Title: The Cauldron Stirred
Author: Judith Sterling
Genre: YA 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.
Aengus grinned. “You’re a few minutes early.”
“Patience is not one of my virtues.”
He chuckled. “Well, your wait is over. First, let’s shift into the Otherworld.”
Once we did, he reached out his hands, palms up. “Your hands, milady.”
I placed them in his and smiled as our fingers curled together. “I’m all yours.”
He stared into my eyes. “Promise?”
My heart raced. The power of speech deserted me.
He cleared his throat. “Right. Away we go.”
The next instant, we were standing in a wide, open field at the mouth of a cave. The entry was small, about three feet high and four feet wide.
I scanned the surrounding farmland. “Where are we?”
“Oweynagat in Cruachan, the ancient capital of Connacht.” He released my hands and motioned toward the cave’s entrance. “The opening is narrow, but it’s like a cathedral inside. In the Otherworld, at least.”
“Are we going in?”
“Then why did we come?”
“We’re here in honor of your birthday and in the spirit of your favorite holiday.”
“This cave has something to do with Halloween?”
He nodded. “It’s an important mythological site, and it’s been called the hell-mouth of Ireland.”
I twisted my lips. “Well, that sounds ominous.”
He clasped my hands and closed his eyes. Abruptly, our position changed. We now stood a good twenty yards from Oweynagat and viewed it from the side. A waist-high, dry stone wall served as a barrier between us and the cave, and it stretched for miles in either direction. Somehow, a tree had grown through the side of the wall and flourished.
Aengus smiled. “There. Close but not too close.”
“What do you mean?”
He laid his hand on one of the stones. “This wall is only visible in the Otherworld. The entire thing is infused with the protective energy of that hawthorn tree.”
“Do we need protection?”
“But we’re not going into the cave.”
“There’s no need. We’ve only to wait and watch what comes out at midnight.”
I glanced at Oweynagat. “What’s gonna come out?”
He grinned. “You’re about to witness something few have ever seen: the Wild Hunt.”
“A group of phantom huntsmen and other creatures who ride out into the night. They do it every year as All Hallow’s Eve shifts into November.”
A sudden, resounding chime pierced the silence. Then another rang out, and another. It sounded like the peal of a gigantic grandfather clock. The wind began to howl.
“Midnight.” He turned and pointed. “Look!”
From the mouth of the cave burst a symphony of specters. There were hunters on horseback and wailing hounds. Flying above and behind them were hundreds of nocturnal creatures. Living gargoyles. Gray ghosts. Copper red birds. Dark angels with massive, black-feather wings.
I suppose I should’ve been scared. But for someone like me, who’d embraced the magic and mystery of Halloween from day one, the Wild Hunt was a glorious sight. The stroke of midnight, the rushing wind, the mad pursuit across land and sky: all stirred my soul.
I craved freedom. I wanted Aengus.
I turned to him. The spectacle held him rapt. Between his roused expression and wind-ruffled hair, he was irresistible. And he was mine.
He turned to me. Our gazes locked. Our souls connected.
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. My entire life had led me to this moment, this man.
We came together in a surge of passion. His arms locked me in a powerful embrace as his lips captured mine. I gave myself to the kiss. It was wild, sweet, filled with longing. He ran his fingers through my hair and down my back. My hands slid to his shoulders, his chest, the small of his back. I pressed my hips against him.
He moaned. His tongue strained to deepen the kiss. Every inch of my body tingled. All thought was lost in a haze of desire.
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If you could dress up as anything or anyone this Halloween, what or who would it be and why?
I’d dress as one of the wind wraiths from my Guardians of Erin series. I’ve always loved the wind: the sound of it whistling, howling, or rustling leaves; its seemingly magical effect on everything it touches; the cool it affords on hot days; and the sense of mystery it lends to a landscape when it hastens clouds across the sky.
Explain why your featured book is a treat to read:
It’s a virtual trip to Ireland and a magical escape from what ails you. What’s more, the climax occurs on Halloween!
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Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles.
Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, 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://www.thewildrosepress.com/authors/judith-sterling