Book Review: Promise Me by Jill Mansell

With Valentine’s Day only a couple of weeks away and the Enchanted Emporium gearing up for love potions and heart decorations galore, Rosa was ecstatic to discover an ARC of Promise Me by Jill Mansell, one of her go to authors in her Box of Romance. Thank you Random Things Tour and the invite to this blog tour.

Scroll down to see of Rosa’s happiness was well earned or short lived once she’d finished reading.

Book Review: Promise Me by Jill Mansell

Book cover for Jill Mansell's Promise Me. A predominantly teal cover with gold lettering. An illustrated painted tree with red and yellow, green leaves. A swing hangs from a branch and a white and black dog is standing nearby
Promise Me by Jill Mansell

Title: Promise Me

Author: Jill Mansell

Publisher: Headline Review

Genre: Romance

Release date: 19th Jan 2023

Blurb

Fate’s about to make mischief…

One minute Lou is happily employed, with a perfect flat. The next, her home and job have gone. Suddenly she has
to start over.
The last thing Lou wants is to move to a tiny Cotswolds village. She certainly doesn’t intend to work for curmudgeonly eighty-year-old Edgar Allsopp. But Edgar is about to make her the kind of promise nobody could ignore. In
return, she secretly vows to help him fall in love with life again.
Foxwell is also home to Remy, whose charm and charisma are proving hard to ignore. But Lou hasn’t recovered
from the last time she fell for a charmer. She needs a distraction – and luckily one’s about to turn up.
Secrets never stay hidden for long in Foxwell, nor are promises always kept. And no one could guess what lies ahead.

Thoughts from the Emporium

This was Rosa’s first book she read this year and what a joy it was. From the moment she was introduced to caring Lou and grumpy, and manipulative Edgar, she knew she was reading a book she could to escape into and enjoy the ride, away from the cold weather and hectic home life. What a ride it was. With Edgar’s unique offer, and complex past loves and future ones, there were plenty of twists and unexpected turns to keep Rosa on her toes before the much needed happy ever after. 

Written with warmth, there was a cast of characters to adore and hate, and each had depth and a relatable backstory that made it easy to invest in their happiness or downfall. Whether it was the friendly banter or deeper love, the dialogue felt natural immersing Rosa further into the characters’ lives and zipping through the pages. Lou with a big heart was easily liked and Rosa’s initial dislike for curmudgeon (such a good word) Edgar mellowed the more she knew him, but it was Captain Oates who stole the show. He made Rosa laugh with his standoffish attitude and unwavering sense of self, reminding her of a beloved childhood pet. 

This book is a heart-warming, thought provoking and uplifting read about lost loves, second chance relationships and starting over which makes it an ideal read for the beginning of the year and run up to to Valentine’s Day. Pure fun and escapism. It’ll be well loved by many who visit her Box of Romance.

Author Biography

Photo of Jill Mansell. White woman with should length, layered very blonde hair, pink lipstick. Smiling and wearing a blue patterned blouse.
Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell has been writing Sunday Times bestsellers for over twenty years, most recently
Should I Tell You? Her hobbies include exploring the Cotswolds and the south west of
England, scouting for locations for future books, and discovering brilliant new restaurants
along the way. She lives in Bristol with her family.


Twitter @Jill Mansell
Facebook /OfficialJillMansell
Instagram @JillMansell

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Book Review: Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George

Rumours have been swirling around the Emporium today nudging the witches to tidy up for a potential visitor for a Monday Merry Meet. On closer investigation they seem to have stemmed from a rather excited children’s book Luke Stevens and The Blood of St George by Ben Peyton. It was easy to discover the culprit when it jiggled and jumped into passer-bys hands when they approached the bookshelf. Encouraged by the novel’s tenacity and the word dragon in the title, Amber took it home to read.

Scroll down to read her review and why not, subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss Ben Peyton’s interview tomorrow.

Book Review: Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George

Title: Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George

Author: Ben Peyton

Genre: Children’s fiction

Release date: 1st April 2022

Publisher: Neilson UK

Purchase:

Amazon

And signed and dedicated copies are available here: https://benpeyton.co.uk/buy-2/

Blurb

With a great central concept, this is a fast-paced imaginative romp for the younger reader.” Carl Ashmore – Best-selling author of The Time Hunters series

Ben Peyton’s debut novel is chock-full of action and suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George hits all the marks that a blockbuster should.” Rick Jones – Best-selling author of The Vatican Knights series

On his 13th birthday and presented with an unusual gift, Luke Stevens suddenly finds himself thrust into a battle between good and evil, with him right at the heart of it. For within Luke flows the blood of a legend, and there are those that will stop at nothing to get their hands on what Luke now has in his possession.

