The Witch of Willow Hall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

"The Witch of Willow Hall" was a fascinating book, perfect for Fall! Lydia is the middle daughter of a wealthy family in Boston. Her older sister, Catherine, is the beautiful sister, and while Lydia could live in her shadow, she forges her own path, mainly doting on her younger sister Emeline and reading books. At the beginning of the book, the Montroses have fled Boston with the three sisters to go to New Oldbury after a scandal/rumors (which we slowly learn about throughout the book), and their son has fled to England.

The three sisters are venturing into town when Emeline loses her beloved dog, Snip. As Lydia searches for him, she meets the handsome John Barrett, who helps her to find him. Mr. Barrett is their next door neighbor and their father's new business partner- and soon, Lydia's love interest. Aside from the secrets hidden in the family due to the scandal, Willow Hall, their new residence, is carrying its own dark secrets.

Lydia is carrying her own secrets- things that happen around her that she cannot explain. Her mother knows the truth of it, but she has taken a distant role in her daughters' upbringing. It began with the incident when she was child, where a boy who killed her kitten was injured in her anger. At Willow Hall, Lydia is haunted with a lack of sleep and seeming visions. This supernatural element feels so creepy and is written so well that you can't help but be pulled into the story.

As the book continues, a romance develops alongside the mysteries of the family and Lydia herself which slowly come to light. This book is absolutely enchanting. and I couldn't help but keep page turning at the sacrifice of sleep. Although not a lot of action in the traditional sense, the mysteries and writing make the book feel fast-paced without a lull. With betrayals, rivalries, blackmail, secrets, ghosts, and witchcraft, this book has more than enough to keep the reader highly engaged.

I highly recommend this book for people who enjoy paranormal romance- this is a highly captivating and skillfully written book that is definitely worth picking up! You certainly won't regret it! I am definitely interested in reading more from this author and would love more around this setting. 

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I gave this book a 4 star rating.

So I wanted to read this book as it was about a witch, and well it's that time of year.  I didn't go in with any real expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by it.

It is a YA novel, so it didn't get as dark as it could (and believe me with the plot the author had going she could have made it a lot darker), but it had just enough of a creepy factor to make it enjoyable.

When I first started reading it, all the narrator kept talking about was the huge scandal that her family had just went through in Boston.  I have to say that I was put off that it took so long to find out what that scandal was.  (About half way through, maybe a little less.)  But that is just me wanting to know this now, and the author had other plans.

The love story part felt kinda instalove to me, but the story does take place in the late 1800s, so I think that was quite common.  But on the other side, our main character seemed so naive to everything and she is about 19 years of age.  At this time, no one is that slow.

Overall, I liked the plot and the pace of the book.  It started kinda slow, but once the actual action started, it picked up in a hurry.  I would recommend this book to other readers.
Was this review helpful?
Autumn is coming, and that means it's time to get out your scarves and boots, and read a creepy Gothic or macabre story, something like The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox.

The Witch of Willow Hall actually starts in the hot, muggy New England summer and slowly makes its way into the crisp, cool autumn and snowy winter, which makes it a perfect read right now, as it is still technically summer and still very hot where I live. This book reminded me a little of White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, one of my favorite books, meets We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, mixed with a ghost story in which the protagonist can see and interact with ghosts, like in Crimson Peak. It was (mostly) perfect to say the least. I read it over the span of just two days. Having to know what happened to Lydia, I plowed through the book, especially at the halfway mark where I read it all the way to the end, staying up well past my bedtime.

That being said, I believe that the second half of the story is weaker than the first, at least for me. Not because of the worldbuilding (we get so much deliciously creepy stuff in the second half), but because of the sense of urgency that comes with the climb to the story's climax. I don't know why, but I was enjoying the quiet little life Lydia and her family were leading, so when things started to be revealed about halfway through, rather than being glad, I felt more anxious, which I suppose is the point. Normally, I'd be excited for this, but instead I just needed to get to the end, otherwise I would have worried about Lydia far too much to do anything other than pine away for the time when I could finish reading the book. I guess this means that the story was successful—it pulled me in—because it had me on the edge of my seat, so to speak, from the beginning all the way until the end.

