Title: The Cauldron Stirred
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy
Ashling Donoghue never dreamed moving to Ireland would rock her perception of reality and plunge her into a mystery that brings legend to life. At seventeen, she’s never had a boyfriend, but she feels an immediate connection to Aengus Breasal, the son of the wealthy Irishman who’s invited her family to stay at his Killarney estate. For the first time in her life, a guy she likes seems attracted to her. But Aengus is secretive, with good reason. He and his family are the Tuatha Dé Danann, ageless, mythical guardians adept at shifting between this reality and the magical dimension known as the Otherworld. Evil forces from that world threaten the Breasals, the Donoghues, and all of Ireland. Ashling must open her heart, face her fears, and embrace a destiny greater than she could ever have imagined.
Moonlight streamed through the bedroom windows, bright enough to keep me awake. Deirdre’s rhythmic snores didn’t help matters. Neither did my rampant thoughts.
Maybe Aengus was on an extended vacation. Or he’d decided to take a summer course at some distant university. He might even have a girlfriend who lived far away.
Or maybe he’s bopping field mice on the head in the land of Little Bunny Foo Foo, where geese lay golden eggs and unicorns shoot rainbows out of their...
I kicked off the bedcovers and hopped out of bed. Enough was enough!
With a sigh, I moved to the nearest window and gazed at the full moon. The glowing orb stared back at me and lit the grounds below in soft, seductive light. Lulled into motion by the changeful breeze, the dark trees of the surrounding forest swayed back and forth. The wind whistled and sighed along the centuries-old window panes and urged a throng of clouds across the midnight sky.
There was movement on the lawn. Aengus stood midway between the fairy mound and the castle. He faced the ruins, but with a sudden jerk of his head, he looked right and watched the forest.
He disappeared. Literally. He vanished into thin air.
I blinked and stared hard at the empty lawn. “That’s it!”
Heedless that I wore only satin pajamas, I shoved my feet into pre-tied tennis shoes and slipped out the door. I tiptoed the length of the hall, then raced down the stairs and out of the house.
The night air was deliciously cool. Moonlight and darkness held equal sway over the backyard thanks to the shifting clouds. I dashed across the lawn and halted in the exact spot where Aengus had stood. Panting, I looked around, willing some kind of clue to materialize.
The ruins in front of me darkened as large, heavy clouds swallowed the moon whole. The wind tugged at my long, loose hair and pajamas. Tiny raindrops spattered on my nose and cheeks. I turned my palms to the sky, and cold rain pelted them.
“Great.” Intending to return to the house, I swiveled around.
I gasped. My right hand flew to my chest. “Aengus?!”
The man himself stood an arm’s length in front of me. “Why are you here?”
“You scared the crap out of me!”
The strident sound came from the ruins. I whirled around and stared at the dark keep.
Aengus grabbed me from behind. He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. I reveled in the feel of his taut body, of his warm flesh against mine.
Suddenly, everything changed. The rain stopped. The wind died. The entire landscape was bathed in the soft hue of twilight. Breasal Castle looked brand spanking new, just as it had during the bizarre dream in which I brought Aengus to the cottage. But this time, I knew I was awake.
Dumbfounded, I gawked at the medieval magnificence before me. I had no idea what had happened and no desire to pull away from his embrace.
His lips brushed my right ear, sending a shiver down my spine. “This way.”
His right arm released me, and his left slid down to my waist. Maintaining body contact the entire time, he steered me toward the stand of oaks on our right.
Once sheltered by the trees, he turned us around so we faced the castle.
“Are we hiding?” I whispered.
“Why? And what just happened?”
“I can’t say.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
Until that moment, I’d forgotten I wore pajamas. Now I was acutely aware of it. Satin was pleasing to the touch, but something told me my attire had nothing to do with his grip on me.
I looked up at him. “Not that I mind, but why are you holding me so close?”
His hand tightened on my waist. “It’s necessary.”
“I don’t suppose you can explain that, either.”
With his gaze locked on the castle, he shook his head. He pressed his right forefinger against his mouth in a silencing gesture. Then he pointed up at the keep.
High on the battlements, the black-haired woman from my dream—and from Branna’s painting—paced back and forth. Her hair whipped about her pale face and slender frame.
She paused beside a gap in the crenelated wall and glared down at the fairy mound. Her colorless lips curled into a sneer. Then her human form morphed into a dark shadow, which fragmented into what seemed a million black particles. They swarmed into the air and shot across the twilit sky, disappearing into the distance.
I took a deep breath. “So she’s real.”
He nodded. “She’s real, to be sure. Come.” With his arm still hooked around me, he led me out of the woods and toward the fairy mound.
The Wild Rose Press https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/5134-the-cauldron-stirred.html
What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
The inspiration for The Cauldron Stirred was a set of circumstances similar to what my protagonist, Ashling Donoghue, experiences at the beginning of the book: (1) sudden and inexplicable homesickness for Ireland, a country I hadn't visited or given much thought to before then; (2) speaking Irish, a language I'd never learned, in my sleep; (3) total certainty that I would--and in fact HAD TO--travel there. I was 17 at the time, just like Ashling.
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Judith Sterling’s love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Flight of the Raven, Soul of the Wolf, and Shadow of the Swan are part of her medieval romance series, The Novels of Ravenwood. The Cauldron Stirred is the first book in her young adult paranormal series, Guardians of Erin. Written under Judith Marshall, her nonfiction books—My Conversations with Angels and Past Lives, Present Stories—have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.
Social Media Links:
Website – https://judithmarshallauthor.com/
The Wild Rose Press – https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/2212_judith-sterling