When you make a conscious choice to be happy, no one can take it away from you because no one gave it to you: you gave it to yourself.

A quote from April Green's - Bloom For Yourself Journal

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Weloming Judith Arnopp and her book - A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years - to my blog

 Today I'm welcoming Judith Arnopp and her book - A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years - to my blog as part of the blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club (founded by Mary Anne Yarde)

I'm delighted to share an excerpt with you all, but first I will introduce the book as always.

A Matter of Conscience Henry VIII, The Aragon Years

A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’

On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.

On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys.

But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished.

Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son.

He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside.

As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.

A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation

Series: Book one of The Henrician Chronicle

Author: Judith Arnopp

Publication Date: February 2021

Publisher: Feed a Read

Page Length: 335 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

You can purchase a copy of the book via -

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:   

Now for the excerpt -

Autumn 1514 – Henry and Wolsey inform Mary Tudor that she is to be wed to the king of France.

“An alliance, Your Majesty,” Wolsey murmurs. “I was thinking … your sister, the Princess Mary is ripe for matrimony and now the French king has been widowed …”

I let his words sink in. Mary is almost eighteen, the flower of our court. I would prefer to keep her with us but … when Margaret was wed to the King of Scots, the king we recently killed at Flodden, Mary was adamant that she would never marry a man in his dotage. At the time of their marriage, James was no more than thirty, yet he seemed old to us who were still in the nursery. Louis is three times Mary’s age. Such a marriage will not sit easily with my sister.

I rub my chin.

“Such an arrangement will not please her. She is likely to protest, and she never complains quietly.”

“No, Your Majesty. I thought perhaps, rather than call her before the council to break the news, you could have a quiet word.”

I give a sharp cough of scorn.

“Indeed, Thomas, and I thought I employed you to do my dirty work, not the other way around.”

He closes his eyes in acquiescence.

“Of course, if Your Majesty prefers.”

I stand up, look from the window across the parkland, the scudding colours of autumn calling me to hunt before the winter closes in too deep.

“We will do it together, Thomas. There is strength in numbers.”

He laughs softly, and gathers his papers together, tucks them beneath his arm.

“Concentrate your mind on the dowry, Your Majesty. Two hundred thousand crowns is the figure I have in mind, plus a further fifty thousand a year.”

That will not help restore our coffers, I think. A lot to spend on top of my sister’s displeasure. I will be the double loser. She will be Queen of France, sleeping with an old man, but I will still be the one to pay the higher price.

Mary screams and rages and I am thankful Wolsey chose to relate the news in my small privy chamber. With tears of anger, she clenches her fists, stamps her foot but it serves no purpose. It cannot be helped. She is a princess of England and has her duty, just as I have mine.

For a while I let her rant. I watch her as, like a spoiled child, she snatches off her hood and kicks it across the chamber. Wolsey raises his eyebrows, steps back, his mouth fallen open, and I smile at his alarm. I have witnessed Mary’s temper since infancy. She was born angry. If I think hard, I can still recall her in swaddling bands, red faced and screaming for the wet nurse. There is nothing new or remarkable in Mary’s temper.

At length, her anger spent, she collapses exhausted into a chair, and glowers at me. Anyone would think I was committing her to a life in the stews instead of the highest honour a woman can have.

“You will be a queen …” I observe, “lavished with honour and dignity. Across Christendom, your name will be spoken in hushed tones …for ever more.”

“I care nothing for that. You know me, Henry. Titles mean nothing. I want to be happy, not lauded. The betrothal to Charles of Spain was one thing, I knew it would never happen, but this … And didn’t you promise me when you first became king that I could stay in England and take a husband of my own choosing?”

I shake my head, shrug my shoulders. I have no memory of any such promise.

“As a princess of England, you must do your …”

“Don’t!” She holds up a hand, silencing me. I could have her thrown in the Tower for such a thing, but she is my sister … my favourite sister, she always has been.

“If it were in my power …”

She turns and leans over me so threateningly I almost shrink away. The angry bones of her face harden, obliterating her beauty. My soft sister is suddenly hard and bitter. She looks like Grandmother. I grasp her wrist.

“I have no choice, Mary. It may not be so bad. Louis is old, and they say his health is …precarious, perhaps in time, you will be widowed and then you can marry where you will.”