With a group of Guardians to help him, Luke has no choice but to step up and fulfil an ancient prophecy where mankind’s way of life is threatened by a ruthless enemy seeking global domination. What follows is a race against time where one thing is certain: Luke’s life will never be the same again.

Full to the brim with action, humour, crazy gadgets and history, prepare yourself for an exciting adventure that will keep you turning pages long into the night.

Welcome to Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George…

Thoughts of the Emporium

As far as Amber is concerned, dragons in fiction make for a better book, and this is no exception. Despite being older than the intended target audience, the tale of Luke Stevens drew her in and didn’t release her until the end. It would have been one of her favourite reads growing up. She hasn’t had as much fun reading this genre since Simon Mayo’s Itch

This action packed thriller has everything she wanted – drama, tension, memorable plot and distinct characters. And a visit to one of her bucket list places to visit, The National Art Gallery to see the impressive painting of St George slaying the dragon by Tintoretto.

Fast paced, Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George resembled a James Bond movie with fledgling superpowers and family secrets. Humour was blended in effortlessly with fight scenes, adventure and the battle between good and evil. What more could she want? No wonder the excitable book demanded attention. 

 It’s zipped into Rosa’s bag now – Alejo may be on the younger scale of the readership but Rosa can’t wait to use his bedtime reading sessions as an excuse to read it herself. 

Author Biography

Photo of Ben Peyton. White middle aged man, greying short hair wearing a dark blue shirt
Ben Peyton

Ben Peyton is a former actor (a regular in ITV1’s The Bill) and now a full-time dad and writer. He has written reviews and articles for Filmhounds Magazine, Time & Leisure Magazine and several online blogs. Luke Stevens and the Blood of St George is his debut novel.

Social Media

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ben_peyton007/

Twitter https://twitter.com/benpeyton007

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/benpeytonauthor

Book Review: The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman

From the whimsical adventures searching for Norwegian fae, in Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, today’s review remains in the North but it ventures back to the dark times of the witch trials. The Emporium’s attraction to The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman is clear -put witch is the title and the bookshelf will covet it but scroll down to see if this novel deserves a place on the shelf on merit alone.

Book Review: The Witches of Vardo by Anya Bergman

Title: The Witches of Vardo

Author: Anya Bergman

Publisher: Bonnier

Genre: Fiction, Witchlit, Historical fiction

Release date: 12th Jan 2023

Blurb

1662. Norway. A dangerous time to be a woman, when even dancing can lead to accusations of witchcraft. When Zigri, a normal fisherman’s wife, desperate and grieving after the loss of her husband and son, embarks on an affair with the married son of a wealthy merchant, it is not long before she is sent to the fortress at Vardø, to be tried and condemned as a witch. Summer is twenty-four hours of light and winter is twenty-four hours of darkness, and night is closing in.
 
Zigri’s daughter Ingeborg leaves her younger sister and sets off into the wilderness to try to bring her mother back home. Accompanying her on this quest is Maren – herself the daughter of a witch ­– whose wild nature and unconquerable spirit gives Ingeborg the courage to venture into the unknown, and to risk all she has to save her family.
 
Also captive in the fortress is Anna Rhodius with instructions to extract the confessions from the supposed witches. Once the King of Denmark’s mistress, she has been brought to Vardø in disgrace. What will she do – and who will she betray – to return to her privileged life at court?
 
These Witches of Vardø are stronger than even the King of Denmark. In an age weighted against them they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power.
 
The Witches of Vardø is based upon the real events of witch hunts in Norway in 1662. A blend of historical fact with magic realism, retellings of old Nordic folktales, Norse mythology and Sámi mythology, and told from the points of view of Anna and Ingeborg, it will take your breath away.

Thoughts from the Emporium

After reading, this novel’s worthiness for being on the enchanted shelf is beyond doubt. Spellbound, Amber and Willow have also bought copies to keep for themselves for the knowledge it contains and the compelling storytelling they know they will return to. 

