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Sunwise cover art

Sunwise

By: Helen Steadman
Narrated by: Christine Mackie
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Summary

The Newcastle Witch Trials Trilogy: Book 2

When Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witchfinder, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe. But as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witchfinder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, the witchfinder will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft.

Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world. The Newcastle Witch Trials Trilogy was inspired by the little-known 1650 witch hunt, where fifteen women and one man were hanged for witchcraft on a single day.

©2019 Bell Jar Books (P)2024 Bell Jar Books

Critic reviews

“The novel is rich in fascinating details: Jane’s remedies and the village customs, partly Christian, partly pagan. Ancient names for plants and festivities, both seasonal and Christian, add colour to the narrative.” Lynn Guest, Historical Novel Society

“A great read, not to be missed. Steadman’s skillful and resplendent prose leads the reader easily into villages, manses and cottages, festivities and day to day lives, with amazing detail and descriptions of a past age that jump off the page of the novel. The historical research is rich; scenes and spaces, deliciously visual, and the language employed by the protagonists and throughout the narrative is authentic and consistent, transporting us back in time just by virtue of its ancient tonality.” Susana Aikin, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling

"Sometimes charming, sometimes disturbing, and very firmly set in its time and place – don't expect an easy ride, though!" Lexie Conyngham, The Tender Herb

What listeners say about Sunwise

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Throughly entertaining

This is another fantastic audiobook. Helen Steadman’s books do transfer over to audiobook format very well. This is helped by the narrator who has done another great job. Great audiobook production all round.

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Great to continue the story

Having enjoyed book 1 I was very happy to see same narrator for book 2

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Great, tense read

Another wonderfully well written book from Steadman and again beautifully narrated by Christine Mackie. Sunwise continues in the same fashion as Widdershins, with the chapters alternating between Jane's and John's POVs.
Jane continues to be a great, likeable character who you can feel nothing but sorry for in this sequel, she's in a terrible position leading on from Widdershins, and it's easy to empathise with her.

John on the other hand is still an awful, awful man, one who treats women with such contempt. If they do something that he doesn't like, he automatically assumes they are witches, which has been shown to have deadly consequences.

Both Widdershins and Sunwise are characten driven stories which I love, and it's through the great writing that each main character evokes such strong albeit, polar opposite emotions. This is only enhanced my Mackie's great narration.

Ultimately the two characters come together once again leading to a tense and dramatic climax. One I didn't see coming and left me in shock!

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Brilliant

I was given a promotional code for a copy of this audio book in return for an honest review.
I have read both Widdershins and Sunwise, having enjoyed both books I didn’t think the audio copy would be so good, I’m very much mistaken.
Sunwise is the follow on from Widdershins, the story of the Witch Trials is shocking but gripping, you can’t help but want to listen, even though it can be uncomfortable you need to know what happens next. Helen has obviously done a thorough research on the Newcastle trials. Christine has narrated the story very well and you become quiet fond of the character’s. It’s an emotional but a fantastic story, one I have recommended to so many people. Well done to Helen and Christine.

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Excellent Historical fiction

Based on the Newcastle witch trials which saw 16 witches hung on a single day, Sunwise kicks off where Widdershins left us...on a pretty big "What???" moment!

This book is equally as brilliant as Widdershins, both narrated by the wonderful Christine Mackie. Throughout the book I was rooting for Jane and Tom and the future they so desperately want!

Helen's characters are excellently written; I absolutely hated John (so much that he made me cringe), and increasingly took a dislike to other characters as more of the story is revealed.

This audiobook was so gripping and immersive that by the end I was incredibly invested in it, so much that I felt emotional at the end.

Fabulous for historical fiction fans or those wanting to try it. I would definitely recommend Sunwise and it's prequel Widdershins.

⚠️Content Warning⚠️
This book contains very graphic descriptions of abuse, some of which is aimed at children/infants.

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A well written sequel to Widdershins

Sunwise is the sequel to Widdershins by Helen Steadman and picks up exactly where Widdershins ended.
I could listen to these books for hours at a time they are so captivating!
In Sunwise we continue to follow Jane and John. The two POVs are very distinguishable by the narrators excellent voices for both characters.
John is found out from his fraudulent witch finding ways in book 1 and manages to escape capture. But, he comes back into Jane's life with revenge at the forefront of his mind.
Poor Jane has a real shock when her beloved Tom returns from the Navy after being thought drowned but this isn't her only woe, as John is back on the hunt and all women are in danger of being hunted down as witches.
John is a despicable person who made my skin crawl and my stomach turn on a number of occasions, but this is such fine writing by the author to make me despise him so much.
I desperately wanted Jane to get her happy ever after, but you'll have to read it yourself to find out if she does!
Set I England in the 1600s, this book is so detailed in setting and descriptive language used and I felt I was there at times when listening to these amazing books!

