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This first Yule novella is absolutely wonderful.

Happenstance Books Review

Moonlight and mystery combine for a magical Yuletide.

Witches have been living at Moonfell, the sprawling Gothic mansion in London, for five hundred years. The house and gardens are steeped in magic, and at every Yule the family gathers to reinforce the protection spells on the house.

But this year is different.

When one of the witches starts seeing visions through the moon gates, they realise that other spells are awakening. It seems the first witch has left them a gift – if they can unlock the magic to find it.

The First Yule is an enchanting novella, the first book in the new Moonfell Witches series by TJ Green.

If you love witch fiction, paranormal mysteries, and fantastic characters set in a mysterious and magical house, you will love this series.  Buy the Yuletide novella now!

Chapter One – December 2023

Morgana Cornelius added another herb to the large pot simmering on the hob top and uttered the final words of the spell.

The deep purple potion began to bubble, releasing a peppery-sweet scent that she inhaled with pleasure. Perfect. It needed to simmer for an hour, and then she could decant it into the waiting jars. Another job almost done.

She wiped her hands on her apron, surveyed the large, ground floor kitchen, and winced. Wow. It was a mess. She’d been so caught up in preparing the potion that she hadn’t cleaned as she worked. The gorgeous room with its high, Gothic windows, black-tiled walls, and state of the art appliances looked grubby. This particular potion, good for truth seeking and clarity, demanded exact timing on everything. It didn’t help that the next day was Yule, she had a long list of things to do, and she was listening to jazzy Christmas songs. They had added to her distraction. Well, she had no excuses left now.

She started to clear away the jars of dried herbs, fresh cuttings, crystals, and other spell ingredients, and closed her large kitchen grimoire. She had started this book as a teenager, and it bore traces of all the spells within it. Scents filled its pages, as well as sticky fingerprints, scrawled notes in the margins, and the occasional dried crumb.

The grimoire contained spells for potions, food, teas, tinctures, and balms. The cinnamon rolls that were cooling on the tray was a recipe she had refined over the years. Food that would cheer their visitors and put them in the Yuletide mood. Not that they would need much help with that. Yule was always a big event at Moonfell, and very much looked forward to.

A flurry of activity beyond the window caught her eye. Hades, Birdie’s Savannah cat, was stalking the pigeons again. He was a huge beast. Twice the size of a normal domestic cat, his beautiful, silver-spotted coat was bright against the winter garden.

She rapped the glass, and he looked up at her with his intelligent, amber eyes. Morgana shouted at him. “Hades! Behave.”

The pigeon fluttered off and Hades gave her a disdainful look. Morgana accepted that cats killed wildlife, but she didn’t particularly like to watch it happen. There was plenty of garden where Hades could track and kill to his heart’s content. He swished his tail and vanished into the shrubs.

“Honestly, Morgana,” Birdie said from behind her, making her jump, “I don’t know why you bother. He’ll just catch it later.”

Morgana turned to her grandmother, annoyed. “There is no need to be so quiet. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“I wasn’t quiet. You have your music up at a ridiculous volume.” Birdie turned the sound down with a flick of her wrist. “That’s better. And you’ve made cakes. Lovely.”

“They’re for this afternoon!”

“But I should test one, just in case!” She smiled as she pinched one and took a bite. “Delicious.” With her other hand, she pushed her long, grey hair back behind her ear, her messy bun not really holding much of her hair in place at all.

Morgana smiled as she took in her grandmother’s appearance. “I still can’t get over how you look. It’s incredible! You look amazing!”

Birdie considered her reflection in the window. “I know. I can hardly believe it myself.”

It had been only days since the Goddess had gifted Birdie twenty years or so of her life back. A gift given while they were exorcising a splinter of the Fallen Angel, Belial, from a woman called Olivia. An exorcism that had been very difficult. More so than they had let on to Olivia, Harlan, and Maggie, who had been involved at the time.

Maggie Milne was the Detective Inspector of the Paranormal Policing Division, and Olivia Jameson and Harlan Beckett were collectors for The Orphic Guild, an organisation that found occult items for their wealthy clients. Over the course of one such acquisition, Olivia had found jewels belonging to a Fallen Angel. Like anything attributed to the Fallen, it was powerful, beautiful, and quite toxic. Olivia had been lucky that Odette, Morgana’s cousin, had spotted the splinter so soon.

The exorcism’s one unforeseen consequence was that the Goddess had been unexpectedly generous. All of the witches had been granted a more youthful appearance. For Odette, the youngest at thirty-one, the effects were less noticeable, but Morgana was forty-three and had noticed a tightening of her own jawline, a smoothness to her skin, and a fresh bloom across her cheeks. There was even a bounce to her long, dark hair—although, she was grateful that she still had the grey streak. She liked it. It reminded her of the spell that went wrong.

