Book Review: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

This is the last review of the year unless another book sneaks in from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. A stunning copy of The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore arrived on the bookshelf courtesy of Random Things Tours. As usual, when a witchy book arrives there was a scrabble between the staff to see who would read it first. Willow won.

Scroll down to see her unbiased and honest review.

Book Review: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Book cover for The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore Jade coloured background with gold lettering, gold stats and white snowflakes. A black stylisied crow flies in the sky and a nordic black house is at the bottom with white fir trees.

Title: The Witch and the Tsar

Author: Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Historical fantasy, folklore

Release Date: 8th December 2023

Blurb

As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.

As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.

Thoughts from the Emporium

The stunning illustrated cover with its golden gilt reflects the majestic tale inside. This reimagined tale of Baba Yaga is a beautifully written and captivating novel. Willow was gripped by the extensive world building, the depth of all the characters and dramatic plot. As someone who was unaware of the folklore connected to Baba Yaga this was a refreshing read. The language and vivid descriptions brought the colourful Russian cities, the horror of war and the scheming gods to life.

This version of the immortal witch, Yaga was far removed from the hateful, child eating witch she’s famous for. Instead, she was portrayed as a caring and reluctant hero. Her strength, chemistry between those she loves, including the animals she can charm, and her desire to protect the Motherland at all costs, makes her unforgettable. In the uncertain times we live, the politics of the sixteenth century and the war it fuelled felt oddly relevant and made the story more impactful.

Everyone at the Emporium adored Little Hen, her house on chicken legs despite the initial reaction being disgust. As a background character, she stole everyone’s hearts.

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore has successfully blended an inverted Yaga legend with the history surrounding Ivan the Terrible to create an immersive, dark and enlightening treat that will be well loved by those visiting the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. It is a strong contender to be one of the bookshelf’s favourite novels of 2022.

Author Biography

Photo of Olesya Salnikova Gilmore White woman sitting on some steps, wearing black. Dark hair, smiling
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the United States, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English /political science, and from North western University School of Law with a JD.
She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is happiest writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel.

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Book Review: The Complete Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde

The arrival of The Complete Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde to the bookshelf, thanks to Random Things tours caused a stir in the shop. This complete 70th anniversary collection has exquisite illustrations by the
artist Philippe Jullian, and made everyone stare. They were thrilled to be invited to this blog tour so they could share their honest and unbiased opinions.

Book Review: The Complete Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde

The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde
Cream background with cherry red line illustrations of a woman in medieval dress on one side of title and man standing in front of a castle on the other
The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

Title: The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

Author: Oscar Wilde

Publisher: Duckworth

Genre: Classics, children’s fiction

Release Date: October 2022

Blurb

For nearly 150 years, the classic fairy stories of Oscar Wilde have been cherished by readers of all ages. Rediscover all nine of the stories first published in The Happy Prince and other stories (1888) and A House of Pomegranates (1891) in this beautiful new edition of Duckworth’s exquisite 1952 complete collection, featuring intricate illustrations by the celebrated twentieth-century artist and aesthete Phillippe Jullian, and an afterword by Wilde’s son Vyvyan Holland.

Thoughts from the Emporium

Some books call to the reader, and this is one of them. Everyone who saw it on the Enchanted bookshelf wanted to be the first to read it, even Amber, who usually baulks at classics. In part, the allure was the stylish and timeless book cover that screamed quality. If such care and attention to detail has been taken in cover design, the stories inside are usually as worth it. The exquisite line drawings inside didn’t disappoint and complimented the storytelling, making it an added pleasure to read. The other draw was the words ’fairy stories’ in the title, which captures the imagination of all ages, including those in the Emporium.

Much to everyone’s horror, no one had read Oscar Wilde before but most were familiar with his stories, retold in children’s anthologies in other people’s voices. Reading them as intended gave the stories more depth, and in some cases made them more harrowing and emotional. Everyone fell under the spell of Oscar Wilde’s lyrical prose and rhythm of the stories and connected to the characters portrayed. He had an ability to paint vivid imagery with his detailed observations, love of nature, and descriptions, which he blended with morals effortlessly. There is a religious leaning in them but understandable when put in context of the time and his background.

Everyone had a different favourite. Rosa fell in love with the selfless nightingale in Nightingale and the Rose, Willow adored the garden in the Selfish Giant while Amber was attracted to the conversations between the fisherman and his soul.