Beyond the witch trials in the UK and Salem, the Emporium’s witches’ knowledge of them is sketchy, so both were intrigued by this book’s basis in fact. What followed horrified and enthralled them in equal measure and triggered heated debates between customers about the role of misogyny, fear and spite in the persecution of so-called witches.

Told in two voices, the reader sees the story from the viewpoint of the accused and   those against them, gave a full experience of the events. The smattering of mythology and folk tales  blended in added depth and context to the magical side to the novel. 

Daughter of a physician, Anna is outspoken, and intelligent and used to the finer things in life and in exile to Vardo. Like many characters in this book, she is complex and multifaceted. Willow and Amber wanted to dislike her; she made their blood curdle with rage at her support for tracking down the witches but when her life story was revealed their stance wavered. Was she a  woman with good intentions trapped by circumstance? Like Willow suggested. Or pure evil which was Amber’s more rigid stance. Book clubs will have fun unpicking their thoughts.

Ingeborg’s chapters highlighted the harsh realities of the fishing village she lives in where poverty is rife, women vulnerable and superstition thrives. Young, she has grown up too fast to care for her younger sister Kirsten while battling her own grief with the loss of her brother. Loss and grief are consistent themes in the book, exploring how its power can  lead to unwise decisions with far reaching consequences. Her loyalty, level headedness and love for family shone on the page making everyone eager for her to succeed on her mission to rescue her mother when she became entangled with a frenzy of hate, fuelled by misogyny and ability to use the accusation of witch as punishment for any misdemeanor or perceived fault.

Maren, daughter of a feared and infamous witch provided the mystical elements to the novel with her fantastical stories, unreliable narration and unwavering strength. She added to the are they or aren’t they witches thread that cleverly ran throughout.

The Emporium witches were completely immersed in the 17th century world Anya Bergman created thanks to the small details in character, location, dress and experience. They could taste the sugar almonds and feel the pleasure of seeing the Northern lights. The research must have been immense and they were thrilled to discover a reading list at the back of the book so they could explore things more for themselves.

The Witches of Vardo is a compelling, dark and emotional historical tale of loyalty, female strength, magic and betrayal. Its impactful and the unexpected ending showcased its strength in storytelling.

Author Biography

Photo of Anya Bergman. Petite white woman with dark hair huddled in a snuggly thick fur lined coat.
Anya Bergman

Anya Bergman lives in Ireland. She graduated from Edinburgh Napier with a Master’s in Creative Writing with distinction in 2020. She lived for six years in Norway researching this book extensively. The Witches of Vardø, a passion project, is her debut novel.She says: “My aim is to raise the lost of voices of the women of Vardø with tenderness, to reclaim their agency and to empower the reader with a strong sense of F*** the patriarchy!”

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Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

There are no fae in the Emporium’s secret garden but Willow is sure she saw one in Grandma Jax’s garden as a child and she was warned about those roaming the Yorkshire Moors the cottage backed on to. When this beauty, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, arrived on the enchanted bookshelf*, she knew she had to read it. Amber saw the cover and immediately thought of her own painted pages in her Book of Shadows so lay claim on it too.

The cover could easily have been designed by the fae itself and promised to hold an exquisite read. Scroll down to see if it hit everyone’s high expectations.

Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Book Cover for Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett. Cream parchment style background with an open book at the bottom. Framed by exquisite water colour illustration of flowers and toadstools
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Author: Heather Fawcett

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Adult fantasy, folklore

Release Date: 19th January 2023

Blurb

Enter the world of the hidden folk – and discover the most whimsical, enchanting and heart-warming tale you’ll read this year, featuring the intrepid Emily Wilde. . .

Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is the foremost expert on the study of faeries; she is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encylopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby

But as Emily gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones – the most elusive of all faeries –  she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all – her own heart.

Filled with enchanting magic, heart-warming romance and a heroine you can’t help but love, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the perfect read for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Thoughts From the Emporium

Both witches decided this novel tapped into their adoration of Brian Froud’s Faeries books and could easily imagine once Emily had corelated all her findings, it would be just as an outstanding to read, with intricately detailed descriptions and illustrations of each faery. With this in mind, they were invested from the start for her to succeed in her mission.