She straightens up, her scowl scored deep, but she is at least considering the matter. Our eyes are fixed, one to the other; hers are hurt, but her rage is subsiding, overridden by dismay. I wait, my heart sick, for her response.

She folds her arms, strides from one side of the room to the other, and back again. Finally, she halts before me.

“I will do this on one condition only.”

“Name it,” I say, relief rushing upon me. “You can have anything in my power to give.”

“Louis is growing old. As you say, he may not have long to live. I demand, in writing, that on his death, I am no longer yours to barter. Once widowed, my future is to be my own.”

She stands back, hands on hips, regarding me. It is a high price. Mary is a beauty, her blood a jewel to be traded. Her freedom will cost me much but … I have to agree. When I glance at Wolsey, he is noncommittal, staring disinterestedly into a dark corner.

I frown, my mouth droops.

“Very well.”

“In writing.”

I incline my head. “Wolsey will attend to it.”

“But you are to sign and seal it. I also expect to choose my own accompanying household.”

I incline my head again. She can have all she wants as long as the deed is done. If Louis can manage to get a child on her, a nephew on the throne of France will offer some compensation for failing to win it for myself. If he dies, I get my sister back. I win either way

Judith Arnopp

A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.

She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.

Her novels include:

A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years

The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England

Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace

The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle

The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII

A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York

Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr

The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn

The Song of Heledd

The Forest Dwellers


Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook.

You can connect with Judith Arnopp via the following platforms -


 You can learn more about the author and her book by visiting the other blogs on this tour.

That's it for now.

Till the next time.

Take care Zoe



Friday 16 April 2021

Welcoming Karen Heenan and her book - Songbird - to my blog

 Today I'm welcoming Karen Heenan and her book - Songbird (The Tudor Court - Book 1) - to my blog as part of the blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club (founded by Mary Anne Yarde)

I'm delighted to share a review with you all, but first I will introduce the book as always.


She has the voice of an angel...

But one false note could send her back to her old life of poverty.

After her father sells her to Henry VIII, ten-year-old Bess builds a new life as a royal minstrel, and earns the nickname "the king's songbird."

She comes of age in the dangerous Tudor court, where the stakes are always high, and where politics, heartbreak, and disease threaten everyone from the king to the lowliest musician.

Her world has only one constant: Tom, her first and dearest friend. But when Bess intrigues with Anne Boleyn and strains against the restrictions of life at court, will she discover that the biggest risk of all is listening to her own stubborn heart?

Publication Date: November 3, 2019

Publisher: Authors4Authors Publishing Cooperative

Page Length: 300 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

You can purchase the book via the following platforms -

 Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CABarnes and NobleKobo

You can buy audio versions of the book (narrated by Jennifer Summerfield) via these platforms -

AudibleAuthors DirectNookHooplaApple BooksKoboScribdGoogle PlayAmazon

Now for the review -

Bess is only two days from her tenth birthday when she is sold to King Henry VIII. Bess has the voice of an angel, and her family’s poverty forces the sale. Frightened, confused and alone, Bess feels set adrift as she watches her father leave. But when a thirteen-year-old boy takes her hand, she feels a sudden sense of peace, an anchor in this horrifying new world.

There are so many books written about the Tudor era, and in particular the court of Henry VIII, that I am finding it increasingly difficult to find a book that screams originality, so I approached Songbird with a little trepidation, hoping I was not going to be told the same old story again. Songbird, however, is not like any of the other Tudor books that have been published. It is unique because for once it is the king that is in the background and his musicians at the forefront.

In this novel we watch as Bess learns to accept the situation that she is in and, with Tom as her one constant, she becomes accustomed to her life and, perhaps, given time, she might find contentment. But Bess is to have no easy ride, and there is an awful lot that she must overcome before she can really find her place in this world.

Dear Reader, this novel is mesmerising. The historical setting, the historical scandal and the characters are vividly portrayed. Songbird is not the kind of book that once read you can walk away from. This story demands so much more from its readers than that. I have been so emotionally moved by this novel that I found myself unable to sleep as I tried to process what I had read.

If you enjoy highly emotional reads with characters that are unforgettable, then this is the novel for you. I think this book would certainly appeal to those who adored Laurie MacCarthy and Stephanie Sengupta’s “Reign”.

Karen Heenan

Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She fell in love with books and stories before she could read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams—which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing.

She lives in Lansdowne, PA, not far from Philadelphia, with two cats and a very patient husband, and is always hard at work on her next book.

