The Witch's Daughter

Paula Brackston, St. Martin's/Dunne, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-62168-1

This pleasantly romantic historical fantasy debut flips lightly between the past experiences of ageless witch Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith and her present-day life in Matravers, England. After a plague kills young Elizabeth's father and siblings in 1627 Wessex, her mother, a gifted healer, seeks help from ruthless warlock Gideon Masters. He exacts a high price, and Bess survives only to be accused of witchery along with her mother, who is captured and hanged while Bess escapes and begins her new life of immortal solitude. Fast-forward to 2007, when Elizabeth trains teenage Tegan to be a hedge witch and shares stories about Gideon, meeting Jack the Ripper while ministering to the Whitehall prostitutes in 1888, and serving as a nurse in 1917 Flanders. Bess's past adventures are fascinating, but there's a sketchy quality to the contemporary sections that diminishes the effect of the grand finale. (Jan.)