Brian Froud and Alan Lee books

Written as a journal, the adventure slowly unfolded as she travels to the cold depths of Norway to study the elusive Hidden Ones for her project. This gave them the opportunity to find out about her as a character through her actions and thoughts. Highly focused, scholarly and straightforward, it was fun to read a strong personality with such dedication to her field who thinks differently with surprising results. Amber related to her attraction to books, journaling and nature, solitude over social interaction, her in-depth curiosity and she understood why studying the fae became priority. The more Amber read, the more Emily Wilde became her literary hero. She had worked hard and nothing would get in her way. In Emily’s journals, her reasonings, flaws and social floundering were in full display. And her hatred for Wendell.

Wendell Bambleby was Emily’s opposite, and seen through her eyes it took a while to warm to him but with a flamboyant attitude, charisma and love of homely decor and fashion, he became a character to love and root for whatever his secrets. His unrequited love for her provides humour, chemistry and clashes. It was a joy to watch this slow, subtle romance and attraction grow.

Every character was well-developed, including side ones from the village, so was easy to be immersed in the comings and goings of the village, the horror of fae abductions and attacks. The Faeries themselves have personality, depth and a darkness seen in fairy tales of old, not the sanitised Disney versions.

Highly imaginative in characterisation, plot and setting, the small details gave this story heart. The wintery Norwegian location was an ideal place for the investigations for its landscape and otherworldly atmosphere. The freezing temperature emanated from the page the further Emily’s investigations took her, so lots of hot beverages were required while drinking. No one wanted this book to end and excited to see its part of a series. 

This beautiful, heart-warming fantasy has everything needed for a magical tale exploring the dark world of the faeries and self-discovery; immersive worldbuilding, humour, mystery, drama and soul. More, please!

Author Biography

Heather Fawcett is the author of the middle grade novels Ember and the Ice Dragons and The Language of Ghosts, as well as the young adult series Even the Darkest Stars. She has a master’s degree in English literature and has worked as an archaeologist, photographer, technical writer, and backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theater festival. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada.

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*Thank you Compulsive Readers for supplying a copy to review.

Book Review: A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair

We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to be on this blog tour for Ally Sinclair’s novel, A Season for Love. A huge thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for the invite and book arriving in Rosa’s Box of Romance so they could give an honest opinion. Everyone is still recovering from her ear shattering squeal when she read the blurb – Regency dating in our modern world, what more could she ask for?

Scroll down to see if A Season for Love hit her high expectations.

Book Review: A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair

Book cover for  A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair. Dark blue background, white title with tagline Can old-fashioned courtship flourish in today's dating world?
Heavily stylised illustration of a woman with long brown hair next to man in a blue shirt (for some reason they have no facial features except for her lips???)
A Season for Love by Ally Sinclair

Book title: A Season for Love

Author: Ally Sinclair

Publisher: Hera

Genre: Romance

Release date: 12th January 2023

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3CZyknz

Apple: https://apple.co/3Txu7ys

Hive: https://bit.ly/3z9y8Ry

Blurb

Can old-fashioned courtship survive in today’s dating world?

When Emma Love’s mother retires, it is time for her to take the reins of the family dating agency and build on its success. And she has a fresh new idea: to host a Jane Austen-style Regency Season of glamourous events where potential lovers can actually take the time to get to know each other in person, with no apps in between.

Emma has no intention of becoming romantically involved herself, of course; she is a matchmaker on the hunt for the perfect partner for ladies like Annie (who thought she had missed her chance at love a long time ago), Jane (recently divorced and nervously stepping into her new life) and wild child Lydia (more interested in hooking up than finding Mr Darcy).

As the Season unfolds, there is only one fly in Emma’s ointment – the irritating Mr Knight, with his casual attitude and gentle cynicism. Why is she allowing him to ruffle her calm, ordered life and why can’t she stop thinking about him? She is far too sensible to take a chance on love – isn’t she?

Jane Austen meets Sophie Kinsella in this laugh-out-loud, captivating romantic comedy.

Thoughts from the Emporium

During those lockdown years, Bridgerton mania swept through the Emporium encouraged by the over excited Rosa, high on romance, the sexy Duke and the promise of a HEA with dancing and jewels. Willow watched it under duress but was sucked into its escapism and the allure of the Duke while Amber refused to admit she’d even watched it, never mind twice, and even then she was only watching for the costumes and creative inspiration for her art. This brings us to the reaction of the Emporium surrounding A Season for Love.

