The truth can be dangerous in the wrong hands…
1661, North Berwick
One stormy night, healer Honor Seton and her daughter Alice are summoned to save the town lord’s wife – but they’re too late. A vengeful crusade against the Seton women leads to whispers of witchcraft all over town. Honor hopes her connections can protect them from unproven rumours and dangerous accusations – but is the truth finally catching up with them?
Present day, North Berwick
After an explosive scandal lands her husband in prison, Tess Blyth flees Edinburgh to start afresh in Thistle Cottage. As she hides from the media’s unforgiving glare, Tess is intrigued by the shadowy stories of witchcraft surrounding the women who lived in the cottage centuries ago. But she quickly discovers modern-day witch hunts can be just as vicious: someone in town knows her secret – and they won’t let Tess forget it…
My thoughts: Drawing on historical records of witch hunts in Scotland during the 1600s, moving between the former and current residents of a small cottage, and exploring the idea of the modern witch hunt as well as the historical ones, this is a clever and compelling story.
In the 1660s Honor and Alice live quiet lives, offering tinctures and basic medical aid to their neighbours, supported by the financial decisions Honor’s late husband made and the land he purchased. They don’t cause trouble but it comes anyway, in the form of a hothead laird, whose wife Honor cannot save from a fever.
In the 2020s Tess and Jem have moved to the same small cottage to escape from press attention over Tess’ ex-husband’s terrible crimes. But someone knows who they are and is harassing them with disturbing graffiti and weird threats left outside their door.
Both plotlines are interesting and thought provoking, there’s a project in Scotland seeking official exonorations for the women and men accused and killed for being witches, and it’s simple, ordinary people like Honor and Alice who suffered but in their case there’s hope for redemption.
Similarly Tess and Jem are targeted for something they didn’t do, something they’ve moved away from their home and friends to try to avoid the limelight. Neither of them is guilty of the crimes they’re accused of but someone wants them to pay a price.
I thought this was really well written and drew parallels in a smart and precise way, it left me with plenty to chew over when it was finished as well as being enjoyable and satisfying a read.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.