Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Witches of Gloucester by Lisabet Sarai (narrated by Lorraine Walters)

There was so much to love about The Witches of Gloucester that I hardly know where to begin. Actually, I guess I do. Before I get to the wonderful story and characters created by Lisabet Sarai, I have to say a few words about Lorraine Walters, who made them come alive in the audiobook version. Walters tells the story beautifully, from her pacing to her tone, and imbues each personality with a voice. I often struggle to lose myself in a narrator's voice, but here it felt natural.

As for the always lovely Lisabet Sarai, she has crafted the perfect fantasy of feminine magic, love, and empowerment. Marguerite and Beryl, the witches who watch over the ocean-side town just 20 miles away from infamous Salem, are just wonderful. They are bold, happy, confident women, as closely attuned to the tides of nature as they are to those of the heart. They are a bit mysterious, and can be almost frighteningly assertive when the situation calls for it, but they are genuinely warm and funny.

Emmeline is the much younger woman who comes to their attention, not just a delectable plaything for their Sapphic amusement, but potentially the missing third to their witch's circle. She is so beautifully written that watching her give herself unto her power is almost as delightful as watching her give herself unto her loving teachers. As much as magic and destiny play a part here, this is not a tale of insta-love and insta-lust. Emmeline doubts herself, fears her power, and fights her own arousal, afraid to trust in its truths. Even after her first passionate evening with Marguerite and Beryl, she still struggles to understand her place in this new world.

What struck me most about the story, however, is the way in which Sarai makes Gloucester a part of the story. This is a story that is sprinkled with the language of the ocean, and drenched in imagery of water. Waves, tides, peaks . . . swimming, floating, drowning . . . everything that happens does so in proximity to either the language of water or the setting of the ocean. I cannot count how many times I surfaced from the story to marvel over a turn of phrase or just luxuriate in a particular image. It is a book where the telling of the story is as beautiful as the story itself.

The Witches of Gloucester is just about everything I could have asked of a fantasy about lesbian witches. It has characters to love, a setting that you can see and smell, magic that crackles upon the page, and an eroticism that resonates deep within heart, soul, and body. I would gladly read a massive doorstop of a novel about these women, and do hope Sarai crosses their circle again.
A dozen years ago Lisabet Sarai experienced a serendipitous fusion of her love of writing and her fascination with sex. Since then she has published two single author short story collections and six erotic novels, including the classic RAW SILK. Dozens of her shorter works have been released as ebooks and in print anthologies. She edited the acclaimed anthologies SACRED EXCHANGE and CREAM and is currently responsible for the altruistic erotica series COMING TOGETHER PRESENTS. In addition, she reviews erotica and erotic romance for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association and Erotica Revealed websites. Lisabet holds more degrees than anyone needs from prestigious universities who would no doubt be embarrassed by her chosen genre. She loves to travel and currently lives in Southeast Asia with her highly tolerant husband and two cosmopolitan felines.