With talking animals, princesses, princes, mermaids and witches, it has it all. Just don’t expect the happy ever afters of today’s tales. These stories are timeless and this special edition will be a firm favourite on the bookshelf and on many forever shelves, too

Author Biography

Black and white photo of Oscar Wilde.  Young man, dark curvy hair in 1800 dress, walking stick. Intense stare and large ring on his left small finger
Oscar Wilde

Born in Dublin in 1854, Oscar Wilde was an Irish wit, playwright and poet best remembered for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and his social comedies including The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He published two volumes of beloved fairy tales. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, and his two sons were born in 1885 and 1886. Wilde died in Paris in 1900.

Short Story: Old Jax’s Quilt by Kate Kenzie

September was dystonia awareness month and a loyal customer was completing the fundraising challenge, Dystonia Around the World. Kate Kenzie promised to write a short story if the target of £100 was reached and here it is. As we hoped, it is about the Willow’s grandmother, Old Jax from a small village in the Yorkshire Moors. We hope you enjoy.

If you do, why not make a small donation to Dystonia UK – here. £1 can make a huge difference in providing support and research possibilities into this neurological condition.

Happy reading!

Old Jax’s Quilt by Kate Kenzie

          Early 1980s   

Hettie didn’t need the fragrance of sweet apple drifting through the open window to tell her something was amiss. Earlier, she’d accidentally snipped an inch from the end off one of her plaits while cutting fabric into squares and now Jenny Ramshaw cursed as she stitched her skirt into the quilt she was making. Aunt Mildred mutterings were also louder than normal. Not that anyone else heard or saw her. Only Hettie had the pleasure of possessing that “special gift”, apart from one other who was now in the village.

Hettie’s needle came free from the thread, fell, and rolled across the wooden floor sloping towards the window. The problem with old ramshackle buildings was nothing stayed where it belonged, with or without spectral help.

“It wasn’t me,” Mildred huffed. Her translucent form joined Hettie as she picked up the needle. “But while we’re here, you may as well look. You know you want to.”

The high street below was quiet. Even the Jack Russell outside the village shop resisted his usual incessant yap. He stood still looking toward the top of the hill, waiting as Hettie was. A circling crow landed on the roof opposite and did the same. A figure appeared on the horizon.

“She won’t come in, you know,” said Jenny recognising the signs of Hettie’s discomfort. “She never does.”

“Aye,” another of the sewing circle agreed. “She’ll pop into Pritchard’s place, pay her bill and be gone.”

“No. Too early for that,” said Clara Turner, the newest and youngest member of the circle. “Pritchard sends the bills out at month’s end. Besides, Old Jax just pops a cheque out for our Larry to collect.”

Roland Pritchard ran the newsagent that vowed to sell everything you ever needed, and Hettie knew he wasn’t the reason for the visit. Not when the thirteen-year-old paper kid, Larry, remained unfazed about cycling up the back lanes to the isolated farm at the edge of the village. Few ventured that way, but there was always one in the younger cohort brave or desperate enough for money to deal with the old crone from Speedwell Cottage.

“Whatever the reason, it’s nowt to do with us, Hettie. If you’re not sewing, you can make us another cuppa. We’re parched.”

With tea now served, Hettie joined the chatting group of women basting the large quilt together. Her ex, Tommy, once complained the sewing circle resembled a coven, but she didn’t take offence. Many members were distant descendants of the witches once scattered across the county by fear centuries before, but any magical abilities in the bloodline were now so diluted they’d become redundant. Unless you counted the occasional blown fuses when they all got together or the faint whispers in the air from seamstresses past. Tommy also said he couldn’t wait to leave this godforsaken place. Now that statement was unfair. Everyone who knew the history of Mexenby knew it was blessed,  just not by the conventional god. Was it Hecate? Or  was it Brigid? This was often up for debate. Only one person knew the answer and now she was coming their way.

The bell tinkled as the shop door flung open. The incoming customer was never one for subtlety and Hettie heard several thuds of feet descending the stairs behind her. No one wanted to miss this encounter and the electricity in the air mirrored their anticipation.

 “Jax,” said Hetty to the stooped woman whose hands were as gnarly as the stick they clasped. Thin and frail, her veneer of vulnerability fooled no one except newcomers or tourists to the village. Everyone knew she was capable of single handily helping sick or lost sheep on the moors and farmed her smallholding alone. Jax never accepted anyone’s help and ignored the villagers as they did her unless a specific need drew them up the lane.