However, for Birdie, the change had been startling. She was no longer a bent and wizened 88-year old, with cataracts and arthritis. She appeared to be a vibrant sixty-something, with great hair, skin, and teeth—and her sight fully restored. She still had silvery-grey hair, but it was thick and luscious, making Birdie look regal, especially wearing a dark red dress as she was now.

“There will be a cost,” Birdie added, referring to her appearance. “And it will come soon.”

“Not necessarily. The Goddess is no fan of the Fallen. And Olivia is pregnant with a Nephilim’s child. She wanted to save her and the child. This was our reward.” But even as Morgana said it, she felt uneasy.

“You are not that naïve,” Birdie said, crossly. “There is always a price.”

“It’s Yule tomorrow. We’ll give thanks like we always do. Well, more than normal, obviously, as we’re celebrating the anniversary of owning Moonfell!” Just the thought of it made Morgana re-evaluate her list. She had a mountain of baking and cooking to do. More of their family were turning up, either later that day or tomorrow morning. The normally calm atmosphere of Moonfell would be completely turned on its head.

Birdie brushed the crumbs from her fingers and leaned against the counter to look at Morgana. Her grandmother was a force of nature, even when only days ago every bone in her body creaked and she could barely see. Her magical energy was huge. Now that she was back to her formidable self, Morgana could feel the power rolling off her. “Five hundred years of owning Moonfell. I wonder if Sibilla ever thought it would be in the family for that long? I mean, I know she bound the house to the family, but anything could have happened! A whole generation might have died in a freak accident!”

“Or a fight with demons.”

“Or witch hunters,” Birdie added, her expression brooding.

“But we’re still here, despite all of those possibilities.” Morgana finished stacking the washed dishes and started to hunt out the ingredients for the beef stew for that night’s meal.

“Not just possibilities! Actual events. It’s a good job we are such powerful witches.”

“I sometimes think that brings its own issues.”

“You cannot have light without the dark,” Birdie pointed out. “By the way, did I mention that your father is arriving tomorrow?”

Morgana groaned. “You kept that quiet!”

“No, I only found out this morning. He said he’d rearranged his schedule so he could attend our celebrations after all. He said it was too important to miss.”

“Sure, he did.” Her father, Armstrong, was not averse to drama. “Did you tell him about all that?” Morgana gestured at her, taking in her face to her feet.

“No. I thought it would be a nice surprise.”

“You just love to see people’s reactions!”

“Wouldn’t you?”

“I guess so. There’ll be a lot of them. I hope you’re prepared.”

Her great-aunt Hortense, Birdie’s sister, who was commonly called Horty, and Odette’s father, Uncle Ellington, were also attending. Horty would arrive with her grandson, who was called Giacomo, later that afternoon.

“I also have news,” Morgana informed her as she grabbed some onions from the fridge. “Lamorak is coming.” Lamorak was Morgana’s son, named after one of King Arthur’s knights. As she had been named after the witch in the King Arthur tales—her father was a huge fan, and had called her younger brother Merlin—it seemed only right that she kept the tradition in the family. It had been a big name for a baby. The original Lamorak was Pellinor’s son, and was one of Arthur’s strongest and most fierce knights. At the age of twenty-one, he had finally grown into his name.

“Lam’s coming? Now who’s keeping secrets!”

Morgana walked over to the copper pot on the hob and stirred the potion widdershins. The colour was changing to a rich pink now. Perfect, so far. “I only found out this morning, too. He phoned to say he wanted to celebrate Yule with us. I admit, it was unexpected. His father is going away, and he didn’t want to go with him.” Morgana kept her eyes on the pot, hoping the next few days would be everything she hoped, and unable to meet Birdie’s eyes.

Birdie swept behind her, arms wrapping to encompass her in a swift hug. “It will be fine. Lamorak is his own man now, able to make his own decisions, and not listen to his father’s bleating. He’ll be finishing university next year, and then, well, who knows what he might do.” Birdie turned Morgana to face her, and her eyes were bright. “Everything will be fine. He asked to come here. He could have gone anywhere else. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes, true. But…”

“No buts. You and his father may be at odds, but that’s old news. It will be a chance to see how his magic has developed.”

“If he wants to talk about it. He often doesn’t.”

“People change. And we’re celebrating a special occasion! This could be the perfect time to discuss it.”

