise, he smiled.
Reid: "I'm glad you did."
Reid: "You drink like a man."
Lou: "Maybe men can learn a thing or two from women."
Lou: "Oh, c'mon, Chass. I don't bite ... much."
Lou: "Florin? What a terrible name! No wonder he never uses it."
He frowned at me
Reid: "Florin is my middle name."
Lou: "A true tragedy."
Lou: "You don't know me at all."
Reid: "I know stripping in public is too much, even for you. I know you'll never admit you wouldn't have done it."
The amusement in his eyes slowly darkened as he held me, and I became painfully aware this was the closest we'd been since our kiss that morning. He stared at his thumb as it brushed my bottom lip.
Reid: "I know you have a filthy mouth."
He pressed down hard on my lip for emphasis. I shivered.
Reid: "And you're used to getting your way. I know you're vulgar and dishonest and manipulative -"
I recoiled, nose wrinkling, but he only gripped my tighter.
Reid: " - but you're also compassionate and free-spirited and brave. I've never met anyone like you, Lou."
Reid: "Despite what you think, he's given me everything. He gave me a life, a purpose."
He hesitated, eyes meeting mine with a sincerity that made my heart stutter.
Reid: "He gave me you."
Lou: "The Archbishop didn't give me to you, Reid."
I looked up to the sky with a small smile.
Reid: "He did - or she."
Reid: "Do not urge me to leave you or turn from you. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay."
Lou: "Another time, I'll show you just how foul my mouth can be."
Reid: "I love you, Lou."
C'est cele l'amour, tout donner, tout sacrifier sans espoir de retour.
That is love, to give away everything, to sacrifice everything, without the slightest desire to get anything in return.
Ansel: "You saw her, Reid. She won't stand a chance if Morgane shows up."
I cursed Ansel and his bleeding heart.
Because I had seen her. That was the problem. I was doing my best to un-see her, but the memory had been seared into my eyelids. Blood had covered her beautiful face. It'd stained her throat. Her hands. Her dress. Bruises had already formed from the witch's assault ... but that wasn't what haunted me. That wasn't what cut through the haze of my fury.
No - it had been her eyes.
The light in them had gone out.
The drug, I reassured myself. The drug dimmed them.
But deep down, I knew better. Lou had broken in that moment. My wild-heart, foul-mouthed, steel-willed heathen had broken. I had broken her.
You are not my wife.
I hated myself for what I'd done to her. I hated myself more for what I still felt for her. She was a witch. A bride of Lucifer. SO what did that make me?"
Ansel: "You're a coward."
There had never been a choice. Not for me. From the first moment I'd seen her at the parade - dressed in that ridiculous suit and mustache - my fat had been sealed.
I loved her. Despite everything. Despite the lies, the betrayal, the hurt. Despite the Archbishop and Morgane le Blanc. Despite my own brothers. I didn't know if she returned that love, and I didn't care.
If she was destined to burn in Hell, I would burn with her.
Reid: "Why didn't you say anything?"
Ansel: "I told you. Lou is my friend."
Reid: "When? When did you know?"
Ansel: "During the witch burning. When - when Lou had her fit. She was crying, and the witch was screaming - then they switched. Everyone thought Lou was seizing, but I saw her. I smelled the magic. She was burning, Reid. I don't know how, but she took away that witch's pain. She gave it to herself. That's why I didn't tell you. Because even though I knew Lou was a witch, I knew she wasn't evil. She burned at the stake once. She doesn't deserve to do it twice.
Reid: "I never would've hurt her."
Would my soul remember him? A small part of me prayed I wouldn't, but the rest knew better. I loved him. Deeply. Such a love was not something of just the heart and mind. It wasn't something to be felt and eventually forgotten, to be touched without it in return touching you. No ... this love was something else. Something irrevocable. It was something of the soul.
I knew I would remember him. I would feel his absence even after death, would ache for him to be bear me in a way he could never be again. This was my destiny - eternal torment. As much as it hurt to think of him, I would bear the pain gladly to keep even a small part of him with me. The pain meant we'd been real.
Death couldn't take him away from me. He was me. Our soul were bound. Even if he didn't want me, even if I cursed his name, we were one.
Reid was here.
And he was a witch.
And - and he'd just said fuck.
Perhaps I'd died after all. That was certainly more plausibly than Reid swearing with such delicious proficiency.
Coco: "We'll talk later."
Coco rolled her eyes, but her grin only widened
Coco: "Do me a favor and get out of earshot this time. I have no desire to overhear this particular conversation."
I waggled my eyebrows
Lou: "Or lack thereof."
Madame Labelle scrunched her face in disgust.
Madame Labelle: "And that is my cue. Cosette, lead on, please, and do be quick about it."
Lou: "Reid. I knew who you were. I knew what you believed ... and I fell in love with you anyway."
Reid: "I - I said terrible things."
Lou: "Yes. You did."
Reid: "I didn't mean any of them - except one."
His hands covered my own on his face, and his eyes bored into mine as if he could see into my very soul. Perhaps he could.
Reid: "I love you, Lou. I - I've never seen anyone savor anything the way you do everything. You make me feel alive. Just being in your presence - it's addictive. You're addictive. It doesn't matter you're a witch. The way you see the world ... I want to see it that way too. I want to be with you always, Lou. I never want to be parted from you again."
I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my cheeks
Lou: "Where you go, I will go."
Check out the Serpent & Dove Trilogy below