Jax offered a brief nod, but her silvery eyes flashed, warning Hettie not to get too close – not that she wanted to. The pungent lingering whiff of sheep was enough to make her keep her distance. 

The click of the stick’s brass ferrule echoed around the small shop, muffled only by the endless bolts of fabric lining the walls. Hettie couldn’t resist a new design, a new hue and pattern she’d not seen before. Every time a salesman visited with a suitcase full of samples, she was in heaven. Despite Aunt Mildred’s warnings that people didn’t want that “overpriced fancy stuff” when a cheaper synthetic fabric would do, Hettie chose with her heart rather than her head. Yes, some customers wanted budget material, thread to fix clothes or ribbon to add a finishing touch, but others like her wanted more. Under Hettie’s care, the little haberdashery flourished. It lured people countywide to buy fabric for that extra special quilt, a unique pattern or just to be inspired. Forget bibliosmia, fabric had its own legion of fans. The refreshing smell of cotton and starch, combined with the dazzling array of colour, hypnotised visitors. Their clean hands trailed over the rolls of crisp linen, baby soft brushed cotton and silky-smooth satin. The quality and texture urged them to spend.

Hettie studied Jax’s hand tapping her stick, the only sign Hettie could see that the old woman was uncomfortable in her surroundings. Calloused and twisted from years of manual labour, mud encrusted every nail and a tide mark of muck circled each cuff. Jax extended her arm towards a delicate yellow fabric. This was too much. Those hands mustn’t touch Hettie’s wares! If smudged with farmyard dirt, they could never be cleaned, and would have to be discarded in the reject bin at a reduced cost. 

Aunt Mildred screeched in her ear, “Move.”

Hettie shot across the floor, snatched the roll away from danger and held it tight against her chest. 

“Are you looking for anything in particular, Jax?” Hettie smiled despite the thunderous scowl on the old woman’s face. While the huddle of sewers eagerly waited for Jax’s response, Hettie stood her ground. Whatever renowned reputation Jax held, this was Hettie’s shop, and no one caressed her fabric with grubby hands, not even the infamous witch of Mexenby.

Jax leaned back on her staff and scrutinised Hettie. Her skin prickled cold under Jax’s intense stare, but she grasped the fabric tighter and met the gaze head on. To her surprise, Jax blinked, and her shoulders dropped.

“I need fabric. For a girl,” she snapped. “Something pretty. Soft.”

“Something like this? For a dress?” Hettie enquired, knowing the sewing group longed to know more. After decades of hiding on her farm, Jax’s appearance in this shop must mean something. Any juicy titbits to share over coffee were a small ask. 

Jax remained guarded. “A blanket. Something like that.” She pointed to a sample quilt hanging on the wall, a complex interlocking design that took Hettie many evenings and shop hours to complete. 

Hettie’s eyes washed over Jax’s clothes for clues that she would be up to the task which even advanced quilters cursed. Rising from mud splattered boots, heavily darned woollen tights covered Jax’s whippet thin legs, and her thick drab skirt and coat showcased similar repairs. A hotchpotch of patches covered larger areas of damage. Every stitch had only one purpose – to mend. Hettie fought the urge to recoil. The poor child, her poor fabric. Nothing could battle against the crudely jabbed stitches that would be their fate. Quilting required an abundance of patience, creativity, and care. Jax had none of these.

“I’ll make it. Tell me the colours and I’ll make her one,” Hettie offered. Aunt Mildred nodded in agreement. Her customers’ projects were the best advertisement for Hettie’s shop and Jax’s creation must not be allowed to thrive.

Jax’s upper lip quivered with refusal and her eyes pierced Hettie’s. Again, Hettie forced herself not to look away. A migraine threatened along with increased pressure in her head. The shop fell silent, waiting for an answer. If causing a crushing headache to her opponent was Jax’s response to an offer of help, no wonder people avoided her. Hettie debated whether to retract her proposal when Aunt Mildred coughed and broke the silence. Jax broke the eye contact and her eyes flicked to the ghost.

 While rubbing head, Hettie tried to decipher the murmured communication between the two older women. Whatever Mildred was saying, Jax was listening. 

Jax clicked her tongue against her remaining teeth and jabbed the stick to the ground, making everyone jump. “Fine. Mildred trusts you. You do it.”

