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The Witch of Willow Hall

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"The Witch of Willow Hall" is the perfect read for this time of year. It's a great blend of spooky, plot, and historical events firmly rooted in fact. I especially recommend it for those interested in the history of the Salem Witch Trials..
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3AM, the witching hour! That is how long I stayed up reading this gorgeous book. And Hester Fox is officially an author on my watchlist and she should be on yours too if you enjoy sexy gothic historical romances. 
I have a very particular (or singular) taste in literature that is very hard to satisfy, so I normally have to read a few different genres and a few different books at a time in order to slake these needs. The Witch Of Willow Hall satisfied ALL my loves: it was romatic, sweet, clever, sexy and yet eerie and dark, part House on Haunted Hill and part Little Women (sorta kinda) and part something else entirely. The plot was fresh and well developed and the story threads were tied up so neatly in the end that I was thoroughly satisfied by the last bittersweet page. I never wanted it to end!
The main character, Lydia, I connected with and empathized with so well because her charcater flaw is so similar to mine and her own self doubt, which her sister knew how to use against her, was one of the biggest obstacles that sometimes frustrated me to the point I wanted to scream. And every time I felt I wanted to leap onto the pages and strangle Catharine, slap her senseless, Lydia remained calm (mostly) and behaved with integrity, bearing the burden of her sister's scandal with such quiet strength that I couldn't help but love her, even if I did want to shake her a bit now and then.
And what a scandal! This book shocked and delighted me, creeped me out, and held me under its dark spell (excuse the pun, I had to) for hours and hours and even after I was done reading, bleary-eyed and exhausted, I couldn't go to sleep because I had to digest the story and all its careful twists and misunderstandings and frustrations and delights. 
My only regret is that it took me this long to read it.
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The Witch of Willow Hall - Hester Fox

⅖ stars.

I was first intrigued by this book because it seemed to promise witchiness. Having finished (and being consequently obsessed with) the Discovery of Witches tv show, and craving more witchy books since reading that series like 3 years ago, I thought “Willow Hall” would scratch that itch. Unfortunately there wasn’t much witchiness or magic in this book at all. I think if you chose to read this, you should go into it expecting a semi-Gothic style romance drama. All magical elements took a serious backseat to other elements of the story. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the word “witch” is in the title.

Speaking of those other elements, let’s talk about them a bit more now. This story revolves around Lydia Montrose, the middle child in her family, as she and her family move to a country town following a family scandal to avoid ruining their reputation. What follows is a lot of family drama, a kind of forced instalove story, and a lot of Colonial historical descriptions of those times.

It’s all very surface. It seems like just enough was described and written to keep the story going on, but not enough to give any depth or reason to the characters. I did not believe in Lydia & John’s relationship, I thought all of the characters were caricatures and not actually fleshed out, and some ghosts were sprinkled through to make it seem more gothic and witchy.

I think I need to point out the fact that this book took me 8 months to finish. I seriously could not get into the first third of the book. And even as the plot itself finally picked, I found it very predictable, ultimately. It felt like I had read these other elements of this story in other books, so unfortunately it didn’t feel original.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this book in return for a review based upon my honest opinion.

This was a wonderful book, an honest to goodness old fashioned gothic novel.  This was the type of book I grew up reading long in to the night with a flashlight so my parents wouldn't see the light on in my room.  I really enjoyed this book.It relied on a wonderful story and misty, creepy scenery to set the backstory, not dramatic magic effects.  It was romantic and ghostly, it was heart wrenching and heart-warming.  This is a book I thought of long after I read it, it just left me satisfied, I was transported to late 1800's Massachusetts, under the willow tree.

Lydia and her family move to New Oldbury to escape a family scandal and start fresh, not long after that, our lovely Lydia discovers that she is in fact a witch.  As she tries to come to terms with her newfound abilities we are taken on a journey, one I loved.  This was a wonderful book with haunting characters and a superb storyline.
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Willow Hall lends a very gothic-y feel to this story. And 19th century Massachusetts makes a great setting for this unsettling coming of age sort of novel.
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Slow start. I had a bit of a tough time getting through this one. I did finally start to enjoy te story and loved how it ended. The author did a great job wrapping up the conclusion after the slow start. 

I wanted there to be more witchy shenanigans and magic but overall I would recommend this one as a fantastic Halloween read,
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Buckle in kiddies, Auntie Wendy is about to unload on The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox. If the title of this blog post hasn't clued you in, there is no way I can talk about this book without giving ALL the spoilers, including trigger warnings.

