The Witch of Willow Hall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

*I received an ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I started this book expecting nothing.  It completely blew me away.  Really.  I LOVED this book and couldn’t put it down in the two days I read it.  I feel like I’ve been waiting for a book like this for a long time, and it delivered with perfection.

Set in a nineteenth century gothic setting, this story follows Lydia Montrose, who doesn’t know she’s a witch.  Her family flees scandalous rumors in Boston and makes a home in Willow Hall.  Throughout the book, Lydia battles who she is and what she can do, as well as the hauntings at Willow Hall and her relationships with her sisters.  And, of course, there is a beautiful, brooding, Heathcliff-like man (but kinder than Heathcliff) who helps the story along.   

First, I love the gothic, creepy setting.  Willow Hall is mysterious with its secrets and beautiful, empty halls.  On the grounds, there is a pond in a forest, weeping willows, and the lingering motif of death.  I love the continuous rain and all the secrecy.  The setting draws you in with its originality and intrigue.  I could read this book just for the setting!

But the characters are even better than the setting.  They are completely original, unique, have depth, and you can’t help but love every single one.  They seem like real people with real thoughts and desires and mannerisms!  It is so refreshing to read.  As a main character, Lydia is completely likable because she is not the special one.  Overshadowed by her flirty and beautiful older sister, Lydia is sensible, smart, and caring, but isn’t very noticeable to others.  However, she is interesting and lively and as a reader, I feel drawn to her.  I also never got frustrated with her, which is big for me, as I often get frustrated with whiny, secret-keeping, big-headed characters.  I just love Lydia.  

I also love John Barrett.  I love his brooding, kindness, sensibility, and loyalty.  If you have some attraction for Heathcliff (you can admit it), you will love John.  Always secretive, worrying and serious, but infinitely kind, he is the kind of man a girl could love.  He’s so different from any other Prince Charming character, which adds to his charm and makes him fascinating.  And I’ll admit, he’s officially my new book crush.  

I love all the other characters too: Lydia’s sisters, Ada and Joe, the townspeople, and others (not of this world).  As I mentioned before, they all have depth and desires driving their actions, even the smallest of characters.  I also love the reality of Lydia’s relationship with her sisters, good and bad.  It drives the story and gives it relatability and tension.  

Hester Fox is a brilliant writer.  Never were there cliches, as many nineteenth-century historical fictions thrive on.  Her writing is fresh, clever, entertaining, and clear.  This gothic mystery mixed with a bit of romance and horror is unlike anything I’ve read, and I am so thrilled to have read this book.  I know, without a doubt, I will be rereading this.  

Writing Aesthetic/Style: 5
Plot/Movement: 5
Character Development: 5
Overall: 5

Would I recommend?  YES, for all those who love mystery, tension, romance, magic, and lovely writing.
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"The Witch of Willow Hall" was a satisfying tale of mystery, witchcraft, romance, and creepiness! This historical fiction book centers on Lydia, a witch through her mother's ancestry, and her desire to keep her family together regardless of her own happiness. Her family frustrated me to no end but it just make the story that much better. Enter Mr. Barrett, the handsome business partner and neighbor, and the story had everything I love about a good book! Recommended for historical fiction, Salem witch, romance, and mystery enthusiasts.
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The was not enough history to keep me interested as the storyline got more and more "Flowers in the Attic".
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A New England gothic romance for your fall line up. A little spooky. Thought the ending was a little predictable but there were two plot points I did not see coming. 3.5 stars from me. Really enjoyed the little mentions of Boston aspects like Acorn St.

Oddly one thing that made me pick this was I also really liked this author’s name?
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I really enjoyed this book. It was dark, gothic, suspenseful, haunting and well written. There were more ghosts than witchcraft, and lots of secrets with a Jane Austin style. I loved John Barrett and I liked seeing Lydia grow more confident and outspoken. 
Advanced reader copy courtesy of the publishers at NetGalley for review.
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Well, I loved The Witch of Willow Hall. However, I feel a tad misled by the description as I was expecting much more witchcraft. There were definitely aspects of witchcraft throughout the novel but I really didn't feel like anything substantial happened along those lines until I was over 50% done with the book. Honestly, upon finishing I felt as if this was more of a novel about Lydia's coming of age and a very delicious romance. I love, LOVED the romance. It was very swoony and fun. Though this is a standalone I would certainly welcome a second book delving more into her path learning how to use the power in her bloodline.

