Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Return of the Witch by Paula Brackston - Excerpt and Giveaway

The Qwillery is delighted to share an excerpt from The Return of the Witch by Paula Brackston published March 8th by Thomas Dunne Books.

The Return of the Witch is a standalone sequel to The Witch's Daughter. Plus enter to win a copy of The Return of the Witch - 3 copies / 3 winners - below.

The Return of the Witch
Thomas Dunne Books, March 8, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Paula Brackston's debut novel, The Witch's Daughter, was the little book that could--with a captivating story, remarkable heroine, and eye-catching package, it has now netted over 200,000 copies in all formats. Now Paula returns with its sequel The Return of the Witch, another bewitching tale of love and magic, featuring her signature blend of gorgeous writing, a fabulous and intriguing historical backdrop, and a headstrong and relatable heroine readers will cheer for.

After five years in the Summerlands, Gideon has gained his freedom. Elizabeth knows he will go straight for Tegan, and that she must protect the girl she had come to regard as her own daughter. In the time since she the dramatic night in Batchcombe woods, Tegan has traveled the world learning from all manner of witches, and she is no longer the awkward teenager and novice spellcaster she once was. However, her skills are no match for Gideon's dark, vengeful power, and he succeeds in capturing her. Will Elizabeth be able to find her? Will they be able to defeat their nemesis once and for all?

In a breathless journey that takes them through history to the 17th and 19th centuries, witch pursues warlock. Three people steeped in magic weave a new story, but not all will survive until the end.




Willow Cottage appeared pleasingly unchanged, looking so very much as it had the day I made it my home nearly six years before. February winds had brought abundant snow, so that the entire village was thickly coated. The storm had moved on; the air was clear and the sky free of clouds. Morning sun glinted off the white ground. Standing at the gate that marked the boundary of the garden, I noticed the holly plants I had used to fill gaps in the hedge had grown well, adding their prickly strength to the protective border around the front of the house. Beneath the layer of snow I could discern the familiar shapes of sturdy shrubs and winter plants, and to the side the willows themselves were still graceful, even in their unclothed, brumal state. On the roof bare patches of slate gleamed wetly where the heat from the chimney had melted the snow, and a steady plume of pale smoke suggested seasoned wood was being burned on the Aga in the kitchen. My heart tightened. I could so clearly picture the cozy stove, the worn furniture mellowed by age, rows of jars and bottles on the aged oak dresser, the low window over the sink looking out to the vegetable patch at the rear of the house.

But I was remembering the way things were when I lived there. When Willow Cottage was mine. Now it belonged to Tegan. Would she have altered the interior? I wondered. Would I find things displaced, new furnishings, a different mood to the place, perhaps? Of course, Tegan had every right to do as she pleased with her own home. I had given it to her completely, without condition, precisely so that she might find a sense of belonging that seemed to have always eluded her during her somewhat rootless childhood. And how would she receive me? There had been times when I had longed for this moment to come, but now I found myself reluctant to open the gate, walk up the narrow garden path, and knock upon the front door. I had visited her in her dreams on several occasions during the past five years. I had sought to give comfort and encouragement when I could. And I had tried to warn her. I was satisfied that she had heard me, and I believed I understood her well enough to know that she did gain solace and reassurance from that tenuous contact. To stand before her again, however, solid, earthbound, returned as if from the dead, well, that was another matter entirely. She would be shocked. She might well be frightened. Would she be angry with me for leaving her? Had she forgiven me? Would she comprehend the reason for my coming back, uninvited, into her life?

A low sound from beyond the house caught my attention. Muffled by the snow, the noise was rhythmic, workmanlike, coming from the kitchen garden. Sweeping, I decided. Tegan. I pushed open the gate and followed the path around the side of the house, happier that our reunion was to be outside, beneath the cheerful sun and the soft blue of the sky. At shoulder height, a blackbird flew as my escort, its song alerting everyone to my arrival. As I rounded the building the noise of sweeping ceased, and there she stood, leaning on a handmade besom, head turned to see who it was who called upon her. I stopped in my snowy tracks. Willow Cottage might have altered little, but Tegan was transformed. The slight, awkward girl I had left behind had grown into a strong, beautiful, young woman. She was warmly clothed against the winter’s cold, with a woolen hat and gloves and a bulky padded coat. Her Wellington boots looked a size too big, and her legs were still slender, but she had an adult shape to her now. I studied her face, trying to read her expression, eager to gauge the impact seeing me would have upon her. She gasped. For what seemed an age, she neither spoke nor moved. My heart lurched beneath my breast. I could only imagine what turmoil her own must be in. Would she trust the evidence of her eyes? I am not sure that I would have done so, had our roles been reversed. I forced myself to speak, to say something, anything, to break the unbearable tension of that moment.