You can connect with the author via these platforms -

WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestBook BubAmazonGoodreads

You can also learn more about the book and the author by visiting the other blogs on this tour.

That's it for now.

Till the next time.

Take care Zoe.






Wednesday 14 April 2021

Welcoming Virginia Crow and her book - The Year We Lived - to my blog

Today I'm welcoming Virginia Crow and her book - The Year We Lived - to my blog as part of the blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club (founded by Mary Anne Yarde)

 I am delighted to share a review with you all, but first I will introduce the book.

The Year We Lived

It is 1074, 8 years after the fateful Battle of Hastings. Lord Henry De Bois is determined to find the secret community of Robert, an Anglo-Saxon thane. Despite his fervour, all his attempts are met with failure.

When he captures Robert’s young sister, Edith, events are set in motion, affecting everyone involved. Edith is forced into a terrible world of cruelty and deceit, but finds friendship there too.

Will Robert ever learn why Henry hates him so much? Will Edith’s new-found friendships be enough to save her from De Bois? And who is the mysterious stranger in the reedbed who can disappear at will?

A gripping historical fiction with an astonishing twist!

Publication Date: 10th April 2021

Publisher: Crowvus

Page Length: approx. 118,000 words – approx. 350 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

You can purchase a copy of the book via -

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CA Amazon AUBarnes and NobleWaterstonesKoboSmashwordsCrowvus

Now for the review -

Henry De Bois desperately wants to find the community that the Anglo-Saxon thane, Robert, has hidden so successfully from him for so many years. For reasons unknown to Robert, De Bois will do anything to find him and kill him, all the more reason to keep the community hidden and protected. His younger sister, Edith, doesn’t understand the severity of the situation fully, and when the Yule log appears to be dying, she ventures out to find some reeds to slow the burning. The last time the Yule log died prematurely was the year her parents died, and she doesn’t want the bad fortune to lay over the village and all the people she cares about so much. When collecting the reeds, however, she meets a boy, one who she desperately wants to meet again. When she disappears from the village, Robert can only assume it was this boy who has done away with her.

The horrors that Edith faces at the hands of her kidnapper, the dreaded De Bois, are heart wrenching to read about, and the contrast between her life in De Bois’ court and her life in her brother’s village is clear. At the start of this book, Robert confines her to the hall for a short time, to keep her safe from her own exploits. She longs for the outside, for freedom, but in the hall she is safe and her brother gives her back her freedom before long, assigning a guard to her to keep her safe. At De Bois’ court, she is mocked and abused, and there is no freedom looming like there was in the village. She is trapped and must do what she can to survive, for at home, the danger is outside. At De Bois’ court, the danger is inside the walls.

I greatly enjoyed reading about Edith, for although she is in an impossible situation, she still tries her best to protect her brother, to protect everyone that she loves. If sacrificing her happiness, her freedom, her future, is the price she must pay, so be it. She is a wonderfully believable character, as, even though she gives up so much for safety and protection, she still cares deeply and is affected by the things that befall her.

The twist at the end was definitely a shock, although I picked up several hints through the story as to where it might end up. For one, Robert is an excellent hunter, and if he can keep a community hidden in a village, what could he do outside of one? There are so many little hints throughout this story that point to the ending, without being necessary enough at the time to pick up on. The twist was written so wonderfully that I can’t believe how perfectly everything ties up together.

This novel is full of twists, unavoidable horrors and the desire for freedom, and I am very tempted to sit down again and make a note of all the hints I missed, just to see how many there are.

Virginia Crow

Virginia grew up in Orkney, using the breath-taking scenery to fuel her imagination and the writing fire within her. Her favourite genres to write are fantasy and historical fiction, sometimes mixing the two together such as her newly-published book "Caledon". She enjoys swashbuckling stories such as the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and is still waiting for a screen adaption that lives up to the book!

When she's not writing, Virginia is usually to be found teaching music, and obtained her MLitt in "History of the Highlands and Islands" last year. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of music, especially as a tool of inspiration. She also helps out with the John O'Groats Book Festival which is celebrating its 3rd year this April.

She now lives in the far flung corner of Scotland, soaking in inspiration from the rugged cliffs and miles of sandy beaches. She loves cheese, music and films, but hates mushrooms.

You can connect with the author via these platforms -






Amazon Author Page:


You can also learn more about the book and the author by visiting the other blogs on this tour.