The characters were very fleshed out and sympathetic and their relationships were well done. The drama between the two sisters was especially heart-wrenching and believable. I loved the atmosphere in the dark woods and creaky house and found it just Gothic enough for my tastes.

Overall, The Witch of Willow Hall wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I loved it and could not put it down. Recommended.
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What a great debut novel. The plot was spellbinding and the characters well drawn. The author has done her research on the Salem Witch trials. I read this in one day as the twists and turns kept me riveted. This is a fine Gothic romance and mystery with an underlying theme of loyalty and family.
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This book Is for anyone who loves a good haunting romance.. It beautifully combines passion, suspense, and a mild dose of fright to create a very readable gothic tale.. Filled with family secrets, incest, human tragedy, and witchcraft, the novel does not disappoint. It may lead the reader to a predicted ending, but it is an ending one wants to see happen.
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First of all, I loved the cover of the book, it's gorgeous! I love the subject matter! I found the story and the plot incredibly compelling and fast paced.
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The  wealthy Montrose family were driven from Boston by vicious rumors about their children. Father left his lucrative business in Boston and decided to build a textile mill along the river in New Oldbury. So he bought a piece of property from John Bartlett and built a large home named Willow Hall. He, his wife and three daughters, Catherine, Emeline and Lydia moved into the house with two servants

They soon met John Barrett, their next door neighbor and Father’s partner. John and his visitor, August Pierce were invited to dine the Montrose family. Soon August was smitten with the beautiful Catherine and she was pushing  for a marriage proposal. 

Then 8 year old Emeline had an angry outburst during a visit from John and escaped from her bedroom to go to the nearby pond. By the time Lydia found her in the pond, Emeline was dead. Mother, a frail person, took the death badly and spent most of her time locked in her room. Catherine was still looking for a proposal from August when he was called back to Boston by his ill mother. While he was gone, Catherine confided a secret to Lydia about the reason for the quick marriage. 

August did not return from Boston but sent a letter to Catherine instead. It seems that his wealthy mother had heard the rumors about the Montrose family and threatened to stop supporting him if he married one of their daughters. 

Lydia, the quiet daughter, then learned about her mother’s family heritage. It seems that Mother was descended from a family of witches. An ancestor had been hung at Salem during the infamous witch trials. The power could only be passed to  females in Mother’s family. Lydia and her dead sister Emeline had the power but neither Catherine nor Mother had inherited it. Lydia’s long dead Salem ancestor, Mary Preston, appeared to her and told of the powers Lydia possessed. Lydia then pressed her mother who explained everything to her.

Around the same time Cyrus, Lydia’s fiancé who broke the engagement when the scandal broke in Boston, turned up in New Oldbury to court Lydia once again. He had lost a lot of money and hoped that a marriage into the wealthy Montrose family would solve his financial troubles. However Lydia and John had become attracted to each other and she was no longer interested in Cyrus. 

As this story continues, Lydia must decide how to use the powers of her ancestors for good and not evil. 

This is a historical fiction that explores life in New England after the War of 1812. Textile mills are springing up along the rivers of Western Massachusetts and there is resistance from the farmers whose land bordered the rivers.
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If you love stories about ghosts, witches, history, and romance, then please add The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox to your reading list. Two centuries after the Salem Witch Trials, Lydia Montrose, a descendant of one of the victims, lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with no knowledge that she's a witch. When her powers briefly manifest themselves following an incident with a neighboring child, Lydia's mother tells her that she must suppress what she's feeling and lock it up deep inside herself causing her to fear the unknown. After a surprising and shocking family scandal, Lydia and her family are forced to leave their beloved home to relocate to New Oldbury and take up residence in their summer home of Willow Hall. Their old acquaintances (including Lydia's fiancé Cyrus) want no association with the Montrose's and their sullied reputation. While in New Oldbury, Lydia and her sisters meet her father's new business partner, John Barrett, and his friend Mr. Pierce, and experience a score of tragedies that many believe are a result of living in the haunted Willow Hall. Can Lydia find a way to accept who she is and control her powers? Will she be able to find a true love match, rather than a business merger arranged by her father? Can she find a way to make peace with Willow Hall? 

The Witch of Willow Hall is beautifully written and riveting. I read it in one day because I could not put it down, and I immediately went to Hester Fox's website to see if there were more novels, but this appears to be her debut novel. I look forward to reading more from this author. On a separate note, how cool is it that this book has references to Puritanical Salem and the author's name is Hester? 

