#BlogTour #BookReview The Witch’s Tree by Elena Collins @rararesources @BoldwoodBooks

The Witchs TreeWelcome to the opening day of the blog tour for The Witch’s Tree by Elena Collins. It also happens to be publication day! My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Boldwood Books for my digital review copy via NetGalley.   Do check out the reviews by my tour buddies for today, Anne at Being Anne and Wendy at wendyreadsbooks.

The Witch's TreeAbout the Book

A tale as old as time. A spirit that has never rested.

Present day – 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.

1682 – 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.

Format: Paperback (401 pages)    Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication date: 17th May 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The Witch’s Tree on Goodreads

Purchase links
Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

The book moves back and forth between the two timelines with some interesting parallels between the two women’s experiences. There are some clever, subtle touches such as when Selena and Grace share the same impulse, for example to walk barefoot in the garden at night or to warm their hands in front of the fire. I also liked the way certain characters echoed others in the alternate timeline. For instance, Bett, Grace’s grandmother and Selena’s friend, Joely, who both have knowledge of natural remedies, or Nathaniel and Nick who are both sons of the owners of Hilltop Farm (although quite different in personality). There were also some neat opposites as well, such as Selena and Grace having quite different experiences of motherhood and friendship.  There was one particular character in Grace’s life I didn’t trust from the outset!

The author gives Sloe Cottage an unsettling atmosphere, something sensed not just by Selena but by other visitors to the cottage. Personally, I found the hints of a supernatural presence – rooms that have a perpetual chill, unexplained noises in the night, the tapping of branches against a window – scarier than any actual physical manifestation.  I liked how Grace’s experiences became somehow manifested in Selena’s artwork, as if by a spectral guiding hand.  I wonder if it also influenced Selena’s productivity as she seemed to produce paintings at a rate of knots!

There are some beautiful descriptions of the Somerset countryside and I can see quite a few readers including visiting the area in future holiday plans.  Several characters are given an interest in local history which allows the author to include some historical detail about the period in which Grace’s story is set and enable the eventual discovery of her fate and that of her family.

I’ve read enough books set in the period to know that women perceived as ‘different’ – unmarried or gifted in the art of healing – were often the subject of accusations of witchcraft, either as a result of superstition, ignorance or vindictiveness. Along with subtle clues from Selena’s exploration of the local area, it wasn’t difficult to guess what Grace’s fate would be although it was still desperately sad to witness. By the end of the book if Grace’s story is one of love and sacrifice, Serena’s is one of healing and hope.

The Witch’s Tree weaves together a number of different elements – a little bit of drama, a little bit of romance and a touch of the supernatural – to form an enjoyable time-slip novel.

In three words: Atmospheric, engaging, romantic

Try something similarThe Marsh House by Zoë Somerville

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Elena Collins Judy LeighAbout the Author

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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#BlogTour #BookReview The Paris Network by Siobhan Curham @bookouture

The-Paris-Network---Blog-TourWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Paris Network by Siobhan Curham which is published today in paperback and as an ebook.  My thanks to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Bookouture for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Sharon and Emma at Shaz’s Book Blog, Nat at Nat’s Bookish Corner and Julie at Bookish Jottings.

The Paris NetworkAbout the Book

Paris, 1940: He pressed the tattered book into her hands. ‘You must go to the café and ask at the counter for Pierre Duras. Tell him that I sent you. Tell him you’re there to save the people of France.’

Sliding the coded message in between the crisp pages of the hardback novel, bookstore owner Laurence slips out into the cold night to meet her resistance contact, pulling her woollen beret down further over her face. The silence of the night is suddenly shattered by an Allied plane rushing overhead, its tail aflame, heading down towards the forest. Her every nerve stands on end. She must try to rescue the pilot.

But straying from her mission isn’t part of the plan, and if she is discovered it won’t only be her life at risk…

America, years later: When Jeanne uncovers a dusty old box in her father’s garage, her world as she knows it is turned upside down. She has inherited a bookstore in a tiny French village just outside of Paris from a mysterious woman named Laurence.

Travelling to France to search for answers about the woman her father has kept a secret for years, Jeanne finds the store tucked away in a corner of the cobbled main square. Boarded up, it is in complete disrepair. Inside, she finds a tiny silver pendant hidden beneath the blackened, scorched floorboards.

As Jeanne pieces together Laurence’s incredible story, she discovers a woman whose bravery knew no bounds. But will the truth about who Laurence really is shatter Jeanne’s heart, or change her future?

Format: Paperback (414 pages)           Publisher: Bookouture
Publication date: 15th February 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The Paris Network on Goodreads

Purchase links
Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

I was first introduced to the writing of Siobhan Curham when I read Beyond This Broken Sky in April 2021. Like the earlier book, The Paris Network alternates between two timelines. The first, set in 1993, concerns Jeanne who, following the death of her mother, discovers that her father has a secret in his past, one that directly affects her.  The second is set in wartime France in which the reader witnesses the events following the occupation of France by the Nazis through the eyes of Laurence, owner of a bookshop called The Book Dispensary.

I confess I wasn’t completely won over by the dual timeline structure. Perhaps because Laurence’s story was so powerful or because it was written in the first person, the sections concerning Jeanne felt very much secondary and I found myself eager to immerse myself again in Laurence’s story.

In her author’s note, Siobhan describes how her discovery of the important role books played during the German occupation of France inspired the writing of The Paris Network. As a booklover myself, this was an aspect of the book I really enjoyed. I loved the idea of Laurence dispensing literary ‘prescriptions’ to her customers in the form of books, or more often poems, individually tailored to their circumstances; to provide comfort, inspiration or solace. It’s just one way the author demonstrates the essential role that books play in Laurence’s life. They also provide her with sustenance through dark times. In fact, at one point she says, ‘Today for lunch I am dining on an appetiser of Little Women before a hearty feast of Flaubert’. This is all the more poignant given the food shortages the people of Laurence’s village experience as the German stranglehold on the population increases.

Books also become a form of resistance as Laurence creates a book club who read works of literature banned by the Nazis, including those illicitly published by the Resistance movement. (A list of the poems and books that feature can be found at the end of the book.) But Laurence is also inspired by General de Gaulle’s rallying call to the people of France to carry out other acts of resistance: secretly listening to BBC radio broadcasts even though radios are banned, painting V for victory signs or the word ‘Liberty’ on buildings, carrying coded messages and delivering leaflets for the Resistance or defying petty rules such as the ban on drinking wine on Sundays or the wearing of trousers by women.

However, acts of resistance have consequences and German reprisals for acts of sabotage or in defiance of rules are increasingly swift and savage, as Laurence discovers. Wartime relationships often form quickly and can be fleeting. Such is the case for Laurence. Facing a heartbreaking choice, she has to channel all the strength and courage of her heroine Joan of Arc.  As Jeanne and her father Wendell put together the final pieces of Laurence’s story, I was reminded of a famous quotation from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.

In three words: Emotional, dramatic, absorbing

Try something similar: Resistance by Eilidh McGinness

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Siobhan Curham Author PhotoAbout the Author

Siobhan Curham is an award-winning author, ghost writer, editor and writing coach. She has also written for many newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Guardian, Breathe magazine, Cosmopolitan, Writers’ Forum, DatingAdvice.com, and Spirit & Destiny. Siobhan has been a guest on various radio and TV shows, including Woman’s Hour, BBC News, GMTV and BBC Breakfast. And she has spoken at businesses, schools, universities and literary festivals around the world, including the BBC, Hay Festival, Cheltenham Festival, Bath Festival, Ilkley Festival, London Book Fair and Sharjah Reading Festival.

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