The Witch of Willow Hall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

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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A breathtaking read that I kept trying to put down so I could work on other things on my to-do list, but within two or three minutes I was right back at it. Started reading around 11am today, finished around 3.30pm today. Whoops.

Puts a spin on historical fiction and historical romance, dropping the reader into a family leaving Boston in the 1820s in the wake of some undefined scandal involving the eldest daughter. The story is told by the middle daughter, bookish and occasionally volatile Lydia, whose anger manifests itself in, shall we say, interesting ways. 

Willow Hall, their new home, affects each of the three daughters different. Emeline, the youngest, starts showing a tendency to anger she's never displayed before, and claims to have a friend, a little boy, who lives at the pond on the property. Lydia's disturbed sleep leads her to hear and see things nobody else in the family seems to notice, while she feels an immediate strong inclination for their quiet neighbor, John Barrett. The eldest daughter, Catherine, is the only one who seems not to notice anything strange about the place, since she's wrapped up in her own woes, relating to the scandal in Boston. The son of the family, Charles, is only mentioned, never seen - he is apparently gone from the family as part of the general disgrace. 

Totally satisfying. I recommend it!
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This book had a sort of gothic VC Andrewsesque vibe to it. At times, it kept me on the edge of my toes. But there were also times when the plot plodded on.  For instance, I felt John took too long to declare himself and his intentions. I was thoroughly tired of Catherine and her plotting and scheming, she was the evil.   The parents seemed to be absent even though they were physically present.  I would have liked to see Lydia learn and use more of her powers.  But there were plenty of creepy and spooky elements. I enjoyed this book though. I voluntarily read this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This book captured my interest from the beginning. A dark, historical novel about ghosts and witches in 19th century New England sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver.

The main issue I had with this book was that I can't identify the main conflict...I mean, there really wasn't one. Sure, there were ghosts and witchcraft and an eerie house, but that was all in the background of family drama and romantic angst.

The main issue seemed to be that Lydia's older sister Catherine is a complete nightmare who doesn't even care how her actions affect her family and who constantly relies on others to clean up her messes. I don't think I've ever hated a character more. She is petty, mean, and selfish to the extreme. She couldn't stand to see Lydia happy and did whatever she could to ensure that she wasn't. The sisterly hate was the biggest conflict in this story, and it is never properly resolved.

Another issue is the romance between John Barrett and Lydia. There are some insta-love vibes in this book, as I'm still not entirely sure why John even liked Lydia. She was rude to him on several occasions because she didn't know how to express her feelings or communicate with another human beings. There were so many misunderstandings and so much miscommunication that I just ended up frustrated during most of their interactions.

Some aspects of this story had a lot of promise and could have been interesting, had they actually had anything to do with the story. Instead, they just fizzled out. Creepy dead ghost sister? Nothing. Creepy dead ghost boy who threatens the main characters? Nothing. Creepy house that puts everyone on edge and seems to attract disasters? Absolutely nothing. It's like a bunch of stuff was thrown in to create suspense and atmosphere, but never actually has any purpose. Even the fact that Lydia is a witch never really matters that much. We only actually see her "power" a couple times, and her use of power in front of John at the end was insanely anticlimactic. The people who found out she was a witch were way too accepting of her. In fact, the two "love interests" seemed to think of her as a rare commodity once they found out she was a witch.

Also, are we really supposed to believe that this is how people talk and act in the early 1800s? I'm no historian, but this book almost seemed like it could have taken place in the 21st Century, other than the occasional mention of propriety and social rules.

It all just seemed way too easy. There was never any real tension, no overarching problem, no character development to speak of. The Witch of Willow Hall is just a creepy book about boy drama and some serious family issues.
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The Witch of Willow Hall is a Victorian Gothic Romance that hits all of the right notes; a society scandal, family drama and just a touch of the spiritual to give it a twist. 
The Montrose family though well off is forced to flee Boston for New Oldbery, due to a scandal and a family secret long kept hidden. The family has three daughters, Catherine, who is concerned only with herself, Bookish and quiet Lydia and Emeline, who at eight is full adventure and excitement for new discoveries and a older son Charles who is discussed but never seen.. Upon arriving at Willow Hall the dark overtones are set out quickly, the girls mother is forlorn, Catherine, the cause of the upheaval is dismissive and nasty, Lydia ever the peace keeper tries to lighten the mood, and Emeline dashes off to find adventure. .Soon after their arrival in  Old Newbery  Lydia happens quite by accident to meet John Barrett in the woods near an old mill, he starts out very charming and soon turns subdued. He turns out to be  Mr. Montrose's new business partner and has secrets of his own.  Lydia hears wailing in the night and sees a figure walking through her garden, she also has a way with herbs, these revelations all lead back to a mysterious family member from the past who was hung in Salem for being a witch. There is more than one secret that is endangering the family, and as they come to light it is up to Lydia to make the correct choices and the sacrifices to save her family.  But just like a heroine in one of Lydia's books she perseveres and  is rewarded with her knight and a happily ever after.
I was entranced by the storyline and actually read it in one sitting, late into the night I might add,. I just couldn't put it down. For this to be Ms. Fox's debut novel, I am sincerely impressed. I'll be looking to see more of her work in the future. The characters are well written you feel their joy, their pain and how society's rules could make or break a family are very well displayed. The storylines work so well together and I would love to read more about the Montrose and Barrett families in the future. The otherworldliness is subtle and only adds to the depth of the characters and their struggles. 
Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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