Read The Garden of Magic Online

Authors: Sarah Painter

The Garden of Magic

Iris Harper has lived in Pendleford for decades, the local witch is mistrusted by the townsfolk, but that doesn’t stop some coming to her begging for potions, spells and quick-fixes. As time has marched on suddenly Iris is aware that her days are beginning to fade. Her sumptuous garden is turning against her, the sweet scent of rot potent and now a young girl has come begging for a solution at her door.

Yet, the problem she brings causes Iris to remember a man from long ago – the man she loved, the man she could never trust…

Praise for SARAH PAINTER’s

‘Sarah Painter is a talented new writer, and her debut is a charming, romantic and intriguing story, with a little touch of magic. It had me enchanted.’ –
Clodagh Murphy
The Language of Spells

‘I would recommend this book as it is a real mix: it’s a love story and a thriller with a dash of magic thrown in for good measure.’ –
Laura’s Book Review
The Secrets of Ghosts

‘The plot had great twists and turns and when I thought I had the story figured out, the story would go in a different direction and surprise me. I didn’t want to put it down and the further I got into the book, the harder it was to stop reading … A wonderful debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading the next one.’ –
Novel Kicks
The Language of Spells

‘I thoroughly enjoyed
The Secrets of Ghosts
. It was just as magical and just as enjoyable as
The Language of Spells
and I am soooooo glad Sarah Painter decided to go back to Pendleford. … I really do love magical fiction and I think Sarah Painter is one of the best at giving you a realistic look at magic and all that comes with it.’ –
Chick Lit Reviews
The Secrets of Ghosts

‘I really loved this book – and it is not often I say this, really. An amazing debut, I was sucked in so much I could hardly put it down and finished it in about a day I think. I also couldn’t stop talking about it! That is its charm and the skill of the writer, you can’t quite put your finger on what it is … I hope to read more in the future by this author.’ –
Beloved Eleanor
The Language of Spells

‘This really was a fantastic debut novel … The language was also simple but elegant and meant that the story flowed seamlessly. I honestly could not put it down.’ –
Laura’s Little Book Blog
The Language of Spells

‘Utterly enchanting.’ –
The Madwoman in the Attic
The Secrets of Ghosts

Also by Sarah Painter

The Language of Spells

The Secrets of Ghosts

The Garden of Magic

Sarah Painter

Before writing books,
worked as a freelance journalist and editor, while juggling amateur child-wrangling (aka motherhood) with her demanding Internet-appreciation schedule (aka procrastination).

Born in Wales to a Scot and an Englishman (very nearly a ‘three men walked into a bar’ joke), she now lives in Scotland with her husband, two children and a grey tabby called Zelda Kitzgerald. She loves the work of Joss Whedon, reading in bed, salt and vinegar crisps, and is the proud owner of a writing shed.

Sarah podcasts at
and writes about craft, books and writing at

Thank you to Victoria and Sally at Carina for their editorial wizardry and to Agent Fabulous (AKA Sallyanne Sweeney) for her continued support and advice. This story wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for all the lovely reader messages asking for more from Iris Harper. I really enjoyed revisiting Pendleford and I hope you do, too! Finally, a massive thank you to my friends and family for putting up with my writerly nonsense.

For my readers, with love and gratitude.





Book List

Title Page

Author Bio



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven




Chapter One

Iris Harper was feeling old. She was eighty-two so this wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was still irritating. Iris had always thought that ‘where there was a will there was a way’ and her will was formidable. She prided herself on her command of her body and felt personally affronted that it was letting her down after years of excellent service.

There was somebody knocking on her back door and it had taken an inordinate amount of time for Iris to get up from the easy chair in her bedroom and down the stairs. Yet another gift of advanced age; she now moved like an old woman.

Iris was surprised to find the man still waiting by the time she got to the door. Her regulars often just let themselves in after a cursory rap on the wood. It was Martin Angel from Bradford Farm, though, and he’d been raised right by real country folk. The kind who knew that you always paid your witch, no matter how much she politely declined; the kind who knew that you could walk into your neighbour’s house and call out ‘hullo, there’ by way of greeting, but that you’d better stay on the step if you were courting a girl, visiting nobility or wanted a favour from Iris Harper.

‘Mr Angel,’ Iris said, trying to stand a little straighter. ‘Are the lambs all right?’

He ducked his head in a nod. After a moment’s hesitation, he said: ‘It’s me. I’ve got a problem, Mrs Harper.’

Iris was not now and never had been married, but Mr Angel was a traditional sort of man and would no more have been able to call her ‘Ms’ than use her first name. After all, they’d only known each other for fifty years.

Fifty years. And I can feel every single one of them, Iris thought. She switched the kettle on and put tea into the pot. Then she filled a glass of water and popped a couple of capsules from their foil beds and swallowed them gratefully. Another side effect of age was that, although Martin Angel was a fifty-year-old widower, a large part of her still saw him as the little boy who used to pick strawberries in her garden while she helped his mother with her woman’s troubles.