She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a battered leather purse. Her swollen fingers counted out several notes and flung them on the counter. With a hasty spin, defiant of her age, Jax flounced out, leaving everyone aghast.

Later, when the shop was shut, Hettie closed her eyes and took stock of the task ahead. All afternoon, the others offered their opinions and ideas. The mystery of who the girl was fuelled their conversation. Was she a relative? The next generational witch? Jax’s son had been disowned years ago when he left the village. Had there been a reunion? Unlikely, everyone decided, so maybe she was a distant cousin? The gossip turned to what the mysterious girl would prefer. Hettie refused to engage. That part was for her and the fabric to decide. 

Hettie scanned the material, caressed those which attracted her and listened to the fabric hum. One by one, she dragged out the bolts she needed. Laying them on the large table in the workroom beside the yellow fabric Jax chose, she allowed her imagination to arrange them into a design devoid of childlike motifs. The colours resembled the sunrise seen over the Moors. The bedspread would be appreciated by a child and later, the woman she would become.

 Hettie measured, and snipped into the night, until, with a yawn, exhaustion set in. She slumped over the table and slept.

A loud knock on the shop door woke her. Stumbling down the rickety stairs, she rubbed her eyes and smoothed down the wayward strands of hair escaping from her plaits. It was too early for customers.

 Larry grinned when she opened the door and leaned on his bike. He didn’t acknowledge her dishevelled appearance but pulled out a tiny package from his fluorescent newspaper bag. Wrapped in crinkled brown paper and bound with twine, he handed it over with discretion worthy of an illicit drug deal.

“Jax said you needed this. Mildred knows what to do.” 

Hettie slipped it into her apron pocket. Larry climbed on his bike and pedalled away. The door was nearly closed when he called over his shoulder.

“She’ll collect it in ten days.”

Ten days. Hettie swallowed hard. Jax expected a quilt to be ready in ten days? There weren’t enough hours in the day for her to do it. She’d have to tell Jax, it was impossible. With no phone at the farm, she’d have to trudge up there and tell her herself. Aunt Mildred appeared at her side and offered a smile. “You can’t do it alone, but this blanket was always one that required a team. It’ll work better that way.”

With a fresh cup of tea in hand, Hettie grabbed her telephone book and made a few calls. 

All across the village, sewing machines whirred as each quilter made the blocks as directed by Hettie. The next day, the true work began. In exchange for copious amounts of tea and biscuits, the Mexenby quilters sat at the large frame and they stitched Jax’s quilt. Chat remained at a minimum as they concentrated on the pattern. Mildred was right. A quilt like this was better made with many hands. Quilts were magical like that. They forged friendships within groups, and love flowed into each stitch, which the recipient felt when they wrapped themselves in the end product. A hug from the community; proof they were seen and not alone. Hettie believed whoever this child was, they’d need it more than most. With Jax’s package still lodged in her pocket, she wasn’t the only one to think this. 

Time progressed, as did the quilt. Stitches indented the material and brought the patterns alive. Did the quilters realise amongst the swirls and curves, they’d sewn several runic motifs into the fabric as instructed by Jax? No one mentioned them, to her relief. Hettie didn’t know the meanings despite, according to Mildred, the motifs being common in older quilts and garments made by those in the village. 

“Just because you think you brought this quilting idea back from your globetrotting to America, generations before you made them here, we just didn’t rave about it,” she’d muttered when Hettie commented about them. Hettie hadn’t dared disagree. She still needed her great aunt’s help.

On the ninth night, the women snipped off their threads and placed their needles into their pincushions for the last time. 

“Well, it’s done, apart from the final strip of binding,” Jennie stated. “Are you sure you don’t want us to stay and help? It’ll be quicker.” She failed to hide her judgement that Hettie was a slow stitcher. 

“No, it’s fine. I can finish up. Thank you all. I’m sure Jax will appreciate it.”

This was met with low chuckles and Jennie shook her head. “Doubt it, love. But the kid might.”

With that, the women left with a murmur of goodnights until only Hettie remained.

Could she do what Jax required? The precise and bizarre instructions from Mildred bore a heavy responsibility. Maybe she could take the unfinished quilt to Jax to let her do the required ritual. A few mismatched, ugly stitches wouldn’t matter, would they? She was the witch, after all.

