I have read and enjoyed Judy Leigh’s novels, so when I heard she had written a new novel in a different genre, I knew I wanted to read it. Writing as Elena Collins, her new book is called The Witch’s Tree. It’s a dual timeline, historical fiction, with a bit of everything really – romance, relationships, friendship, suspense, witchcraft, mystery, magic…and a whole lot of charm.
The novel is set in two times, two places…
In present day Manchester, Selena is 38 and an artist. She lives with her friend Claire and runs an art gallery with her. After a difficult relationship, Selena decides she needs to spend some time in the countryside, away from all the stress and just doing her painting. She rents a 17th Century cottage – Sloe Cottage – for a couple of months.
In 1682, in Ashcomb, Somerset in Slaugh Cottage, Grace (22) lives with her father Will Cotter (42) who is a farm labourer. They live a simple life in a tied cottage – Will working, Grace seeing to the household tasks and cooking, sewing, etc. after her mother died ten years earlier.
The past seems authentic, well-researched, with lots of atmospheric detail which I really enjoyed. I also love how the two timelines come together. It is beautifully written; you’ll get Selena’s view from a certain place, then back in time to see Grace in the same position, it’s very cleverly done.
I liked the main characters straight away. The cottage is so well-described that it almost becomes a character in its own right and the setting is very important to the novel. I found the book easy to get into and I wanted to keep reading to see what happened.
It is interesting to see how women are treated in both timelines – how some things have changed over the centuries, but others not so much. Grace is expected to get married and perform her duties as a wife, mother and housekeeper, whereas Selena has more freedom to choose what to do with her life – yet both of them are badly treated by a man. Both women are strong characters, but Grace is more restricted by the time she lives in.
There’s also the whole ghostly feel to the book. It’s not just a ghost story though, there’s plenty more to it than that, but the cottage seems to retain some “essence” of those who have lived in it before. I loved how the tree branches reach out to the cottage in the present day, like a palm pressing against the window. The novel has that undertone of threat and danger, yet it isn’t a horror novel at all, it is the echoes of the past coming through to the present day. What will happen to Grace and Selena? You’ll have to read the book to find out…
This is the first in three books Judy is writing as Elena Collins and I look forward to reading the next two as well.
The Witch’s Tree
A tale as old as time. A spirit that has never rested.
As a love affair comes to an end, and with it her dreams for her future, artist Selena needs a retreat. The picture-postcard Sloe Cottage in the Somerset village of Ashcombe promises to be the perfect place to forget her problems, and Selena settles into her new home as spring arrives. But it isn’t long before Selena hears the past whispering to her. Sloe Cottage is keeping secrets which refuse to stay hidden.
Grace Cotter longs for nothing more than a husband and family of her own. Content enough with her work on the farm, looking after her father, and learning the secrets of her grandmother Bett’s healing hands, nevertheless Grace still hopes for love. But these are dangerous times for dreamers, and rumours and gossip can be deadly. One mis-move and Grace’s fate looks set…
Separated by three hundred years, two women are drawn together by a home bathed in blood and magic. Grace Cotter’s spirit needs to rest, and only Selena can help her now.
Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3Cl2rVF
Author Bio –
Elena Collins is the pen name of Judy Leigh. Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of Five French Hens, A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventure and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.
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