Blood of the Earth - this forest wants more than hugs.
Nell has a deep connection to her land, Soulwood. It was simply a green thumb until she was threatened and drew blood on her land for the first time. The forest wanted that blood and with her permission absorbed the life it was offered. Now Soulwood is aware and shares that awareness with Nell. Because of her unique affinity for the land Nell is asked to assist PsyLED, the federal agency tasked with policing supernaturals. She doesn't trust the government but she needs their protection so she agrees to help them find some kidnapped girls. Unfortunately, the investigation leads Nell to the polygamist church she grew up in and forces her to deal with some painful truths.
The Soulwood series is a spin-off of Faith Hunter's popular series about Jane Yellowrock, and takes place in that same world. I never got past the first of those books and like most people I'm a bit tired of vampires and werewolves living among us so I have no idea why I picked up Blood of the Earth; it must have had a decent review somewhere. Nell Ingram only appeared briefly in Yellowrock's timeline but for fans of that series Soulwood brings back Rick LaFleur, now a senior special agent for PsyLED.
Nell's parents are definitely human, although not what most of us would call 'normal'. She grew up in fundamentalist polygamous cult called God's Cloud of Glory and although she married at 12 to avoid a far worse fate, her husband cared enough to legally marry her before he died and left her with Soulwood Farm. Now the church wants both her and her land back under their control but she also inherited her husband's guns and is fiercely determined to remain free. She knows it would be safer to leave but she hopes to someday help her sisters. There is also her bond with Soulwood and she's not certain she could survive apart from the woods she has claimed as her own.
Helping Jane Yellowrock save a vampire from the church was mostly revenge but it opened up new possibilities for Nell in the form of a connection to Rick LaFleur, Special Agent PsyLED, ie. the paranormal branch of law enforcement. Rick and his team are tracking the Human Speakers of Truth, an anti-paranormal terrorist group that may be hiding in the church compound. They overwhelm Nell with culture shock, not only strangers but non-humans, and manage to convince her to sign on as a civilian consultant. Along the way she learns many truths about her own family and past, as well as the true nature of the evil behind God's Cloud of Glory.
The details of Nell's life off the grid are interesting. I admit that it brings back a lot of childhood memories since most of our lives seemed to revolve around the garden unless it was winter. The self sufficiency of her lifestyle and dedication to the health of the land speaks to modern environmentalism and the organic craze. The typical urban fantasy world elements such as vampires, lycanthropes, and witches are there, but mostly to give the world dimension. The PsyLED team consists of three were-leopards, one witch, one empath who gained his ability after being struck by lightning, and the self styled token human. Plus whatever Nell is, which may be unique (or not, after meeting one of her younger sisters).
Nell's life drew me in despite my previous lukewarm response to Hunter's previous ideas. Shockingly for the genre, and Hunter in particular, there is only the tiniest spark of romance. Nell's supernatural nature feels like a nod to the ancient druids who believed in sacrifice etc. and maybe the dryads since it seems to show up in women but not men. Whatever you want to call her she's a nice departure from the usual supernaturals.
The book also got 4.5 stars on Audible so I'm going to assume that Khristine Hvam does a good job. She also does the Jane Yellowrock series and other assorted fantasy.
Faith Hunter is the author of the Skinwalker series about Jane Yellowrock which takes place in New Orleans and is occasionally mentioned in Blood of the Earth. Its a long and popular series although it didn't "grab" me personally. Hunter's first series is a bit more interesting because its a post-apocalyptic world involving some of the stranger passages from the book of Revelations in the Bible. I give her kudos for managing to turn some bazaar descriptions and prophecies into readable fiction. That trilogy starts with Bloodring.