The Healer’s Secret is set in Gallicano, a small village in Tuscany. The protagonist, Jennifer, is a 35-year-old English woman who is going through a rough period in her life – her husband is about to divorce her and she loses her job due to her drinking problem. Taking her mum’s advice, she goes to Tuscany to stay in her great-grandmother’s cottage and meet the Italian side of her family. But events don’t go exactly as she planned, and instead of a relaxing holiday in the sun she finds herself in the middle of a family mystery. With her overwhelming Italian relatives, a half-crazy uncle, and an attractive Englishman to complicate matters, will Jennifer ever manage to sort her life out?
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
I couldn’t hold back any more. I ran to the cupboard, unlocked it and took out the bottle of fruits of the forest wine. I placed it on the kitchen table and took a corkscrew out of the cutlery drawer, anticipating the ritual uncorking with growing excitement. The pop of the cork, the delightful smell as I inhaled its rich, fruit scent with musky undertones… then an image of Mum standing before me with folded arms leapt into my head, a disappointed expression on her face.
“I’m sorry, Mum,” I whispered. “I can’t, not right now. Please understand.” The image disappeared and all I could see was the open bottle on the table, the empty glass next to it. That glug glug sound as I poured the wine, the glass filling with the deep red liquid, not a drop spilt as I gave the bottle a final twist and put it back down with a flourish.
“One glass,” I murmured, “just one.” I squeezed the cork back into the bottle and replaced it in the cupboard in the hallway, locking it away. I removed the key and put it in a kitchen drawer, out of temptation’s way. The glass was still on the table, majestically waiting for me. I wanted to drain it in one gulp; my body was crying out for its sweet nectar, but there was a small, masochistic part of me that wanted to make me suffer for this prize.
I carefully carried the glass outside to the sun lounger, picked up my book, and sat down. “You’re going to enjoy this drink,” I told myself sternly, “just like anyone else would. A nice, relaxing glass of wine after a hard day’s work in the garden.” I put the glass close to my nose and breathed in. My head was filled with the scent of alcoholic fumes with a hint of raspberries, strawberries and blackberries, such a wonderful aroma that made my mouth water. I took a sip, closed my eyes, and waited. The flavour was an intense fruity mix that hit the back of my throat, followed by an instant warmth spreading through my stomach. It felt so good, so right, so… natural.
By the time I finished the glass, the sun had disappeared behind the nearby hills and the air was growing chilly. The last birds swooped crazily in the sky, their final moments of freedom before it was time to roost. A dragonfly flitted in front of my face, startling me.
“Oh, shoo,” I said, watching as it flew away. I was feeling relaxed, happy, more at peace with the world than I’d felt in a long time. The dragonfly came back, perched on the arm of the sun lounger, then flitted away again as I moved my hand. I smiled. When it came back a third time, I stayed completely still. It hovered in front of my nose, flew a few metres to my right, returned, then flew away again in the same direction. Curious, I watched it. It repeated the same movement several times.
“It’s almost as if it wants me to follow it,” I whispered. Then I laughed out loud. “Good grief, get a grip. You’ve only had one glass!”
But something was happening. My senses felt sharper than usual, I could hear insects moving in the grass at my feet, the leaves above me sucking nutriment from the tree, birds’ feathers rustling in the wind as they flew high in the sky. Strange, sweet perfumes floated through the air that I’d never smelt before, unrecognisable but somehow familiar. I could feel the vibrations coming from the dragonfly’s wings as it beat them at an impossible speed to hover before me.
As if in a dream, I stood up and followed the dragonfly. It led me down towards the end of the garden where I hadn’t yet had the chance to explore, through a small gate in an overgrown hedge to a wild, unkempt area. Here there were fruit bushes strangled by weeds, and brambles grew over everything, catching on my clothes as I made my way through the tangled undergrowth. It was strangely alluring, this patch of unexpected wilderness. The dragonfly stopped a few metres ahead of me, hovered for a few seconds, then flew straight up in the sky and disappeared out of sight. I went over to where it had been a moment before and saw that there was a huge mass of ivy growing up from the ground. The sky was getting darker now, but I could see a shape underneath the ivy. I pulled a few strands, and suddenly the whole thing came away in my hands. I looked closely at what I had uncovered and screamed.
Dragonflies are a recurrent theme throughout the story, appearing whenever there is something momentous about to happen in someone’s life.
“The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self-realisation; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.” – www.dragonfly-site.com
I found this information on the above website – I’d never heard that dragonflies symbolise this, and I’d already written the book by the time I found out! When you read it, you’ll see why this is so incredible.
The Healer’s Secret was published on the 15th January. Since then, it’s had almost 10,000 page reads and some glowing reviews! So I’ve decided to put it on a Kindle Countdown promo for the next seven days in the UK and US.
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