Edinburgh, Scotland, 1828 –
Born the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, Anna Stewart is cursed as a witch. Shunned by society, she is blamed for her family’s misfortunes. The night before Samhain, Anna, now eighteen years old, is sent on an errand. Hearing shuffling footsteps behind her, she turns, and her vision fades to black. She awakens to see the full moon in the cloudless night sky, grasps the freshly turned soil where she lay and watches as a fleeing pair of body snatchers disappear into the shadows of the kirkyard. Alone among the gravestones, she stares at the open end of a casket deep within her disturbed grave. As she begins to walk home, Anna encounters the town witch, who tells her she was murdered and buried. With the killer still at large, the old woman warns Anna to hide, or risk being killed, again.
Douglas MacEwan, the successful owner of a mercantile shipping company, is staying in the city while his ships unload and take on cargo before returning to Virginia. His happenstance encounter with Anna leaves him spellbound by her beauty. After learning of her plight, he offers to investigate and track down her murderer. Knowing he must soon depart with his ships, his affection for Anna grows, as does his determination to ensure she remains safe.
In a race against time, will Anna be able to unravel the mystery and identify her assailant or will her killer discover her whereabouts and attempt once again to silence her forever?
Please note – Even though The Cursed Witch is a work of fiction, it is based on history. Anna Stewart was declared dead at 18 years old, buried, and within 24 hours exhumed by two men, Martin and John. Many of the terms such as ‘graveyard shift’, ‘dead ringer’, and ‘saved by the bell’ (yes, the dead were buried with bells and often in protective mortsafes) that we use today, came from this time period when the poor living on the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland turned to ‘body snatching’ for money. In 1829, William Burke and William Hare were found guilty of killing 16 people for profit. Their wives turned them in, or so the rumors indicate. Hare was found innocent, while Burke was hung and his body donated to the anatomy theater. Dr. Knox was also tried for his role with the two men. He was found innocent and lived the remainder of his life in London, England. Even though Anna’s birth order is not mentioned in history, it is true when a woman was born the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, she was thought to be cursed and only someone outside of the family would volunteer to be a godparent. I find it fascinating when true history is included in a novel. It makes it more believable. What truly happened to the real Anna Stewart – once she ‘returned from the grave,’ she eventually married and settled in America. For further reading about the topic, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a novel with the same setting in 1831 titled, The Body-Snatcher. Author, Brenda Hasse