“Don’t even think about it” A frigid blast cooled Hettie’s shoulder with Mildred’s arrival. “Jax trusts you. Besides, you wouldn’t be the first Henderson to do it on behalf of the witches on the hill.”

Hettie raised her eyebrow. It was the first time she had heard about anything about a connection between her ancestors and the Mexenby witch legend. There was no time to question Mildred now. The last section needed doing. Hettie flung the blind open, flooding the room with moonlight and she unwrapped Jax’s package revealing an old coin, a tiny pouch of herbs, several dried apple seeds from the Speedwell orchard, and a bobbin of thread. Under Aunt Mildred’s guidance, she lit a candle and whispered the words from Jax’s scrawled note.

“Well, you need to say it louder than that, dear,” Mildred interrupted “and say it as if you mean it. Intention sets the magic.”

Hettie took a deep breath and despite feeling ridiculous, repeated the words. Maybe magic was as real as the ghost haunting her shop. It was worth a go. She blew out the candle and passed the needle through the smoke three times before threading it with Jax’s cotton.

She slipped the coin, and pouch of herbs into the embedded secret pocket she’d made earlier in the quilt and added the seeds into the binding. With Jax’s words lingering in the air, Hettie finished the last stiches as dawn broke on the day of the deadline.

Wrapped in brown paper and neatly tied with ribbon, Hettie popped the quilt under the counter for collection, but Jax didn’t come. A week passed and another before news of Jax’s son’s fatal accident sent shockwaves through the village. Jax retreated into further solitude refusing to talk to anyone including Larry. A month went by and then several. After a year Hettie placed the package in a cupboard. Apart from the occasional visit from a spider or two, it lay forgotten for the next four years.

A sweet aroma of apples hung in the air and Hettie’s new electronic till refused to work. She snapped at Mildred whose mutterings made it hard to think. Jennie stomped down the stairs to complain the kettle refused to boil. They looked at each other, aware of a shift in the air.

“Jax” they said together. Jennie stood on guard while Hettie rushed to the cupboard to retrieve the forgotten order.

The bell tinkled above the door when it opened.

It wasn’t Jax.

A young woman in a vibrant pink jumpsuit stepped in clutching the hand of a young girl. Hettie knew before anything was said. The air hummed as the girl hopped from one foot to another. A sprig of Speedwell apple blossom tucked into her golden hair confirmed the thought.

Flashing a huge grin, the girl said, “Grandma says you have a gift for me.”

Monday Merry Meet: Author Sharon Booth

It’s a new week and to help shift the Monday blues, we’re excited to host our first author visit at The Enchanted Emporium. Yes, it’s the Monday Merry Meet, and our visitor today is romance author, Sharon Booth.

Sharon has published twenty-three books, and is one of Rosa’s favourite romance authors — she’ll be here shortly I’m sure, when she has recovered from a fan girl moment – and is followed by Willow and Amber, thanks to her witchlit series based in the Yorkshire town of Castle Clair. With witch sisters and their familiars in a town where magic brews, they were hooked. With the upcoming release of her novel, it’s the perfect opportunity for a chat.

Photo of The Witches of Castle Clair series by Sharon Booth.
3 books each has a modern witch on it, 
Belle, Book and Candle is predominently purple
My Favourite Witch is orange
To Catch a Witch is blue
The Witches of Castle Clair series by Sharon Booth

Monday Merry Meet: Author Sharon Booth

Amber: Hi Sharon. Willow will be with you shortly. She’s just finishing brewing the novel dream time draught in the back. It’s a potion created by me but it has to be dealt with carefully, otherwise fumes will put you to sleep in minutes. It makes you dream about the latest book you’ve read. Ideal for romance readers who want to escape reality for a while and linger in communities where everyone pulls together, or explore lush landscapes. I mean, who wouldn’t want to linger in Castle Clair and visit the museum? It doesn’t work so well for those who enjoy psychological thrillers. I’ve had complaints about that one.

Do you want a drink? We have tea, coffee or something stronger. One of our customers brought us some homemade raspberry gin, Willow has hidden in her workroom.

Sharon: Thanks so much for inviting me to The Enchanted Emporium, Amber. All the times I’ve visited Whitby and I never knew it was here! How fabulous. I don’t suppose you have any raspberry lemonade? I’ve developed a bit of a passion for it lately. If not, coffee will be fine, thank you.

