#ThrowbackThursday ~ Beltane by Alys West. An #UrbanFantasy Romance set in Glastonbury @AlysWestYork

Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.

This week I’m revisiting Beltane by Alys West. Published in 2015, it’s urban fantasy with a dash of romance.

Opening with a terrific prologue which grabbed my interest immediately, Beltane has a lot of factors I love in a book – including a handsome druid, magic and Glastonbury, a place I know well and enjoy visiting, so being able to clearly picture the setting was a bonus. The story is set almost entirely in Glastonbury, encompassing the Abbey ruins, beautiful Chalice Well Gardens and the Tor, all atmospheric and mystical places. The flavour of the area is evident throughout and it’s obvious Alys West knows the locale extremely well.

Druid Finn McCloud makes a deadly enemy of spellworker, Maeve Blackwell when he rescues his sister from her clutches. He pays dearly for his mistake and is trapped by Maeve’s power until Zoe Rose arrives at Anam Cara, Maeve’s healing retreat. Zoe is there at the recommendation of her friend, Anna, trying to find inspiration for her work as an illustrator. Zoe can only feel unease and immediate dislike on meeting Maeve, despite Anna’s enthusiasm and praise for the healer. 

Maeve’s mouth pressed into a thin line, her eyes narrowed. “You’ll have karmic wave healing during your stay.”  The words were a command, spoken so emphatically that Zoe felt compelled to say ‘yes, of course.’ Opening her mouth to say the words, she thought what…? Glancing up she met Maeve’s cold, glassy eyes. Goosebumps prickled the back of Zoe’s neck.

The characterisation is so good, Finn and Zoe make great protagonists, very appealing and I liked them immediately. They’re realistic, well-rounded and in Finn’s case, gorgeous. Zoe is intrigued by, and attracted to, a carving of the Green Man on a tree in the garden at Anam Cara although other aspects of the retreat unnerve her. Her reactions to the situation she finds herself in, along with the shocking revelations she finds out about herself and Finn, are convincing and unforced. Maeve, on the other hand, is completely evil, scheming and ruthless. Her karmic wave healing sessions don’t seem to have the effect expected by her guests. Maeve has an agenda and will do whatever it takes. She an excellent antagonist. Winston is a fascinating character as well, and hopefully he will feature a little more in future books. 

Alys West has created a wonderfully visual and gripping, fast paced story, with a strong plot full of mystery, magical forces and tension. I love all the threads of the well written storyline and how they’re woven together. I’m looking forward to the next book, finding out what’s in store and how the characters develop.

Struggling artist, Zoe arrives in Glastonbury seeking inspiration. The small Somerset town is steeped in myth and legend and Zoe’s sure it’ll be the perfect place to work on a book about King Arthur. But behind the shops selling witchcraft supplies and crystals real magic is being practised. 
When Zoe meets Finn her life changes forever. Not only is he a druid connected to the ancient energies of the earth but she dreamed about him long before they met. Finn’s life is in terrible danger and Zoe’s dreams start to reveal more of the plot against him. 
After dreaming of a deadly battle at a stone circle on Dartmoor, Zoe starts to wonder if the dark magic around her is playing tricks of its own or if she really can see the future. Will she learn to trust Finn, and herself, in time to stand any hope of surviving the powerful magic that will be unleashed at Beltane? Or is it already too late?
This gripping story of magic, romance and the supernatural will entrance fans of Deborah Harkness and Phil Rickman and keep you spellbound until the very last page. 

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