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An exceptionally gripping story

Sunwise is the sequel to Widdershins and is a brilliant addition to where we left off, following the protagonists Jane and John in their very different roles after the gut wrenching ending of book one (no spoilers - pet peeve of mine when people give the plot away in reviews!)

Jane is left to a life of misery that is impossible not to empathise with after all she has been though, yet she still finds the strength and bravery in her heart to continue healing, with her life on the line as a result.

John. Oh John. It’s hard not to despise his character with his complete lack of empathy and endless acts of cruelty, yet, of the two, his is my favourite narrative, as I believe the author gives a brilliantly accurate insight into the insanity that motivated the many witch trials suffered world wide throughout history.

Once again Helen delivers a brutal account of the realities of England during this time, delving into life behind the trials themselves, both at home in family life and my favourite insight - within the minds of those consumed by it.

Our country encapsulated by fear, led to so many acts of barbarity, with those inciting the acts, falling prey to the evil they claimed to be freeing the land from.

If you’re looking for a witchy read with accurate historical aspects, herbal lore a plenty and a story that will stay in your heart after the tale is over .. this duology is one for you✨

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An intense and emotional story

I was sent a copy of this audiobook for review.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.
Jane Chandler's life was forever changed when John Sharpe had her mother put to death as a witch. Only narrowly escaping hanging herself, Jane returns home determined to continue her work of healer and midwife while also fiercely protecting her unborn daughter Rose from her mother's faith. However, Jane is unwed, with a child and is cruelly imprisoned for these crimes. The only way out is marriage to a man she doesn’t love. What she hadn’t bargained on was her past lover Tom and Rose's father to turn up alive and well. The couple is forced to contend with Jane's ill-begotten marriage that was orchestrated by Tom's so-called friend who tricked Jane into believing Tom was dead.

John Sharpe is reeling from his dealings with that witch Jane Chandler who damaged his reputation and cost him his living. Banished from Newcastle he plots his revenge on Jane and all evildoers in England. His warped mind and malicious intent see him accuse more innocent women of witchcraft but his ultimate goal is to track down Jane and finally see her burn for her devil worship.

As Tom and Jane pursue a way to release Jane from her false marriage, John’s vindictive beliefs that he is doing God's work while acting out his perverted desires will have devastating consequences for the pair.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟. I listened to the audiobook for this sequel and this book’s story was harder to listen to and some aspects were truly upsetting. Listening to the events as they unfolded added intensity and emotional depth to the story. I felt for Jane deeply as she was constantly at the mercy of men - an unloving and abusive husband, a vengeful and sadistic witch hunter and sometimes Tom was belittling to her trauma and circumstance. As hard as this was to listen to at times, it was a gripping and important story to experience considering it is based on true events and portrays the horrifying situations women were put through at the hands of the men at this time.

TW: Swearing, graphic depictions of sex & violence

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So good

The story begins with John Sharpe leaving Newcastle and moving on to another town where he tells them he is a witch hunter and is allowed to enter. That does not go well for him and he moves on again. John is still determined to expose witches while plotting to destroy Jane.

Jane is pregnant with Andrew’s child, she’s still making remedies for sick people, she has learnt that Tom is returning home, he was not lost at sea as she once thought. She is stricken because she is now married to Andrew but wants to be with Tom.
On top of that, she has just been warned that John is after her.

I really enjoyed this audiobook just as much as the first, I liked how it continued straight after the first book so I didn’t find that I missed out on anything.

Helen Steadman has written both these completely different characters so well, I have vivid images of both inside my head, what they looked like, what they wore and even the expressions they made at certain points.
I was rooting for Jane to get her to wish and to be happy throughout that I could not stop listening to the audiobook and listened to it in one session!

The end was quite sad but that said the aftermath was very satisfying!


As before, Christine Mackie gave a great performance as the narrator and I definitely want to pick up more audiobooks read by her. 

Overall, this has been a fantastic series and I am honoured to have been chosen to be a part of the book tour. Thank you.

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Excellent Historical Period Story

Book 2 in the Newcastle Witch Trials series kicks off where Widdershins finished. The self-appointed witch-finder has fled to Berwick after condemning more than a dozen witches in Newcastle.

Jane's world is turned up side down when Tom returns to the town after previously been thought to have been lost at sea.

Beautifully written with great characters. This series does an excellent job of describing the fine balance between the skill shown, by women in the period, for treating illnesses and delivering babies and the very real possibility of being declared a witch when something goes wrong (or in some cases right)

Brilliantly narration on the audio book really brings the story to life

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