Photo of raspberry lemonade in a jug and glass. Garnished with fresh lemon slices

Amber: Sit down and don’t worry if you feel any cold patches on your back as we talk, it’s just Mrs Marley, our ghost. She adores romantic novels and will just be being nosy. It’s the ghost on the stairs you have to worry about.

Willow: Amber, stop scaring our guests.

Hi Sharon, glad you could make it and you have a drink. It’s lovely to catch up with you as we all adore your books. They are all set in Yorkshire, a place we all love. Was this a conscious decision?

Sharon: Hi, Willow. No, it wasn’t. In fact, initially, There Must Be an Angel, which was my first novel, was set in Glastonbury! But as the writing developed, I realised the voices I was hearing in my head all had Yorkshire accents, and since I’ve lived in East Yorkshire all my life (apart from those years we were in North Humberside which we don’t like to talk about as it’s still too traumatic) it made sense to set my books in a county I knew and loved. 

Willow: Both Amber and I love Castle Clair and would love to visit. How did you go about your world building to make it a vivid place for readers?

Sharon:  If I’m being really honest, I didn’t have to do a lot of world building to create Castle Clair. It was already there. It just needed a bit of tweaking! Castle Clair is based on the North Yorkshire market town of Knaresborough, quite near Harrogate, and it’s one of my favourite places. It really does have everything: ruined castle, cliffside shrine, legend of the prophetess, the beautiful river, the riverside walk, the market place, the museum in the castle grounds… There’s even an old chemist’s shop which was the inspiration for The Broom Closet. In real life it’s now a gift/sweet shop, and there really are steps in the shop leading up to The Lavender Tea Rooms, which I changed to The Rosemary Tea Rooms. All I had to do was create the legend of the St Clairs. Everything else was in place.   

Willow:  Tell us a bit about your new book.

Sharon: Will of the Witch is the fourth in The Witches of Castle Clair series. I only ever intended there to be three books, but they proved to be surprisingly popular, and I got lots of messages pleading for more. Since I loved writing them, I thought, why not? So in Will of the Witch you’ll meet three new St Clair sisters: Keely, Harley, and Romy. They never knew their Castle Clair cousins existed, and it’s a bit of a shock to them when they receive a mysterious invitation to Cornwall and discover Sirius, Star, Celeste, and Sky have all been invited too. There will be two more Castle Clair books after this one, so still lots to look forward to.  

Willow:  We can’t wait to read. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

Sharon:  I’m a bit different to most of my writer friends, in that I started writing with indie publishing in mind. Finding a traditional publisher was never really on my radar. I was lucky enough to get scooped up by blogging group The Write Romantics and realised pretty quickly that most of them were looking for deals. I was too embarrassed to admit I wasn’t! Yes, I really was that person back then. So I subbed to about six publishers and got one request for the full manuscript, but by then my Write Romantic friend, Jo Bartlett, had decided to set up her own publishing company, Fabrian Books, and asked me to be her first signed author. I was delighted to accept, and Jo sent my book off to be edited and proofread, and I got to choose my cover, which was exciting. But Jo had a change of heart about running a publishing company, and after she and I, and another author, had a chat, we decided Fabrian Books should become an author collective instead. We would all indie publish our books under the Fabrian Books imprint. After a few years, I set up my own imprint, Green Ginger Publishing, and now I’m happily indie all the way. I’ve had two pocket novels, five large print books, and two audiobooks published by other publishers, but mostly it’s just me. What would I change? I’d stop dithering, thinking I really should be traditionally published to achieve anything, and realise that it’s perfectly possible to make a living and find fulfilment forging your own creative path.   

Willow: Wise words. What is your writing routine?

Sharon:  I’m kind of an all or nothing person. I’m either up early, writing furiously for hours, then sorting admin and marketing etc before finally finishing work at 7pm. Or I’m pretty much faffing around doing bits here and there and achieving nothing. I’ve stopped beating myself up about it. I know they say you should write every day, but the truth is I don’t. I still get the work done, so I’ve stopped worrying that I’m “doing it wrong”.

Willow: We have several customers who wish to write. Do you have any advice for them?

Sharon: My only real advice for writers is not to worry about most of the advice you’ll be given. There are so many “rules”, and you’ll get told frequently that “this is the way you should do it”. You have to find your own way. We’re all different. Eventually you’ll figure out the best way for you.

Rosa: What are you working on currently? Can you say, or is it top secret?