It was a hit and met the high expectations Rosa set. Matchmaker Emma drew them in with her Regency styled scheme for people to find love, after all everyone secretly longed to attend a ball with its glamour and then the other characters carried the plot with its surprises, warmth and underlying chemistry.

With multiple protagonists there was at least one each the staff could relate to whether it was because of their view on love or backstory. Each character was fully formed and realistic, giving the reader a snapshot into their often complex lives and making them root for their happy ever after ending.

Like the characters, each potential love match and chemistry between suiters was different from Annie with her lost childhood love to wild and fiercely independent Lydia and her hot barman. All share the realistic emotions, sensitivity to issues the characters face and sexual chemistry despite it being close door.  

The events Emma organised to promote love were inspired and only wish they were real and could come to Yorkshire.

A Season for Love is a warm romantic novel about connections, friendship and love blended with Regency ethics and humour. And like the Netflix Regency series, has left the Emporium eager to read the next one.* It will be a well-loved book in Rosa’s Box of Romance and on Rosa’s own physical forever shelf.

*Even Amber who only tends to enjoy romances if they’re dripping with vampiric chemistry or spellbound with magic or spookiness and horror.

Author Biography

Photo of Ally Sinclair. A white woman very smiley with brown shoulder length hair, wearing a black and white striped shirt
Ally Sinclair

Ally grew up on the North Yorkshire coast and now lives with her husband in Worcestershire, at least until she can persuade him to give into her yearning to live somewhere nearer the sea. No kids, no pets. She sometimes manages to keep a pot plant alive. Briefly. She has been writing professionally since 2013, and is also published as Alison May and, in collaboration, as Juliet Bell. Ally is a former Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and currently works as an associate lecturer for the Open University.

Social Media Links –

@MsAllySinclair – https://twitter.com/MsAllySinclair

@MsAlisonMay – https://twitter.com/MsAlisonMay

https://www.facebook.com/allysinclairauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMayAuthor

Instagram @MsAllySinclair and @MsAlisonMay

TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@msallysinclair

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCihOmLXaNIqXKqdnekC4wJQ

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Book Review: There’s No Place Like Home by Jane Lovering

After chatting to Jane Lovering on Monday over a large mug of Yorkshire tea during our Monday Merry Meet, we’re excited to share our review of her new book, There’s No Place Like Home. Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for the blog tour invite and providing a copy to read.

Book Review: There’s No Place Like Home by Jane Lovering

There’s No Place Like Home by Jane Lovering

Title: There’s No Place Like Home

Author: Jane Lovering

Publisher: Boldwood books

Genre: Woman’s fiction, romance

Release date: 10th January 2023

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3FsnZU2 

Blurb:

Isabel, Izzy to her friends, has got nothing left to lose when she makes the bravest decision of her life.

A month living under canvas on the Yorkshire Moors with five strangers wouldn’t normally be her idea of a good time, even if there is prize money to be won at the end of it, but she’s all out of options.

Joining her in this wild goose chase, being filmed for a TV show, are farmer Seb, whose marriage is creaking but who is desperate not to lose his family. Sheltered Ruth who needs an opportunity to show she can make her own decisions. Glamorous socialite Kanga, who has been living a lie. American Junior who has his own secret that has led him there. And last but not least, mysterious and brooding Mac, who Izzy can’t help but be drawn to.

As the fickleness of nature tests them all to their limits, this disparate group come together to face the challenge. But when Izzy finally tells them the truth that has brought her out on the Moors, will that be the end of their adventure, or the beginning of her future? Because what Izzy really needs is a place to call home, and someone to share it with could be even better…

Thoughts from the Emporium

Last year The Forgotten House on the Moor appeared on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and we all loved it so when There’s No Place Like Home arrived in Rosa’s Box of Romance, Willow and her had to flip a coin to see who would read it first. Rosa won. With high expectations, this novel didn’t disappoint.

Within pages, both were hooked into Izzy’s life and the stark realities of camping in the Yorkshire moors in horrid weather, with strangers tracking down a potential mythical creature for a TV prize. Jane Lovering has a talent for world building and providing a strong sense of place. With knowledge of the locality, Rosa and Willow can both say it is an accurate depiction of the moors and its atmosphere. Even snuggled under the duvet, Rosa found herself shivering when Izzy and company are faced with bad weather thanks to the immersive writing.