Fox does an excellent job of showing and telling the story from Lydia's perspective. At times, I wondered if Lydia was an unreliable narrator. Also, the descriptions of other people's facial expressions and reactions to Lydia made it feel as though Lydia didn't always know what was going on, but you, the reader, should be able to pick up on the other characters' true feelings (i.e., John Barrett's) and know things that Lydia may not. This sort of telling-the-story-through-Lydia's-self-conscious-lens made it more exciting somehow, and while the other characters (i.e., Catherine, Cyrus) can be infuriating, the way Fox tells the story through Lydia makes you want to root for her throughout the entire story.

If you like ghost stories and witches, then this is your cup of tea. I'm excited to see what Hester Fox writes next, especially since she's a fellow museum worker, a kindred spirit.
Was this review helpful?
I found this book hard to put down- the tension catches you right away, and stays taut throughout the story. The Montrose family, fleeing scandalous rumors, move from Boston to Willow Hall in New Oldbury, MA, where Mr. Montrose has business dealings. Strange things are happening at the estate; there are ghostly figures, messages written in the stream on a mirror, whispering voices, but only Lydia, the middle sister, can see or hear them. There is budding romance, secrets are slowly revealed, tragedy strikes, a smidge of witchcraft, and mysterious histories come to light- the full gothic monty! Parts of the story are agonizingly slow- the details of the scandal that drove the family out of Boston, the hints of hidden powers- but in a good way. The tension builds at a steady pace, keeping the interest high. The ending is satisfying, and while it doesn't end with a cliffhanger, it leaves plenty of room for a sequel, which I'd like to see. I didn't get as much witchiness as I expected, and a second book could fill out that part of the story nicely. A great book for when you want to get sucked in by spooky intrigue!
Was this review helpful?
A stunning debut novel, The Witch of Willow Hall and its characters will stay with you long after you have closed the book. This would be fantastic read for your book club. Full review will appear on Caffeinated Reviewer September 27th.
Was this review helpful?
Fox combines traditional historical romance with the paranormal in this engaging tale of love, witchcraft and ghosts. Lydia Montrose and her family flee Boston for their country home of Willow Hall in the wake of a scandal, but Willow Hall is a dark, haunted sort of place, engendering more heartbreak and tragedy for Lydia and her family. Lydia and her sister Catherine seek love and marriage as young ladies of the 19th century were expected to. Unlike most young ladies, Lydia struggles with the legacy of her power as a descendant of one of the Salem witches, a power she must learn to control and use if she is to save her family - and her love - from the encroaching darkness of the haunting spirits of Willow Hall. The historical details of life in 1821 Massachusetts mixed with the supernatural elements make this an appealing novel for fans of historical romance as well as fans of paranormal fiction. #TheWitchofWillowHall #NetGalley

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an egalley of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Amazing characters carry this book from beginning to end! It is a fascinating read that I kept picturing as a movie. It should be popular with a wide range of readers from middle school through adults.
Was this review helpful?
Fox hits the mark with her historical Gothic romance! The Witch of Willow Hall was a quick and compulsive read, a page turner that will keep you up all night!   The only problem was that it read like a first novel, and parts of the story felt hollow and weak.  It's definitely a diamond in the rough and I look forward to her next work.  Perfect for fans of Simone St James, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Daphne Du Maurier.
Was this review helpful?
Moving to the countryside to escape an appalling scandal doesn't save the Montrose family from heartache and devastation.  Lydia Montrose does her best to keep the family peace by caring for her younger sister while also trying to save her family from her older sister's scandalous antics.  The family's new home seems to house a malevolent spirit that calls to Lydia and her younger sister and fighting it is proving exhausting.  
While trying to gain the good graces of their neighbors by hosting a town hall and party, the family suffers a horrible loss.  In that loss, Lydia discovers a power in her that is both frightening and alluring.  If Lydia isn't careful, she will lose not only those that she loves, but herself as well.  
A dark and troubling story of sibling rivalry that threatens to tear apart what little family they have left.  Richly told with twists and turns that will have you questioning your own sanity.
Was this review helpful?
THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL by Hester Fox 
Graydon House - Harlequin 
ISBN: 978-1-525-8 3301-4
October 2018