Sharon: Right now I’m working on a Christmas book. I know! We’ve had a record-breaking heatwave, and I’m sitting here with an electric fan on full blast, trying to muster some festive feeling. It’s actually the 26th book I’ll have written but will be the 25th book to be published. It’s the first in my new Tuppenny Bridge series, set in a Yorkshire Dales market town. It’s also a follow-on from my How the Other Half Lives series and will give a couple of characters some closure at last — something that so many readers have requested — although it can be read as a standalone.

Rosa: 25 books published, I need to catch up with some I’ve missed.

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

A lit candle

Sharon: Ooh, that’s tricky. I think Luck. So much in life is down to luck, isn’t it? You can work your socks off, but if you don’t get lucky, it won’t make a jot of difference. Mind you, I’ll be honest and say I could do with all of those except the “help without asking” one. My kids have all left home, and my husband is an absolute star. I couldn’t do any of this without him.

Amber: One candle, when lit, invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day? Where would it take you?

Sharon: Oh, another tricky one! Maybe a holiday I had when I was little. We always had big family holidays in Primrose Valley near Filey on the North Yorkshire coast. There was me, my brother and sister, my mum and dad, grandparents, auntie, great aunts and uncles, half cousins… we were in caravans and bungalows, and we’d go to the beach together every day, visit the pub at night (peanuts and cola for us kids in a separate room, naturally) and walk along the sands to Filey for fish and chips. I remember going winkle picking on Filey Brigg with my nanna, great-aunt and sister. So many of those people are no longer with us, even my dad, so yes, I’d definitely like to invoke all those memories again.  

Image of a ghost reading a book

Amber: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have you had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Sharon: When I was little, I had a friend called David. He was a little boy, about my age, and he wore a blue dressing gown, and every evening he’d sit on the bottom stair waiting for me, and I’d float down to meet him. I can’t remember anything else about him, but I saw him so many times and told my parents about him. My mum still remembers me talking about him. I haven’t had any other really spooky experiences, but I do have the weirdest dreams. They’re fascinating, like mini movies, and some of them may feature in a future book.

Willow: Amber knows all about lucid dreams. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Sharon: Wow, you really do ask tricky questions! You know, thinking about it, I’d like absolute confidence and self-belief for 24 hours, because I’d love to know how different that would make me, and if I could achieve more with that superpower. What must it feel like to be absolutely sure of yourself and your abilities? Yes, I’d love that potion.

Willow: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Sharon: There are sooo many books I could add. I absolutely adored Threadneedle by Cari Thomas, Deborah Harkness’s Discovery of Witches, Alys West’s Beltane and Storm Witch. I love The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and I also love The Whitby Witches series by Robin Jarvis. Can I really only add one book? You know what, I think I’ll go for The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis, because it’s the beginning of a cracking series. It’s supposed to be for children, but I read it in my early forties and loved it. And it’s set in Whitby, so very appropriate for your bookshelf.

Willow: Good choices. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

Sharon: Hmm. So many to choose from. I’d go for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, so it’s clearly made a big impact on me. I love the character of Jane. She sets herself to high standards and lives by them, and even when society looks down on her, she holds her head high and knows her own worth. She’s wonderful.

Rosa: Jane Eyre is one of the best. Do you have a favourite place to write and read?

Sharon: I mostly write in my little writing office. It’s a small bedroom that’s completely mine, with a desk and chair, sideboard, and bookcase. There are magical canvas pictures up on one wall, along with Dr Who stuff, inspirational quotes, and gorgeous cards that my friends have sent me over the years. I find it really difficult to write anywhere else, although I can do other jobs like marketing and editing anywhere, funnily enough. I can’t seem to read for long in bed, as I always fall asleep, so I prefer to read on the sofa in the living room, with my dog snoozing on the rug in front of me.

Willow: That sounds perfect. Thanks so much for dropping by and good luck with your new book, Will of the Witch out 26th July.

Sharon: I’ve really enjoyed my trip to the Enchanted Emporium, and to glorious Whitby. I hope one day I’ll find my way here again. Thank you for inviting me, and kindest regards to Mrs Marley and the other ghosts for not spooking me!

Author Biography

Photo of author Sharon Booth. Smiling woman with long blond hair.
Author Sharon Booth

Sharon Booth writes about the lighter side of life, love, magic, and mystery. Her characters may be flawed, but whether they’re casting a spell, solving a mystery, or dealing with the ups and downs of family life or romance, they do it with kindness and humour.