That's it for now.

Till the next time.

Take care Zoe.


Welcoming Andrea Matthews and her book - Thunder on the Moor - to my blog

Today I'm welcoming Andrea Matthews and her book - Thunder on the Moor - to my blog as part of the blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club (founded by Mary Anne Yarde)

 I'm looking forward to sharing an excerpt with you, but first I will introduce the book.

Thunder on the Moor

Maggie Armstrong grew up with tales of blood feuds and border raids, so when her father takes her back four hundred and fifty years to his Scottish home, she is enchanted. Enchanted, that is, until her uncle announces his intentions to betroth her to Ian Rutherford, the son of a neighboring laird. Maggie’s twentieth century sensibilities are outraged, but refusal to agree could ignite a blood feud. Maggie’s worlds are colliding. Betrayal, treachery, and a tragic murder have her questioning whether she should remain or try to make her way back to her own time. To make matters worse, tensions escalate when she stumbles across handsome Englishman, Will Foster. But could he be the hero she’s always dreaded of or will his need for revenge against Ian shatter more than her heart?

Publication Date: 30th October 2019

Publisher: Inez M. Foster

Page Length: 430 Pages

Genre: Historical Romance / Time-Travel

You can purchase a copy of the book via -





Barnes and Noble:  (paperback only)

Now for the excerpt -

Maggie lounged back amongst the fragrant blossoms, the soft sunlight no more than a golden glow along the horizon. Though the air remained damp, the promise of warmth comforted her, and she closed her eyes, letting its delicate cocoon engulf her weary body. A few yards away, a thrush welcomed the coming day, tweeting its morning song in perfect harmony with the steady bass of a croaking frog. The sweet melody soothed her cluttered mind and lulled her into a light sleep.

Images of beaches and warm summer days at the shore filled her dreams. Memories of sandcastles and dabbling her toes in the ocean sent her senses reeling. She could almost smell the salt air, hear the surf crashing against the shore. But wait—those were no breaking waves she heard, but something else, something far more menacing.

With a sudden jolt, she woke, the predawn tranquility shattered by a distant rumble. Maggie sprang up, her eyes widening as she recognized the thunderous beat of hooves rising from beyond the ridge. Behind her, about five hundred yards away, pressed against the graying sky, stood her uncle’s tower. He’d warned her about venturing from the safety of its walls, but she’d been too stubborn to take his words to heart. Perhaps she should have put her dislike of the man aside just this once.

Frantic visions of vengeful reivers sprang to mind, and she rose, determined to make a sprint for the distant peel tower. With the creak of leather armor already echoing in her ears, she struggled to gain purchase on the dew-covered ground, but she slipped and fell into the tall grass of the gentle slope.

Pushing herself up, she chanced a glance over her shoulder and froze. He was nearly upon her, his steel-blue eyes reflecting the mood of the moor. A wave of terror washed over her, for somehow she knew this time Will Foster wouldn’t turn and ride away.

She slumped back on her elbows, unable to move, the world around her fading into obscurity. Riders rode by on their way to the tower, their images blurred and distorted, for nothing could pry her attention from Will or the amulet he wore around his neck. He paused a few feet from where she’d fallen, tugging hard on the reins, hunger burning in his gaze.

Maggie swallowed hard, anger and fear lodged in her breast. She tried to embrace the former, but it was tempered by a sudden desire that caused her thighs to quiver and her mouth to long for the touch of the striking young reiver before her.

Will nudged his horse closer, the fire in his eyes intensifying, and this time fear surged to the fore, jarring Maggie back to her senses. No matter how handsome he may appear, he remained at heart a murdering barbarian, his intentions all too clear. Digging her heels into the soft earth, she pushed herself into an upright position and started running for the tower.

Andrea Matthews

Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. In fact, it was while doing some genealogical research that she stumbled across the history of the Border reivers. The idea for her first novel came to mind almost at once, gradually growing into the Thunder on the Moor series. And the rest, as they say, is history…

You can connect with the author via these platforms -





Amazon Author Page:


You can also learn more about the book and the author by visiting the other blogs on this tour.

That's it for now.

Till the next time.

Take care Zoe




Thursday 8 April 2021

Welcoming Josephine Greenland and her book - Embers - to my blog.