Six strangers living in close quarters with sporadic appearances of the camera crew and film staff provided a memorable cast for this original novel, plenty of drama and clashes of personalities. They all have a backstory and reasons for joining the show, including Izzy. As a protagonist, she had depth and everyone connected to her and wanted her to have a happy ever after she sought after. Sprinkled with humour, deeper themes are blended in this uplifting novel with care and realism. Despite the weather and camping trials, romance blooms and the slow burn chemistry between Izzy and Seb is just right for their story.

This unique novel was an ideal read to start the year and a welcome addition to Rosa’s Box of Romance where the love will be shared with visitors to the Emporium. It will be a hit. After chatting to Jane on Monday, everyone is already looking forward to her next one and if you read her chat you’ll understand why.

Author Biography

Photo of Jane Lovering.  White woman with red dotty bandana cuddling a black and white Patterdale Terrier in a autumn background
Jane Lovering

Jane Lovering is the bestselling and award-winning romantic comedy writer who won the RNA Novel of the Year Award in 2012 with Please Don’t Stop the Music. She lives in Yorkshire and has a cat and a bonkers terrier, as well as five children who have now left home.

Social Media Links   

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Jane-Lovering-Author-106404969412833

Twitter https://twitter.com/janelovering

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/JaneLoveringNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jane-lovering

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Best Books of 2022 and chat of things to come

Happy New Year from all at The Enchanted Emporium and we wish you a magical 2023 with plenty of happiness, good health and laughter. And books, lots of books and tea. If the current influx of books arriving on the enchanted bookshelf and in Rosa’s Box of Romance is anything to go by we’re in for a treat.

Have you seen the recent Guardian newspaper articles regarding the rise of witch lit or witcherature? We’ll link them here and here. We agree 2022 been the year of the witch as our favourite books will show and it looks like the trend will continue. Aren’t we lucky? Willow needs to conjure a pause time to read spell to read them all. Maybe, just maybe we will have exciting news to tell about our own story based in our shop written by writer, Kate Kenzie later this year but you know what some writers are like with deadlines and self doubt, it could be delayed again. You can follow her progress and give her a kick up the bum – sorry encouragement here.

Our blog is in its infancy, toddling about but we’ve had a ball chatting to authors in our Monday Merry Meets. They’ve brightened up our weeks and you can catch up with those you may have missed below. This year we’ll continue to fling our staff room doors and provide tea while we gossip with more writers and customers who stumble down Black Cat Alley. Our first guest is Yorkshire romance author, Jane Lovering. Why not press subscribe so you don’t miss any future chat?

Monday Merry Meets in 2022

Jeanna Louise Skinner

Alys West

Christina Courtenay

Kiley Dunbar

Kate Johnson

Kat Chant

J C Clarke

Elisabeth Hobbes

Lilian Brooks

Stephanie Hansen

Rachel Burge

Sharon Booth

Heidi Swain

Jessica Thorne

Emma Bradley

Photo of a floral cup and saucer

Enough rambling before our first cup of tea and the sun has risen over Whitby, here are our favourite books of 2022 from the bookshelf and Rosa’s Box of Romance in no particular order (that really is a ask too far). Are you ready?

Here goes

The Best Books of 2022 on the Enchanted Emporium’s Bookshelf

The Change by Kirsten Miller – One of the finest examples of witcherature and feminist writing we’ve seen. It kicks ass, has superb powerful characterisation and is unforgettable for its humour, darkness and immersive plot.

The Gifts by Liz Hyder – This was another immersive, breath stopping novel. Not witches this time but angels in the nineteenth century when misogyny and greed is rife. The cover is beautiful and with this unforgettable storyline, it deserves to sit on everyone’s bookshelf

The Hex Appeal by Kate Johnson – Full of humour, and with plenty of highly imaginative mayhem this witchy romcom made us chuckle out loud.

The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marias – with a cast of six octogenarian witches, this novel captivated us and it highlights how commercial witch lit can be. The Moonshyne witches will be forever in out hearts.

Widdershins by Helen Steadman – Historical fiction based on the Newcastle witch trials in 1649. The detail and knowledge portrayed on the page brought the era and danger to live.

