Welcome 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.
About 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
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 similar: The Marsh House by Zoë Somerville
About 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.