‘Would you do the honours today?’ Iris said, sitting down in her usual place.

Martin busied himself with pouring water into the teapot and carrying it to the table. He’d drunk enough cups of the stuff in Iris’s kitchen to find his way around without having to ask and Iris allowed herself to close her eyes for a moment. Her back was more sore than usual, but with the knowledge that opiates would soon be dulling the pain, it was easier to push the feeling away. When she felt more in control, she opened her eyes and regarded Martin. Behind the sun-brown complexion there was a greyness. A tightness around the eyes that seemed to be permanently squinting, from years of driving a tractor in the midday sun.

‘I didn’t know you took those,’ he said, nodding at the packet of painkillers. ‘Thought you’d be using one of your herbal potions.’

‘What do you think these are made from?’ She smiled a little, to take the sting out. ‘Besides, you didn’t come here to talk about tablets. What can I do for you?’

Martin looked down at his mug. They always did. That was what the tea was for, it was a place to look when you couldn’t find the words.

The silence stretched out and Iris let it. Somewhere, far in the back of her mind, she thought about what she had to do that day and whether it would all be possible with her back playing silly buggers. There were plenty of people she could ask for help, of course, but she didn’t like to do so. There was the look of the thing, for one… What kind of hedgewitch needed, well, anything?

‘It’s my Jean,’ Martin said, finally, the words crawling out of his mouth.

Jean was Martin’s wife and she had passed two years ago. Breast cancer. They had been childhood sweethearts and had a good marriage of thirty years.

‘I just miss her,’ he said. ‘So very much.’ He looked at Iris, then, and the pain radiated from him like a physical presence. ‘I thought it would be easier, now, but it just keeps coming.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Iris said.

‘Can you help me? Please?’

Iris was shaking her head before the sentence was out. ‘I can’t. If I took away your grief I’d be taking away your Jean and you don’t want that. Not really.’

Martin’s face hardened. ‘Maybe I do. Maybe that would be better.’

Iris sighed a little inside. This was the problem with her gift. She had learned to be a good hedgewitch, who could make decent herbal remedies and dispense advice and be a help rather than a hindrance at a difficult birth, human or otherwise, but her real power lay in giving people what they needed. And that was so rarely what they thought they wanted. ‘Martin Angel,’ she said. ‘I know you don’t mean that.’

The hardness disappeared as quickly as it had come. His mouth opened to apologise, but his eyes were full and Iris knew that if he tried to speak, he would choke.

‘There’s something I can give you.’ She moved to stand, forgetting her back for a moment until it complained. She thought she’d stopped herself from wincing before it showed, but Martin was frowning.

‘You’re hurt?’

‘Just old,’ Iris said.

Martin, thankfully, did not say anything jolly silly like ‘You’re not old’. Instead he rose from the table and said, ‘What can I do?’

Iris stretched, testing herself. It wasn’t so bad now that she was upright. ‘You can pull some weeds in the vegetable patch for me while I mix you up a little remedy. Something that will help.

Martin’s face cleared. It would do him good to feel useful, Iris decided. A connection to the community and a little kindness for someone else could be a wonderful balm. And, besides, she was in no state to pull weeds and the old charms didn’t seem to be keeping them at bay the way they used to.

Ignoring that depressing thought, Iris shooed Martin into the garden and fetched a little blue bottle labelled Valerian from her dresser. She kept a few odds and ends to hand, although her work room was in the garden, stocked to the rafters with supplies and equipment, gathered over a lifetime practising the craft. She knew that there were several jobs that needed her attention, such as the old library drawers she used to store her remedies. Many of them were erroneously labelled, the drawer marked coltsfoot filled with wood anenome and so on, but she hadn’t got around to renaming them. She ought to do that before her successor took over. That thought led to a list of things to worry about, so Iris pushed it away and concentrated on making some steeped chamomile tea. She boiled the tea on the stove to reduce it and then cooled it in the fridge, before using it to top up the bottle of valerian.

When Martin stepped back in from the garden, there was an expression of peace already on his face. He knew Iris gave people what they needed and, because he trusted her, that whatever she gave him would work. Iris knew that it was a circular argument, but it didn’t make it any less true. She’d made the tea with firm intention, just to be on the safe side. The belt and braces approach to magic.

Iris sent him away with the blue bottle and instructions to take three drops in his cocoa before bed, every night for a week. The man was exhausted and what he truly needed was some dream-free sleep. Iris knew no better sleep aid than one mixed from Valerian and chamomile. Especially if it was taken with some whisky as a hot toddy.

As Iris moved around the kitchen, fixing herself some soup for lunch, she wondered whether Martin had been right. Was the joy of his marriage enough to make up for the pain he now felt? The pain he would have to bear, if his parents were anything to go by, for another forty years of life. Was it truly better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

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