Demon by Matt Wesolowski. – From witches to a demon haunting a village in Yorkshire. The podcast format worked well for this horror novel and sent shivers down our spines.

The Ghost of Ivy Barn by Mark Stay – Another fun and immersive witchy novel in the Witches of Woodville series. It has humour, action and highly memorable, quirky characters. Once read you have to keep reading the series over and over.

The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore – The last book reviewed last year and with impressive world building, this retelling of the Baba Yaga folk tale is a must for witcherature fans.

What were your favourite reads last year? Drop us a line or comment we’d love to know.

Happy reading!

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.

Other blogs on this tour

Book Review: Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield

Today’s review is something different to the usual fiction, Amber makes a beeline for. Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield drew her attention when it arrived on the bookshelf courtesy of Literally PR for this blog tour – thank you. While Amber believes in life after death, she’d never considered the idea communication could occur via writing. She needed to know more. The book was then passed to Willow allowing much discussion in the shop.

Scroll down to see their honest and unbiased opinions.

Book Review: Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield

Book cover for Spirit Writer; spiritwriterspeaks by Wendy Sheffield
Black cover with white typeface
An open book and quill with vibrant blue illustrated swirls and stars coming out of it to indicate magic/spirit
Spirit Writer by Wendy Sheffield

Title: Spirit Writer

Author: Wendy Sheffield

Publisher: Grosvenor House Publishing

Release date: 13th October 2022

Genre: Non-fiction, spirituality

Blurb:

Spirit Writer is a journey of self-discovery for the author – Wendy Sheffield – from when she first became aware that her grandmother was communicating with her, following an unusual dream that created awareness of her myriad spiritual gifts. These gifts include spirit or automatic writing, whereupon Wendy channels spirit messages to help people understand their higher self. It took a long time, however, before she realised that spirit was encouraging her to remember and understand her journey so that she could help others with theirs. On her quest for answers to her many questions, Wendy became desperate to understand her gifts, how spirit communicated with her, and what her spiritual journey was.  

Wendy considered the views of well-known people in the spiritual world including Eckhart Tolle and the Arthur Findlay College, to name a few, and recognised a definite sequence of events that appears to be happening around the world leading up to spiritual unfoldment. She also recognised that more people around the world are looking for answers, feeling dissatisfied with their religions and beliefs, desperate to overcome their fear of dying, and to discover whether the afterlife exists. To tackle this age-old question of ‘Is there an afterlife?’ the author examines various accounts of people (religious or otherwise) who have experienced near-death experiences to consider similarities between their accounts.  

In her quest to understand spirit and the spirit world, the author also discovered Leslie Flint, a well-recognised medium with a unique gift in that his spirit messages came through a voice box above his head. After studying several recorded spirit messages, the author was drawn to a detailed message from Harry Price, who is well known for his exposure of fraudulent mediums, who came through to talk on the subject of ghosts and spirits, as he believed they were not understood.  

The author hopes that Spirit Writer will help readers consider subjects that are not widely discussed so that they can come to their own conclusions. This book is as much about the author’s understanding of her own journey as it is about helping others to understand theirs. 

Thoughts from the Emporium:

Spirit Writer is a highly accessible, an enjoyable insight into Wendy’s spiritual journey to becoming a medium using writing to channel the spirit. It covers her life experiences as well as an overview of spiritualism, providing a simple foundation to build knowledge from. Written with confidence and passion, it led both Willow and Amber to want to know more.

 Everyone in the Emporium believes in the spirit world, thanks to working in a haunted building, but neither witches
practise mediumship in the conventional sense. Amber came into the book unaware of spirit writing or spiritualism while Willow had visited mediums and spiritualist church soon after her mum’s death. This resulted in her witnessing some fascinating readings, including a talented spirit artist so she could relate to some of Wendy’s experiences. Both found something in the book and the love and non-judgemental aspects of the church was explained well. Though
 spiritualism is a religion, its belief system can slot alongside other mainstream ones including the individual paths Willow and Amber follow.

Beyond Wendy’s journey, Spirit Writer gives a background and advice on spiritual matters, including a transcript from Harry Price, famed for his investigations into fraudulent hauntings. From the spirit world, he shared his views on ghosts
and manifestations. This was a fascinating nice touch. Both witches proceeded to analyse the Emporium’s ghosts, Percy, Marleys and the unknown on the stairs, to see where they fitted in.