I received an advanced read copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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Although the description entices with promises of witchcraft and history, it focuses on the daily dramas of one particular family. While there is romance, it's set in the past, and there are hints of supernatural, it failed to really deliver on anything in particular. I found it to be very slow moving and not at all compelling. I was more interested in how the sister's illicit relationship came to be than anything else. Overall, this fell flat.
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I find this an excellent example of the horror genre for young adults. The main character, Lydia has powers such as clairvoyance and telekinesis, but the book does not give her an unlimited amount of power. I found her believable and understood the temptation to give her sister a potion to induce a miscarriage. Society at that time really would have looked down on the entire family for a child born out of wedlock in an incestuous relationship. 

The ending wrapped up the story well, but I had a harder time believing that her sister would move to New York on her own, despite her secret past. Upper-middle-class young ladies would not normally do this unless they had been disowned by family. Lydia and Catherine had kept their terrible secret hidden from their parents in this story, so the motivation to leave for New York was not that strong.

I would recommend this title to my students in a summer reading list or seasonal reading list for October. I might use it for my lessons, however, this would depend on the school and curricular pacing guide.
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3.5

It was cute, and I really liked the character development for Lydia and the development of her up and down relationship with her sister Catherine. It read kind of like a Jane Austen or Bronte novel, but with ghosts and witchcraft thrown in.
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What drew me to this book was the lovely cover. There were some trigger areas for me, which has to do with abuse of animals. Was not a book that I would pick up again.
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What a joy to find a book that was engaging and a page turner, especially in an eformat because I am more of a hard copy type of girl! 

I love the characters of Lydia Montrose and even her selfish (from Lydia's POV) sister, Catherine. I found the setting atmospheric especially the woods and the water, filling me with hope when the light is out and dread when night fall. There's a few things that would have made it a five stars for me. I expected the witchery and spirits to be more spooky. It was scary enough (I tend to read before bed) but was missing some elements that made it extraordinary. Secondly, I need a book from Catherine's perspective. Or even a series dating back to Mary. I could definitely use generations of witches!
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Oh my goodness! Don’t you just LOVE this book cover? I think it’s perfect for this amazingly curious, dark, mysterious work of historical fiction awesomeness! I think this book, The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox, is being promoted as a Romance genre book, and it does have the most wonderful love story, but it’s so much more than that. I found myself utterly transfixed with this book, creeped out, and consistently desperate to find out what was going to happen!

Premise- The Montroses are relocating to their new home, Willow Hall, after rumors about the eldest daughter, the beautiful and captivating Caroline, make their wealthy (but “scandalous and immoral”) family Boston’s ultimate pariahs. Lydia, the sensible sister (read: the plain one), spends her days caring for her younger sister and feeling like a spinster after her recent failed engagement. Right away, things seem amiss at Willow Hall. Weird things are happening- sudden door slams, wailing in the middle of the night, outbursts of anger, etc…scary!

Then, when an unspeakable tragedy occurs, Lydia despairs over her new reality, and learns that the rumors which ousted their family from Boston are far worse and truer than anyone ever imagined. Caroline’s secret threatens to destroy their own family forever. On top of that, Lydia- always the caretaker, handler, “fixer”- finds herself competing with her sister for the handsome Mr. John Barrett’s affections, a guy who just so happens to be their father’s new business partner. Drama, drama, drama I tell ya!

This book had everything- history, sibling rivalry, danger, tragedy, love, you name it! As I got closer and closer to the end, I found myself feeling so sad that I wouldn’t be “living” with the Montrose family much longer. In fact, this family and the town of New Oldbury would be the perfect setting for a Willow Hall series…hint hint!

If you are looking for a WONDERFUL story that will have you hooked from the first page, this book is it! Add October 2nd, 2018 to your calendar because that’s when The Witch of Willow Hall comes out, and you don’t want to miss it!

5 out of 5 stars for The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox. Thanks to NetGalley and Graydon House Books (US & UK) for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
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This was a fun story to read, reminiscent of gothic romance. It could have been a much longer book if the author had wanted to delve more deeply into the lives and history of the characters, but as it is, the story is entertaining, the time period authentic and the characters believable.
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I loved this book! So glad I requested it!  I read this in less than a day and that doesn't happen much!
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Witches are real and exist! A good job, Hester. This was a fun read about three sisters forced to move away from their home due to the pregnancy of one. There are the two handsome princes, one evil sister and an understanding if missing mother to them all. There is a lot of sadness in this story, but worth the read.
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