“You should not leave your sweeping unfinished,” I told her, pointing at the flat stones of the pathway about her feet, which were still smeared with snow. “Come evening that will freeze. An old woman could slip and break her bones.”

Tegan straightened, her grip on the broom handle tightening minutely.

“I see no old women here,” she replied, her face still inscrutable.

And then she screamed. It was a cry of pure delight. Throwing the broom down, she ran to me and flung her arms around me, pulling me to her so tightly she fair knocked the breath from my body.

“It’s you! It’s really you!” she cried, pulling back to look at me before hugging me again. “I can’t believe it! Well, I can believe it. I mean, I must! Because here you are. But how can you be? Well, why not? Why wouldn’t you be able to?… And I know I’m gabbling, but what did you expect? I mean, turning up, just like this. And looking, well, just like you!” She was laughing and crying now, and I was aware of my own tears mingling with hers as she kissed my face excitedly. “And you’re exactly as you always were. Look at you. Oh, Elizabeth, I knew you’d come back! I just knew it. Even though it doesn’t make any sense.” She paused to sniff and wipe her eyes with her gloved hand. “Here you are.”

I nodded, smiling as I stepped back to look at her once more, taking her gloved hands in mine. “Here I am, but where is the skinny child I remember? Who is this woman, all grown up and sensibly dressed, for once?” Now I noticed that it was not merely her physical exuberance that I had felt. There was something else. A different manner of strength.

“Am I so different, really?”

“You still chatter as much as you ever did, which is to say a great deal!”

She beamed. “How you must have missed that.”

“Almost as much as I missed your cooking.”

“Ha! Now I know you are confusing me with someone else.” She laughed.

We fell silent and simply stood, looking at each other. The morning air around us seemed to thicken, the day itself began to grow heavy with questions, with unspoken thoughts, with hurt.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” I asked.

She shrugged, a little uncertain. “It’s your house,” she said.

“No, Tegan. It’s yours.”

She jammed her hands in her pockets, grinning. “The kettle’s on,” she said as she led the way to the back door.

Once inside she stepped out of her boots and I did the same, leaving them to dry on the mat. I confess I was touched to find the kitchen unchanged. The Aga sat as it always had against the far wall with the same kettle whistling softly on one of the hot plates. The cream enamel of the old stove was a little more blackened and worn in places, but it gave out a welcoming heat. The ramshackle collection of chairs, tables, and rugs remained, as did the dresser. I could not resist inspecting the bottles on the shelves. Jars of preserved fruit and pickles from the garden. Dried herbs. Flower oils and infusions, all neatly labeled.

“Oh! You continue to make these?” I picked up a dark blue bottle of lavender oil, removing the stopper to inhale the uplifting fumes. “This is very good. Very good indeed.”

“Should be,” said Tegan, fetching mugs for tea. “I used your recipe. And your plants from the garden.”

“But you made it. It is your creation, not mine.”

She clattered on with mugs and spoons, taking milk from the fridge and generally busying herself. After her initial excitement at seeing me, she now seemed subdued in my presence. It was as if in those first few moments her guard was down, and her genuine delight at my return was revealed. Now, however, she had reined in her emotions. The barriers were back up, and she would not let me so close again. Not yet, at least. I reminded myself how much she had been alone in her life. I ought not to expect instant forgiveness or an immediate connection. I had left her. I would have to earn her trust once more. What worried me was that we did not have the luxury of time in which to reforge our friendship. The danger was very near and very real, and I must prepare her for it.

Tegan took off her coat and hung it on the back of a chair. As she did so, there was a movement in the top pocket and, to my astonishment, a small white mouse wriggled out. He looked at me, whiskers twitching, bright ruby eyes holding me with a firm stare.

“Is that … is that the mouse I gave you?” I asked.

Tegan casually reached out a hand and the tiny creature hopped onto it, ran up her arm, and settled on her shoulder where it evidently felt most at home. “Yup, same one,” she said, pausing to give it a quick scratch behind its ear. “Still going strong, aren’t you Aloysius?”