The story is told through Lydia Montrose’s viewpoint, first about an incident that happened when she was a child that marked her as different. And now the Montrose family flees Boston where rumors surround their oldest daughter Catherine. Her father moves his family into Willow Hall, which was to be a summer home in New Oldbury. Mr. Montrose is a very wealthy man who seeks to establish a cotton mill with another resident, John Barrett. Lydia does not have a cordial relationship with Catherine, and knows her older sister’s behavior forced this move. The youngest daughter, eleven year old Emeline, is thrilled with the Willow Hall and its surrounds and is soon talking about mermaids she knows exist in a nearby pond.

In New Oldbury Lydia finds her disturbing visions and accompanying strange events emerge again. She meets Barret while searching the woods in the rain for Emeline’s dog and feels a strong attraction to him that develops into much more for her. Barrett gives little away about himself or his thoughts, but with only two eligible men in the area, her sister Catherine stalks a husband, and is willing, even eager, to put down Lydia any chance she gets.

This story is certainly about a tortuous romance, but it much more. It is about love of family, even the members who aren’t so loving in return, and protecting them from the onslaughts of others. A horrible tragedy strikes which ultimately entangles the family in problems and leads Lydia to make many difficult decisions. Ultimately she learns who she truly is. The story is from her innocent and forgiving perspective and moves very fast, so readers will eagerly follow her story.
Was this review helpful?
I typically shy away from anything supernatural in books, but it wasn’t a major part of the plot.  For a debut novel, this really kept me reading and was enjoyable and light.  I found myself reading fast, just to find out if the main character would get the happily ever after she loved in all of her books!   There was a little taboo storyline as well that surprised me.  More importantly, this was my first netgalley book and I’m grateful to the publishers for giving me an early read.
Was this review helpful?
What an unexpected delight. If you enjoy a slow-paced read, with a hint of supernatural, a mystery and romance than  I would recommend this read to you. The novel opens in 1821 as the Montrose family has moved to New Oldbury from Boston under the cloud of a scandal. Mr. Montrose will be opening a mill with John Barrett, a young businessman with secrets of his own. Lydia, the middle Montrose daughter and protagonist is drawn to Mr. Barrett, but feels overshadowed by her beautiful older sister, Catherine. Although the family's scandal centers around Catherine, Lydia's engagement to a Boston businessman has been broken in the aftermath. When tragedy strikes the Montrose family, Lydia finds herself drawn to Mr. Barrett, who has also dealt with family tragedy. Lydia also begins to discover she has magical powers inherited from an ancestor who lost her life during the Salem Witch Trials. As she begins to accept who and what she is, her life begins to unravel and she must decide to sacrifice everything she holds dear to safe those she loves.