Today I'm welcoming Josephine Greenland and her book - Embers - to my blog as part of the blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club (founded by Mary Anne Yarde)

I'm delighted to share an excerpt with you all, but as always I will introduce the book.


Two siblings, one crime. One long-buried secret. 

17-year-old Ellen never wanted a holiday. What is there to do in a mining town in the northernmost corner of the country, with no one but her brother Simon – a boy with Asperger’s and obsessed with detective stories – for company? 

Nothing, until they stumble upon a horrifying crime scene that brings them into a generations-long conflict between the townspeople and the native Sami. When the police dismiss Simon’s findings, he decides to track down the perpetrator himself. Ellen reluctantly helps, drawn in by a link between the crime and the siblings’ own past. What started off as a tedious holiday soon escalates into a dangerous journey through hatred, lies and self-discovery that makes Ellen question not only the relationship to her parents, but also her own identity.

Publication Date: 4th March 2021

Publisher: Unbound

Page Length: 336 pages

Genre: Young Adult / Crime / Mystery

You can purchase a copy of the book via -

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:


UK Bookshop:

Now for the excerpt -

‘Just a bit further, please!’

Ellen wanted to yank her brother off his bike. They’d been cycling around Svartjokk all day, criss-crossing through the town centre, darting along the river and through the park. Now, on Simon’s insistence, they were rushing along the country road out of the town, the dense pine forest surrounding them on both sides. Her top was plastered against her skin, her yellow hair sticky and damp with sweat under the helmet, and her legs ached from the exercise. The day was so bright it hurt her eyes merely looking straight ahead.

‘Ten minutes,’ she called. ‘Then we must go back.’

Simon nodded and swerved off the main road, heading down the forest track. Ellen lingered by the turn-off, taking the chance to catch her breath. The path, a two-furrow track probably used by tractors, forged dead straight through the pines. She’d be able to keep an eye on her brother from here.

Exactly what it was about this place that excited him so much she struggled to see. The town was like the palm of one’s hand, after ten minutes you could navigate it with your eyes closed. It was a transit point, a place you passed through on the way to somewhere else.

There will be plenty to see there, Ellen! Mum had told her. The mining museum, the local history, the Sami…

So far, the mining museum was closed. The history museum showed the same kind of How-did-people-live-in-the-past exhibitions with model villages, hunters and stuffed animals that you could see in any town. The Sami, well they’d be with the reindeer in the forest and on the moors. Or did Mum really think they would stand by the station in their traditional clothes, waving at the tourists getting off the train?

She’d booked the siblings in at the Hostel Polaris beside the train station for five nights. Five nights of counting

trees and iron ore mines. Perhaps Simon was excited now, on day one, but once the novelty of this place wore off…

Ellen stopped her thoughts. Simon had got off his bike and was kneeling on the ground at the edge of the track.

Had he seen something? An animal, an insect?

‘Simon, your ten minutes are up!’

That wasn’t true. Looking at her watch, she guessed five or six minutes had gone, and if Simon had heard her, he would tell her so. But what she needed now was his attention and she did not care if her inaccuracy irked him.

‘Come on, we need to get back in time for the tour!’ She biked over to him and said his name again, louder. Still, he didn’t react. In the sun, auburn tones flashed in his straight, sandy hair. She walked up and peered over his back.

There was a dark spot on the ground.

‘What is that?’ She bent down beside him. Up close, she saw the mark was reddish brown. When she sniffed it, it smelled metallic, like copper.

‘Blood?’ The word left her lips before she could rein it in. She looked around her. Did an animal get injured on the road? There were no other spots on the ground. The pine trees formed a thick wall on either side of the path and peering through them she saw only darkness.

‘A car has been here,’ Simon said, his voice flat. ‘The grass lining the track is flattened. The car must have reversed and headed back to the road.’

He pointed past her, further down the track. There was a puddle of shiny liquid beneath an overhanging spruce branch, rainbow colours dancing on its surface. Oil.

‘Why would anyone drive a car down here?’ Ellen said. ‘There’s loads of roots and stones and stuff.’

‘It must be a very old car to drip oil like that,’ Simon said. ‘And look here.’ He pointed at the blueberry bushes in front of them. ‘There’s blood drops on the leaves.’

There was a dark mark, like a squished berry, staining one of the leaves. Another one further along. And there, a strip of plastic.

‘Someone’s carried something into the forest, and the plastic bag ripped. Some of the sprigs are broken.’ Simon squinted. ‘I think I can see a clearing over there.’