“But, that would make him, what … nearly eight years old? Rather an ancient age for a mouse.”

Tegan stopped what she was doing and leaned back against the Aga. She folded her arms and stared at me.

“When I met you, you were three hundred and eighty-four years old. You showed no signs of aging or dying the whole time we were together. You disappeared off in a puff of bloody smoke to what you told me was some sort of witchy heaven, and now you pop up here again, calm as ever, telling me how to sweep snow off the path, as if you’ve just been down to the shops for five minutes, and you have a problem with a mouse with an above-average lifespan?”

“Not a problem, no…”

“You’re not the only one around here with any magic in you, you know. Aloysius was with me that night in Batchcombe Woods. The night it all kicked off. He was in the thick of that chaos, with spells and curses and fire … Something kept him alive then.” She turned to kiss the mouse. “It’s kept him alive ever since, I guess.”

“I’m glad,” I told her. “I’m glad he’s been with you.”

She put the tea things on the table and we sat down. As soon as she opened the biscuit tin Aloysius positioned himself next to her mug and neatly took crumbs of shortbread from her. I wanted to reach across the table and take her hand. Wanted to tell her how wonderful it was to be with her again. How much I’d missed her. How much I loved her. Perhaps I myself had spent too many long lonely years guarding my feelings, keeping myself shut away, turning from people instead of toward them. Or perhaps I simply knew Tegan was not yet ready to forgive me. Not yet ready to risk being hurt again. I warmed my hands around the mug of tea and took a piece of shortbread. It tasted wonderfully homemade and for a moment I was utterly taken up with the novel sensation of eating again. I had learned many things during my five years in the Summerlands. Things about the craft and about myself, not the least of which was how much I cared for being in the physical world, and how much I missed simple pleasures such as eating a biscuit.

“Now you have really surprised me, Tegan. This is delicious!”

She did not smile at my allusion to her youthful cooking failures this time. Instead she frowned.

“OK, snowy paths, lavender oil, now shortbread. Let’s stop dancing around the elephant in the room, shall we? No one is supposed to leave the Summerlands. You and I both know you didn’t come back to see if I’d learned to keep house.”

“No, you’re right about that.”

“So, let’s have it. I’m not a child anymore, you can’t hide things from me because you think I won’t like them. Why, Elizabeth? Why now, after all this time? Why are you here?”

“I needed to speak with you.”

“Ha! Do you know how many times I’ve needed to speak with you the past five years? No, course you don’t; how could you? You weren’t here. You left me.”

“Tegan, I’m sorry, I had no choice.”

“We always have a choice!” she snapped before regaining control of her temper. Aloysius, clearly sensitive to the abrupt change of mood in the room, scuttled into the pocket of her sweater. “Look, I’ve learned a lot since … since you went. I’ve traveled. I’ve studied the craft all over the world. I’ve sat at the feet of witches and shamans and I’ve listened. The things they taught me…” She looked at me levelly now. “I’m not the same person I was.”

“I can see that. I’m so proud of you.”

“And you know the biggest thing I learned? After all that wisdom, with all that studying, the single most important thing I got was this: The buck stops here,” she said, jabbing a finger at her chest. “We have to take responsibility for our own lives. Our own choices.”

She looked away again, but not before I had glimpsed the tears in her eyes.

“Tegan, I was always with you, as much as I could be … And I’m here now because I don’t want you to be on your own. We will face this together.”

Her body tensed. I let my words sink in. Let her make the connection. Let her reach the only logical conclusion there was to be reached. Without looking up, she asked, “How did he do it? How did he get away?”

I had thought so carefully about how I would tell her, and yet still I faltered, and my words seemed inadequate.

“It could not have been anticipated,” I told her. “When I took Gideon to the Summerlands it required the combined magic strength of myself and several of my sister witches, but the transfer was successful. He was captured and kept secure. Or at least, we believed so.”


“No one has ever been able to break free of their bonds and leave the Summerlands before. It is simply without precedent.”

“But Gideon managed to do it.”

“He cannot have acted alone. He must have had assistance from someone.”

“Who? Did one of the other witches help him?”

“No! No witch would do such a thing.”

“So who, then?”

“I don’t know. None of us does. It is not the most important thing. What matters is that he was able to leave, to return to this time. To this place.”

“To this village?”

“To Batchcombe Woods.”