Morgana only had one child. She had never wanted more—odd, perhaps, for a woman who helped others with their fertility issues, but one child was enough for her, and she was happy with her decision. But when she split from Lewis, his father, Lamorak had been only eight years old, and he had opted to spend more time with him than at Moonfell. She couldn’t blame him. The place was overwhelming. Moonfell was something you either embraced wholeheartedly or ran away from. It was too much for some family members—even children, who had lived there for years. For her it was the only home she had known, apart from a few years spent at university a long time ago. Lamorak’s father was not a witch, and Moonfell and magic had been too much for him eventually.

Morgana focussed on the present. “Perhaps he does wish to embrace his magic. We shall see.”

“That’s my girl. Now, where is Odette?”

“I believe she’s at the New Moon Gate.”

“Then I’ll leave you to your potion and go see her. And then I suppose I should make sure all of the rooms are ready for our guests,” she said, heading to the door on the far side of the kitchen that led to the glass house.

“Have you finished dressing the Christmas trees?” Morgana called after her.

But Birdie had already vanished, leaving Morgana to her thoughts.


One of Odette’s responsibilities at Moonfell was care of the four moon gates that were situated around their sprawling garden. It was a job she adored.

The moon gates roughly aligned to the four main points of the compass, but were named after the phases of the moon. They all offered tantalising vistas into other areas of the garden.

The gates were constructed out of different materials—some of stone, some of plants—but the Waning Moon Gate that lay to the west was made of bronze. It was an enormous construction, with thick pieces of metal wrapped and bound together to make interesting shapes—owls, faces, animals, flowers. The whole thing had a rich patina bestowed by time, and was covered in jasmine that cast its scent far and wide in the summer. It was this that she was trimming, as well as cutting back the thick planting around it. Those were night-blooming flowers that would glow in moonlight.

The view through the New Moon Gate was either of the west side of the house through a glimpse in the thick shrubbery, its towers reaching into the sky, or the pond that was situated between the gate and the far perimeter, the summer house on its far bank. In the summer, the pond was thick with birdlife, insects, and plants, but it lay like a dark glass now, reflecting heavy, thick clouds that promised more snow. A flurry had already fallen overnight.

But the gates didn’t just offer framed views of the garden. They provided glimpses to other things, too—if you knew how to look, and she did. Odette could see to the truth of things. Sometimes it was a dark gift. Intrusive. She couldn’t help it. It had been granted to her by the Goddess, a gift at birth, and nothing Odette could ever do would make it go away. But at other times, the gift was fun—like seeing Nahum the Nephilim’s wings as clear as day when he visited Olivia at their house. That was funny. It wasn’t so funny, though, to see Belial so clearly when they banished him.

Her gift meant that sometimes the moon gates offered her flashes of things: the future, the past, spirits, different seasons—as if time shifted within them. They weren’t portals, though. She couldn’t step through them into another place or time, which was obviously a good thing. Nothing good ever came of meddling with the past.

Odette clipped off the last of the wayward strands of jasmine, dropped her secateurs on the ground, and pulled her gloves off. She stepped back to assess her work, noting the symmetry of the plants and the ancient moss that climbed over part of the gate.

And then she blinked as the air shimmered, and the view seen through the gate shifted. A woman stood on the other side, with soft blonde hair and a simple, long gown—Medieval, Odette was sure. She was hurrying towards the moon gate, her face creased in concentration, something clutched in her hands.

Odette’s breath caught in her chest. The woman was indistinct—a shadow cast on the present, as was the garden behind her, but it bore only a faint resemblance to the garden it was now. A thick grove of trees was behind her. This was a glimpse of the house from a long time ago.

Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the shimmering vanished, and the pond and the summer house returned. A few seconds later, Birdie moved into view on her right.

“You saw something,” Birdie said softly, as if scared of breaking the mood.

Odette stared through the gate for a while longer and then faced her grandmother. “A woman wearing an old, Medieval-style dress. The garden was different. Lots of trees.” She filtered through images of past witches she was familiar with. Not all had paintings displayed in the attic, but many did, especially the important ones, the ones who had made a difference to Moonfell.

“Who was it? Was there a message?” Birdie asked, hands clasping the scarf around her neck.

“No message, but she looked busy. Furtive, perhaps. I think I know who it was.” Odette considered the light blonde hair, the gentle features. “I think it was Sibilla. In fact, considering what we’re celebrating, it must be.”

“The witch who was gifted Moonfell?”

Odette smiled. “The very same.”

“It’s a sign! Fancy you seeing that far back.”

“You know time has no meaning through the moon gates. It could have been a thousand years ago, and yet I would still see if the gates willed it.”

“The gate must be trying to tell you something…or she is.”

“Perhaps. But first, let’s go to the attic to see if I’m right.”