Author biography

White woman, dark short bob hair with thick dark small glasses. Wearing red and black checked top
Wendy Sheffield

Social Media

Website: https://spiritwriterspeaks.com

Twitter: @spiritwriteruk

Facebook: Spiritwriterspeaks

Instagram: Spiritwriteruk7965

Book Review: Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop by Kiley Dunbar

Rosa here. Now Halloween is over, I love indulging in festive books so I was excited to find a copy of Kiley Dunbar’s Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop in my Box of Romance. I adored the prequel to this, The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday so was happy to revisit Clove Lore.

Book Review: Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop by Kiley Dunbar

Book cover for Christmas at the Borrow the Bookshop.  A traditional bookshop in the snow with a Christmas wreath on the door and decorated with lights. A woman in a bobbly hate and jumper walking towards it. Christmas trees are in the foreground
Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop by Kiley Dunbar

Title: Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop

Author: Kiley Dunbar

Publisher: Hera

Genre: festive romance

Release Date: 1st September 2022

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/39v0coN

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3QpSgpj

Apple: https://apple.co/3Oewbs0

Hive: https://bit.ly/3HI1olz

Blurb

‘Tis the season for finding love… and the perfect book

With just two weeks until Christmas, everything in Clove Lore should be perfect. But the latest holidaymaker to the Borrow a Bookshop is feeling far from festive…

Icelandic ex-bookseller Magnús Sturluson might be surrounded by love stories in the Bookshop, but he’s nursing a sadness that not even fiction can fix.

When Alexandra Robinson finds herself stranded in Clove Lore, she finds a safe place to hide from heartbreak. After all, all that’s waiting for her at home is a cheater boyfriend and the memories of her parents. As Alex finds herself embraced by the quirky village community, she finds her tough exterior thawing – and as she grows closer to Magnús, she finds an equally soft heart under his gruff shell.

It seems that Clove Lore is working its magic once again – until a great flood on Christmas Eve brings devastation in its wake. It’s up to Magnús and Alex to batten down the hatches and help bring the village back together again, while also introducing the locals to the Icelandic tradition of the jólabókaflóð – Yule book flood – where families and friends gather on Christmas Eve to exchange books and read together.

But can Magnús and Alex truly rescue the ruins of the village, and salvage their Christmas spirit? Or is there another complication lurking even closer than they thought?

Rosa’s Thoughts from the Emporium

Kiley Dunbar is an author I know I can turn to for a comfort read with quirky characters to love and a location I can immerse myself in. This book was no exception. Clove Lore and the bookshop welcomed me back like a hug and it was a joy to catch up with old favourite characters like Minty, Jude and Eliot, and of course, Aldous the dog.

The bookshop and its café is a perfect location for a Christmas story as it oozes cosiness and warmth especially when the characters sink into chairs in front of the fire surrounded by books. With the village decorated with Christmas decorations it made me feel festive even in September.

Magnus and Alex provided a fresh story and when their pasts were revealed, I was cheering them both on hoping they would both get the happy ending they deserved. Unlike many romances, Magnus and Alex get on so it was lovely to see the friendship flourish but then it meant the heartache cuts deeper when trials come their way.

The flood highlighted the devasting wide ranging effects disasters like this have but also showed the strength communities and people have when pushed to the brink.

With bookshops, the Christmas tradition of jólabókaflóð, a strong community and romance in the air, this novel is perfect for a heart-warming festive read on a cold evening with a hot chocolate or favourite drink.

It can be read as a standalone, but like all novels set in a village location, reading the first novel will give added depth to the reading experience as you have a connection with the secondary characters too.

Author Biography

Black and white photo of Kiley Dunbar
White woman, with dark long hair and glasses
Kiley Dunbar

Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places, with One Winter’s Night being shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.

Kiley’s five novels include: The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday (May 2021), One Winter’s Night (September 2020), Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) and One Summer’s Night (2019).

Social Media Links


Website and newsletter: http://www.kileydunbar.co.uk/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCI8wM4Fmkbyg4S_XGSnfUCA

https://twitter.com/kileydunbar

https://www.facebook.com/KileyDunbarAuthor/