“Oh, well, that’s at least, what … ten miles away? We’re all right here then, aren’t we!” She was blustering to hide her own fear. I wanted to reassure her, to tell her that there was nothing to be afraid of, but she was right; she was no longer a child, and she deserved to know the truth.

“He would have to return to the point from where he was taken. That much we do know.”

“So where is he now?”

“We don’t know. Not exactly. My sister witches and I, we have searched as best we are able, but he has cloaked his whereabouts.”

Tegan gave a dry laugh. “Well, I think I can help you out with that. Just hang around here long enough and he’s bound to show up.” She shook her head slowly. “Which is why you are here. You know he’ll come after me. You expect him to. So, have you come to save me, or to catch him? Which is it?”

“They are one and the same thing. Except that, to be perfectly honest with you, catching him is not an option. Not this time. This time we must not leave him with the opportunity to return and do more harm. This time we must finish him.”

“I seem to remember that was what we failed to do the first time we faced him.”

“Things are different now. You are different now, Tegan. Your own gift, you’ve worked so hard. Together…”

Tegan got to her feet and strode over to the sink where she made a show of rinsing her tea mug. The set of her shoulders, her brisk movements, her poorly hidden tears, all told of her very real fear. And she was right to be afraid, and that thought caused within me a choking sadness. I stood up and went to her.

“I’m sorry, Tegan. If there had been another way, anything, to spare you having to face him again … I am sorry, truly I am.” I placed my hand lightly on her arm.

She hesitated. “So you’ll stay?” she asked at last. “You’ll stay and help me?”

“I promise.”

She touched my hand with her fingers, a tentative but meaningful contact. The instant her skin met mine I experienced the unmistakable tingle of magic. Tegan’s magic. The strength of it took my breath away. Over the years I had been in the presence of many witches, but even with such a brief connection I could tell that what I was feeling, what Tegan held inside her, was something quite extraordinary. Such unexpected power, such an alteration in what was fundamental to the witch that Tegan had become, left me shaken.

If she noticed my shock Tegan chose not to show it.

“I’ve got to feed the chickens,” she said, looking up at me with a brave smile. “Want to come and see them?”

Excerpted from The Return of the Witch. Copyright © 2016 by Paula Brackston. Used with permission.

About Paula

Red Dog Media
Paula Brackston is the author of a travel book, The Dragon's Trail. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in the UK, and her autobiographical writing has been published in several anthologies. In 2006 she was shortlisted in the Creme de la Crime Search for new writers. She lives halfway up a Brecon Beacon with her partner and their two children.

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The Giveaway

What:  Three entrants will each win one copy The Return of the Witch by Paula Brackston from the publisher. US / CANADA ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. Note that comments are moderated.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on March 18, 2016. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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Also by Paula Brackston

The Witch's Daughter
St. Martin's Griffin, January 31, 2012
Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 18, 2011

An enthralling tale of modern witch Bess Hawksmith, a fiercely independent woman desperate to escape her cursed history who must confront the evil which has haunted her for centuries

My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. If you will listen, I will tell you a tale of witches. A tale of magic and love and loss. A story of how simple ignorance breeds fear, and how deadly that fear can be. Let me tell you what it means to be a witch.

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage, Gideon instructs Bess, awakening formidable powers she didn't know she had. She couldn't have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But will she be able to stand against Gideon—who will stop at nothing to reclaim her soul—in order to protect the girl who has become the daughter she never had?

The Witches of the Blue Well
St. Martin's Press, December 18, 2012
eBook, 32 pages

A captivating new original 20-page short story by Paula Brackston, author of The Witch's Daughter, "The Witches of the Blue Well" is the story of Ceri, a young woman in early eighteenth-century Wales whose grandmother always told her the magic blood of the women in their family flows through her veins. But when famine and hardship come to their village, will Ceri be able to harness her magic to save herself and her sister, or will her power bring about the destruction of all that she loves? With her signature enchanting style, Paula Brackston has penned an enthralling story set in the world of her newest novel The Winter Witch.

In addition to the short story, THE WITCHES OF THE BLUE WELL, this also contains a letter from the author, Paula Brackston, on writing THE WINTER WITCH, an excerpt from "Welsh Folk Lore: a Collection of the Folk-Tales and Legends of North Wales," an authentic publication by the Reverend Elias Owen, from 1886, on witchcraft in Wales, and an excerpt from THE WINTER WITCH, a beautiful and moving novel coming from St. Martin's Press in February.