While the main character, Lydia, discovers she is a witch, there is little magic in the book. The story is more about family dynamics, sisterly bonds and competition, and self-acceptance. Lydia's thoughts and feelings felt realistic to the times and situation. There is a slow build to climatic confrontation and conclusion, nothing felt out of place or overwrought. I would recommend this book to those who enjoyed du Maurier's Rebecca or gothic literature.
Was this review helpful?
Catherine, Lydia and Emeline are the Montrose sisters, formerly of Boston and newly of Willow Hall in the countryside.  The rumors that necessitated the move are still whispered about. Their parents are eager to find matches for the older girls, to see them safely married off for their futures.  Possible suitors are beset by both older girls, a competition hard at work.  And then, tragedy strikes. Once again, the Montrose family is the object of talk and whispers.  In the midst of it all, strange experiences are setting a stage for what is to come -- and witchcraft! You won't want to miss this.
Was this review helpful?
I was able to get an advance copy of The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox, thanks to NetGalley. 
This was a great gothic suspense book, I would not call it a gothic horror story, but definitely a suspenseful story. The characters were written in such a way that you felt like you knew people who were just like them. The story is about the Montrose family. After a scandalous event happens the family is forced to leave their comfortable home and life in Boston, escaping to their summer home, Willow Hall. The book is about relationships, mother/father, parents/daughters, daughter/daughter, and budding romantic relationships. There is also a focus on the relationship between the place, Willow Hall, and the family. The story unfolds slowly and beautifully, allowing readers to savor each little morsel to the end. And, at the end of the day I am a sucker for good tales that include witches and ghosts.
Was this review helpful?
Hester Fox’s The Witch of Willow Hall (Graydon House), is another story of witches that’ll get you in the Halloween spirit. In 1821, the Montrose family has been shunned by Boston socialites over rumors of a shameful family secret and they are forced to start over in New Oldbury, MA, in a home that seems to have an effect on all three Montrose girls. Lydia has possessed a peculiar power since childhood and since moving to Willow Hall, it has been amplified. She is seeing and hearing things that haunt the history of the land, all while her family seems to be falling apart. Unless Lydia learns to control her powers, she could either forever damage her family, or if used right, perhaps fix all that has gone wrong.
Was this review helpful?
A fast paced story that draws you in and keeps your attention. I would recommend this to many of my library’s patrons that enjoy this type of book. Overall, I enjoyed the plot, the writing, and the characters but I am still a little underwhelmed with the ending.
Was this review helpful?
So hard to believe this is a debut novel. Such an amazing read. The first half was good but more about the character development, but as soon as I hit the second half holy cow!! I seriously could not put it down! The night before the first day of school and I was up until after midnight finishing this book. 5 hours of sleep was worth it! This is a must read!
Was this review helpful?
I was looking forward to a good old Gothic witch novel, but, for the most part, this is a different sort of book. While I have no doubt many readers will love this story, it simply didn't wow me.

In the beginning, the author does a great job of capturing the eerie setting, giving us a sense of foreboding. But, also right from the start, the story is more about family drama, secrets, and budding romances than it is about witches. In fact, while there are a few subtle hints of the paranormal, there is nothing about witches or powers until about halfway through the story. Even then, the witch aspect doesn't really come into play until the last quarter.

The pace is slow. We spend a whole lot of time with Lydia while she obsesses about her sisters and a love interest. Oddly, she is far more worried about and obsessed with family drama than she is about the strange occurrences only she experiences. The story is written in first person, so we're in Lydia's head the entire time, and the repetitive drama becomes tedious. 

There is a great twist, though I think that aspect needed more exploration. I wanted to understand it better. I wanted to know how it came to be, how the secret got out, and how - or if - it altered the family dynamics. This is the kind of twist that demands scrutiny, yet it only served to add another layer of drama.

The action picks up in the last quarter, when the witch aspect finally comes into play. Still, the romance and drama remained the focus. If you take the witch and magic out of the story, not a lot changes.

If you enjoy historical romance, you'll probably love this book. If you're looking for something with a strong Gothic feel and underlying magic, this one doesn't quite get there.
Was this review helpful?
The Witch of Willow hall is a mystery set in the suburbs of Boston, Mass in the 1820's. Descended from the witches of Salem, Lydia is the middle child. She is the responsible one with little prospects because she is wholesome. Her older sister is a flirt, her parents are indifferent. The story picks up when Catherine's actions force the family to leave their home and business to sleepy Willow Hall. But the Montroses aren’t the only family with secrets. Ghosts plague Willow Hall and Catherine’s secret is posed to bury them all.

This is a dark story. Full of mystery and romance. The characters are all flawed. Every single one. From hubris to greed to neglect. But Lydia grows and finds strength in powers she once feared. The themes in this book reminded me a lot of Crimson Peak and Rebecca.

5 stars for keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout and for heroine who isn’t a Mary Sue.
Was this review helpful?
What an intriguing read! When the Montrose family was forced by scandal to uproot their lives and flee the city, I at first thought to myself that surely it could not have been that severe, after all what was not considered scandalous in those days? The scandal itself is a bit of a mystery, and there are hints that it may have been caused by Lydia or by Catherine, but either way I could not wait to find out what it was. Once settled in their new home it seems that gossip has followed them, and sadly a tragedy is not far behind. The relationship between the sisters held me spellbound. For having been raised by the same parents in the same home, they could not have wound up more different from each other. This was a captivating work of historical fiction with a gothic ghost story feel, complete with heroes to cheer for and villains that I took delight in hating.
Was this review helpful?