Sharon is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and an Authorpreneur member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. She has been a KDP All-Star Author on several occasions.

She likes reading, researching her family tree, and watching Doctor Who, and Cary Grant movies. She loves horses and hares and enjoys nothing more than strolling around harbours and old buildings. Take her to a castle, an abbey, or a stately home and she’ll be happy for hours. She admits to being shamefully prone to crushes on fictional heroes.

Her stories of love, community, family, and friendship are set in pretty villages and quirky market towns, by the sea or in the countryside, and a happy ending is guaranteed.
If you love heroes and heroines who do the best they can no matter what sort of challenges they face, beautiful locations, and warm, feelgood stories, you’ll love Sharon’s books.

You’ll find all my links here:

https://linktr.ee/sharonboothwriter

WILL OF THE WITCH (THE WITCHES OF CASTLE CLAIR 4)

https://getbook.at/cc4

Will of the Witch

Book Review: Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Book Review: Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Hi all, Amber here. After the last review The Enchanted Emporium has been awash with chat about romance. Rosa came in with a fresh stash of books from one of the best bookshop’s ever – Whitby bookshop. A must place to visit if you come to our Yorkshire coastal town. I maybe biased – my mum took me there once but that’s another story and way too complicated to explain now but the shop has an adorable children’s section. Every book Rosa had chose had those pastel covers of nice places and a promise of a happy ever after. They give the reader a much needed escape and an emotional hug but I know they’re unrealistic. Happy endings don’t exist, otherwise Lucas Trent, the hunkiest guy in college wouldn’t have dumped me to go off and snog Geraldine Seymour. No, IMO the writers who are more likely to tell the truth about life are those who write horror.

And with a broken heart and hexing exes ban in place, horror books are the must read. Books like, Demon by Matt Wesolowski.

Book Review: Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Book cover Demon by Matt Wesolowski.
Black cover with a pair of devil horns.
Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Title: Demon

Author: Matt Wesolowski

Publisher: Orenda books

Genre: Horror/Crime

Release Date: 20th Jan 2022

Blurb

Scott King’s podcast investigates the 1995 cold case of a demon possession in a rural Yorkshire village, where a 12-year-old boy was murdered in cold blood by two children. Book six in the chilling, award-winning Six Stories series.

In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.

Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.

Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark and fanciful stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act. And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, King himself becomes a target, with dreadful secrets from his own past dredged up and threats escalating to a terrifying level. It becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…

Thoughts from the Emporium

Podcasts are my go to thing when I can’t sleep or travelling so this unique format suited me and this creepy tale well. Based in the depths of the Yorkshire Moors, the descriptions captured the brooding atmospheric location and added to the eeriness of the crime. This novel has a great sense of place. Setting plays a huge part in the narrative; the old kilns left over from when the village relied on the mining industry are the forbidden playground for the village children lured there by the warnings of danger and whispering of the presence of the devil. The murder of Sidney Parsons by the Demonic Duo adds to this lore.

Scott King’s podcast focuses on this horrific crime but the true horror is revealed when listening to the six people’s versions of the events. The deeper Scott digs the more immersive it becomes and creepier truths are revealed. The spotlight on the village inevitably has consequences and tensions rise when one of the murderers new names is set to be leaked. With twists I wasn’t expecting and superb storytelling, this was a chilling read where less is more and the reader is allowed to use their own imagination to terrify themselves. While some of the threads told can be explained with logic and other versions with supernatural leanings remain unexplained and it’s only when seen as a whole the true story is told.

Not only is this a fantastic horror/crime novel, it has a deeper message about society, prejudice and the increased influence of social media – see I told you horror writers tell the truth.

Demon is a well-crafted story in a clever format that adds to the atmospheric terror of the tale. It will give you nightmares. As the sixth novel in the Six Stories series so I’ve got some catching up to do.

If you want to keep updated on the most recent additions on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and some old favourites remember to click follow or pop over to Instagram and follow witch_of_whitby

I’m sure Rosa will keep sharing books from her Box of Romances too.

Author Biography

Photo of author Matt Wesolowski.  Short haired man wearing a Lucifer black T-shirt with occult symbols on it
Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror story set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was a bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller, Changeling (2019), Beast (2020) And Deity (2021) soon followed suit.