The Winter Witch
St. Martin's Griffin, December 24, 2013
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 29, 2013

In her small early nineteenth century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana, who has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic. Concerned for her safety, her mother is anxious to see her married, and Cai Jenkins, a widower from the far hills, seems the best choice.

After her wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving her mother, and wary of this man, whom she does not know, and who will take her away to begin a new life. But she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the wild mountains that surround it. Cai works to understand the beautiful, half-tamed creature he has chosen for a bride, and slowly, he begins to win Morgana’s affections. It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana. Forced to defend her home, her man, and herself, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.

The Midnight Witch
St. Martin's Griffin, March 24, 2015
Trade Paperback, 448 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 25, 2014

Midnight is the most bewitching hour of them all…

From Paula Brackston, the New York Times bestselling author of The Witch's Daughter and The Winter Witch, comes a magical tale that is as dark as it is enchanting. Set in high society Edwardian England, The Midnight Witch is the story of a young witch who faces the choice between love and loyalty to her coven…

"The dead are seldom silent. All that is required for them to be heard is that someone be willing to listen. I have been listening to the dead all my life."

Lady Lilith Montgomery is the daughter of the sixth Duke of Radnor. She is one of the most beautiful young women in London and engaged to the city's most eligible bachelor. She is also a witch.

When her father dies, her hapless brother Freddie takes on his title. But it is Lilith, instructed in the art of necromancy, who inherits their father's role as Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. And it is Lilith who must face the threat of the Sentinels, a powerful group of sorcerers intent on reclaiming the Elixir from the coven's guardianship for their own dark purposes. Lilith knows the Lazarus creed: secrecy and silence. To abandon either would put both the coven and all she holds dear in grave danger. She has spent her life honoring it, right down to her engagement to her childhood friend and fellow witch, Viscount Louis Harcourt.

Until the day she meets Bram, a talented artist who is neither a witch nor a member of her class. With him, she must not be secret and silent.

Despite her loyalty to the coven and duty to her family, Lilith cannot keep her life as a witch hidden from the man she loves.

To tell him will risk everything.

The Silver Witch
Thomas Dunne Books, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 21, 2015

A year after her husband's sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat's death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her – a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she's near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.

On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.

In her own time, Tilda's grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake's ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each other's, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren's prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more. Paula Brackston does it once again with The Silver Witch crafting an enchanting tale as timeless as it is engrossing.

Lamp Black, Wolf Grey
St. Martin's Griffin, August 4, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Artist Laura Matthews finds her new home in the Welsh mountains to be a place so charged with tales and legends that she is able to reach through the gossamer-fine veil that separates her own world from that of myth and fable.

She and her husband Dan have given up their city life and moved to Blaencwm, an ancient longhouse high in the hills. Here she hopes that the wild beauty will inspire her to produce her best art and will give her the baby they have longed for. But this high valley is also home to others, such as Rhys the charismatic loner who pursues Laura with fervor. And Anwen, the wise old woman from the neighboring farm who seems to know so much but talks in riddles. And then there is Merlin.

Lamp Black, Wolf Grey tells both Laura's story and Merlin's. For once he too walked these hills, with his faithful grey wolf at his heel. It was here he fell in love with Megan, nurse-maid to the children of the hated local noble, Lord Geraint. Merlin was young, at the start of his renowned career as a magician, but when he refuses to help Lord Geraint it is Megan who may pay the price.

From New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston, Lamp Black, Wolf Grey is an enchanting tale of love and magic featuring her signature blend of gorgeous writing, an intriguing historical backdrop, and a relatable heroine that readers are sure to fall in love with.


  1. I haven't read the previous book yet but I'd love to win this one and then find the other one for my home library.

  2. I've just recently discovered these books, and I *love* them!

  3. I have been hearing a lot about these books. I just haven't have time to read them yet.

  4. Thanks for this captivating novel which interests me greatly. The author is so talented and creative. I enjoy her books.

  5. I have heard nothing but raving about this series. I must investigate :) Thanks for the fun spotlight and giveaway!

  6. What a fascinating book! Great excerpt. I'd love to read more.

  7. I am excited to expand my reading into this 'witchy' genre. Paula's books seem the perfect place to start.

  8. This book looks so good. Thank you for the giveaway.