I live not too far from North Berwick where this book is set and know the town quite well. As you can see above, I took my copy of The Secrets of Thistle Cottage to North Berwick and took a photo on a suitable misty and mysterious day overlooking the bay.
About the book
The truth can be dangerous in the wrong hands…
1661, North Berwick, Scotland
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, Scotland
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…
I really enjoyed The Secrets of Thistle Cottage particularly the way the contemporary story mirrored the story set in the past. In both stories, a mother and daughter are at the centre of the story. In both stories, they are the focus of witch hunts. Honor Seton is a healer and valued for her midwifery skills. In the 17th century, when she is unable to save one powerful man’s wife, her life is in danger. Her daughter Alice is also caught up in the accusations of witchcraft when she quarrels with a friend over a man. It was quite terrifying to think about how easily a woman could find herself accused and how powerless she was to do anything about it. Anyone who tried to defend an accused women, could find themselves accused.
There may have been literal witch hunts in the past but these are more figurative in the present. Tess and her daughter Jem are trying to leave behind the gossip and accusations they had faced in Edinburgh. When carrying out a school project, Jem is quite fascinated to discover that Honor and Alice Seton lived in Thistle Cottage all those years ago and that their cottage is known locally as the witch’s cottage. Just as for the Setons, we see how easily gossip and rumours can affect someone’s reputation. Though of course. with social media accusations can be spread more easily, more quickly and more widely these days.
The Secrets of Thistle Cottage had a great setting with characters you will be hoping overcome all that is thrown at them. It actually become unexpectedly tense near the end both for the 17th century characters and the present day characters. Kerry Barrett blends her two timelines together very well resulting in an absorbing historical and present day mystery story.
The Secrets of Thistle Cottage is published by HQ Digital and available now in all formats.
About the Author
Kerry Barrett was a bookworm from a very early age and did a degree in English Literature, then trained as a journalist, writing about everything from pub grub to EastEnders. Her first novel, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, took six years to finish and was mostly written in longhand on her commute to work, giving her a very good reason to buy beautiful notebooks. Kerry lives in London with her husband and two sons, and Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes is still her favourite novel.