‘Simon, this isn’t the time for playing detective…’

Simon didn’t listen. His narrow, fox-like face, already red from all the hours in the sun, was fixed on a distant point beyond the trees. He stepped off the track into the underbrush.


Her brother stopped. He folded his arms.

Ellen licked her lips. A strange feeling grew inside her, a pulse within her neck, as if she had been stung. She brought a hand to the spot. ‘What if…’

What if what? her brother’s grey eyes said. Hadn’t she been complaining about how dull Svartjokk was?

She looked back from where they’d come. The road was a silver line between the trees.

It wasn’t more than twenty minutes back to the town.

‘OK, then,’ she said. ‘But just a quick look, all right?’

Simon nodded and continued. Ellen prodded her neck carefully. The skin was smooth. No tenderness, no swellings from a sting. Yet the pulse was still there, a heartbeat in her spinal cord.

She shook her head. Perhaps it was just the heat. She stepped off the track and followed her brother, blueberry sprigs snapping under her feet.

It wasn’t long before the stench reached her nostrils. Rot. Decay.

She covered her nose and mouth. A fly buzzed by her ear and she hit at it with her free hand. The clearing was close. Light filtered through the trees, painting yellow tracks in the moss.

Simon was stepping into the opening. Didn’t he smell it?

She quickened her pace. When she reached the light, she froze.

Animal heads were lying in a circle in the glade. Reindeer heads.

They were larger than she’d imagined, maybe twice the size of her own head. They stared at Ellen with their glassy eyes. A fly wandered across a pink tongue hanging from a gaping mouth. She saw teeth, flat and broad, like grey stones protruding from the pale pink gum. Grinning at her.

The animals’ antlers had been cut off and laid in a cross. At the centre of the cross was a large, arrow-shaped rock.

Simon had stepped past the heads into the circle. He turned around, taking in the scene, muttering to himself.

Ellen blinked and rubbed her eyes. Scanned the trees and the shadows circling the glade.

Who would do this?

She stumbled forward, failed to spot a root lurking in the undergrowth and fell face forward. Pine needles and dirt in her mouth. She spat them out, wiped her lips, stood up.

Simon was still pacing inside the circle. He’d covered his nose and mouth with his shirt, but he showed no other sign of being affected by the smell. As she watched, he bent down and ran a hand along one of the antlers, fingers curling over the tip. He continued along the line, until he disappeared behind the stone.

‘Simon!’ Ellen called through her fingers. ‘Don’t touch them! We have to call the police.’ She took a few steps forward, and then it hit her: the death, the stench, the heads. Her stomach heaved dangerously. ‘Simon!’ She fumbled for her phone.

Her brother appeared around the corner of the rock. He bent down by one of the heads, then picked something from the neck wound and crossed the glade towards her.

‘Look, Ellen,’ he said, holding out his hand.

In his palm was a fly.

‘Simon!’ She reeled back. ‘The bacteria!’

‘It’s strange,’ he said, voice level. ‘All of the flies inside the neck wounds are dead.’

She took a step back. ‘We need to call the police,’ she said again. ‘I’m not doing it here.’

‘But I need to investigate.’

‘You can investigate when the police come. Please, Simon. We have to get out of here.’

She grabbed his hand, ignoring his protests, tugging harder when he struggled against her grip. He wasn’t getting out of her sight this time. Their strides broke into a jog, the jog into a run. When they reached the track, she collapsed by the bikes and her stomach emptied itself. She rolled over onto her back, the taste of bile in her mouth, legs limp as if they’d never be able to walk again, and stared at the distant strip of sky, a blue bridge through the sea of pines.

There was no birdsong, no chirping or tapping. No wind.

From the road a car swished by.

That was all the sound there was.

 Josephine Greenland

Josephine is a Swedish-British writer from Sweden, currently working as an English teacher in Edinburgh. She has a BA in English from the University of Exeter, and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham. She started writing novels at the age of nine, but only began writing seriously in English while at university, for her first creative writing course (2015). Since then, she’s had 14 short stories published, won two competitions and been shortlisted twice. Embers is her first novel, inspired by her travels in northern Sweden with her brother, and was her dissertation project for her MA. When not writing, she enjoys playing music, jogging, hiking, and discussing literature with her cat. 

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That's it for now.

Till the next time.

Take care Zoe.