I cut my reading teeth on Gothics, loving mysteries and female protagonists as I do.  And while I'm happy to see more Gothic stories offered of late, for the love of all that is holy can we lay off the incest subplots?  Because this is the second Gothic I've read in the past month with incest in it.  Consider that trigger warning #1.

Lydia Montrose's family leaves Boston to settle in backwater New Oldbury in 1821 thanks to rumors surrounding her family.  Those rumors, as we find out later, involve her beyond vile older sister Catherine and their brother, Charles, having an incestuous relationship.  Spoiler alert: they did and it was consensual.  Anyway, Charles has been shipped off somewhere and if you think there's going to be a big showdown with him at some point in the story you are mistaken.  He firmly stays off the page and we never know what really happens to him other than he writes Catherine to say he's in lurve with a dancer.  Because of course he is.

Anyway, the Montrose family is made up of Lydia the middle daughter with "powers" she doesn't realize she has because her idiot mother won't tell her about them even though said "powers" run in the family.  There have been past episodes in Lydia's life (like when she hurt a bully who murdered her pet kitten - consider that trigger warning #2) but she's such a dolt she conveniently keeps blocking out the memories. Catherine is literal trash who does everything in her power over the course of the story to make Lydia's life miserable.  There's the plot moppet younger sister, Emeline, who is the very reason why the term "plot moppet" was coined - but never fear...she dies.  Consider that trigger warning #3.  But she's so freakin' annoying you'll be glad she's dead. (Yeah, I said it).  Mommy Dearest walks around in a denial-ridden depressed haze and Daddy Dearest is All Business All The Time and had the house built in New Oldbury to be a country home.  Well, now they're living in it and he's got a new business partner, John Barrett, who Lydia is smitten with, he's smitten with her but because this book is already highly annoying the conflict between them is basically one Big Misunderstanding after another because THEY JUST WON'T TALK TO EACH OTHER!

Lydia is the protagonist and is not only in denial about who she is, but she's the type of self-sacrificing heroine who will bend over backwards to "protect" those she loves.  Why she loves any of these vile people is beyond me, but she spends 99% of the book protecting Catherine from herself because, surprise!  Catherine is pregnant with their brother's child.  Consider this trigger warning #4.  So Catherine is literally throwing herself at every man with a pulse to get a proposal (not easy in New Oldbury), including John Barrett, and just being the worst sort of toxic person you can imagine.  And yet?  LYDIA KEEPS HELPING THIS SACK OF HUMAN GARBAGE!  There's a bunch of nonsense about protecting her frail mother as well - but seriously?  The woman who willfully closes her eyes to the sack of garbage one daughter is and does nothing to help her other daughter understand the "powers" she inherited?  Sorry if I fail to understand the need to protect Mommy Dearest.

If you're thinking that Catherine will eventually see the error of her ways or that Lydia will grow a spine - let me assure you: they do not.  Catherine goes on to miscarry the baby (consider that trigger warning #5) and begs Lydia to "take care of it" - which she does.  Then Catherine recalls a previous moment with Lydia offered her tea - only to act strangely and spill it on the carpet before Catherine can take a sip.  Yes, Lydia concocted a tea with herbs that can "take care of such things" but chickened out at the last minute.  Catherine then thinks that Lydia murdered her precious love child, which she conceived WITH THEIR BROTHER (!!!!) and ramps up her campaign to make Lydia's life miserable.  And Lydia continues to ineffectually wring her hands from the sidelines.

Look, I get it.  It's 1821.  Women didn't have a lot of agency.  But what women could and did do was find ways to manipulate the societal mores of the time to get where they wanted/needed to go.  Lydia is nothing more than a reactionary heroine who refuses to take proactive action towards making her own life better.  Instead she coddles a plot moppet younger sister and distant mother, cleans up messes left behind by her VILE older sister, and pines after John Barrett. Then to have her willfully ignore the unexplained episodes in her life (her "powers") is just...OMG, can she just die already?  Because I can't.

Since I've already spoiled everything, why not the ending?  Lydia and John do end up together.  The villain (no, not brother Charles or Catherine - it's Lydia's former fiance' and Daddy's former business partner's son!) is vanquished, and Catherine leaves the country to take her vile act on the road but that's OK because Lydia muses that she hopes her sister finds happiness (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).  And Charles, the brother who likes to have sex with his own sister and leave her to deal with consequences?  Well we don't ever find out since he never appears on page but my guess is he probably married the dancer and is living his best life - because nobody else gets what they truly deserve in this book, so why would he?

Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Final Grade = D-
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This had such a great witch feel to it. I enjoyed the history of Montrose family. The supernatural happenings added to the eerieness. I enjoyed this so much.
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Thank you to Netgalley for giving me a chance to read and review, "The Witch of Willow Hall"
by Hester Fox. A very interesting work of Women's Fiction/ Mystery! I enjoyed this book well enough. A perfect Halloween read.
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Main Character: Lydia Montrose (4/5)—a strong, driven character, determined to find a way for everything to work out, even if it means cementing her own heartbreak.

Secondary Characters: Enjoyably and disturbingly realistic, especially the Montrose girls’ suitors. The Montroses have a classic family dynamic that would fit just as easily into modern times as the book’s setting. 

Pacing: The pacing of this book was comfortably quick without feeling rushed. I eventually reached a point when I couldn’t put it down, and that’s the tell-tale sign of a good read.

Accuracy of Publisher’s Synopsis: Definitely an accurate description, but I felt it could have been a bit more straightforward with the types of paranormal occurrences you’ll encounter, like ghosts.

Resolution: I felt like the underlying mysterious quality of the plot got a bit lost toward the end, when Lydia and John’s romance came into full bloom and eclipsed some of the novel’s previous eeriness. The ending was not as dramatic as I would have liked, but still satisfying. 

The Good: The plot was rife with drama and intrigue from the first few pages. The paranormal touches in the novel were perfectly placed, satisfyingly creepy, and integral to the development of the plot. Just when you think you have it all straight in your head, the author throws another well-timed monkey wrench into the action. This book touches on all of the classic tropes that make so many classics successful: quarreling siblings, oblivious parents, family secrets, and forbidden love, to name a few. I identified well with Lydia and wasn’t ridiculously ahead of her in unweaving the web the author created, as I often am with other novels. I lived her heartbreak, her hope, her shock, and even more as though it were all my own, and I greatly enjoyed the ride.

The Not So Good: I knew there was some hush-hush secret that the Montroses were harboring, but…wow, I didn’t see one like that coming. Had I known just how twisted (and disturbingly true!) the rumors were, I’m not sure I would’ve signed up to read this one. But given how much I enjoyed the rest of the book, I’m glad I wasn’t fully enlightened beforehand, so I could give this book a chance.

I knew from the start that Catherine was trouble, but I didn’t know how right I was until she laid all of her secrets bare, rather smugly. The atrocities she commits, both before and after the novel starts, are beyond my understanding; however, they help her become the best foil character possible against Lydia. Something that struck me as odd was that we’re supposed to know Lydia is a witch, in spite of very few tell-tale displays of her power and no one actually proposing the idea (including Lydia herself) until the last third of the novel. The title of the book may include the word “witch”, but I found this novel lacking in the level of witchiness I expected.

Overall Impression: Despite a couple of disquieting plot points, this book served up surprise after heart-pounding surprise in a way that I’ve rarely seen outside of my college English courses. Overall, I’m quite impressed by not only Mrs. Fox’s quality of writing, but that this book was somehow not mainstream. 

Would I recommend it?
With only the slightest hesitation, due to some of the themes addressed, I most likely would. In fact, I already have! I see that Mrs. Fox has another book expected later this year, and I’m awaiting it with bated breath!
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An original tale that dives into the past  Complex, gorgeous prose tell a tale that is sure to ring with anyone that reads it.  Excellent world building.  Deeply rooted in history.  A must read!
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Note: I received a free ebook of The With of Willow Hall from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The synopsis for The Witch of Willow Hall reads as follows:

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821 

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

I enjoy historical fiction and witches and thanks to the synopsis, as well as some of the reviews I saw on Goodreads, I thought this book would be right up my alley. It sounded interesting and a touch creepy. 

And it was a bit creepy in a way. There were some surprising revelations about the characters and their interactions, especially between all three of the sisters, seemed very well written. The love between Lydia and Emeline was beautiful while Catherine and Lydia were always butting heads in a pretty believable way, with Catherine being so darn manipulative. 

But, for me, the Witch of Willow Hall didn't meet my expectations with the synopsis's mention of creeping menace and a dark history. Sure there were bad things that happened and some supernatural moments but I was expecting more a of a ghost story/horror vibe and this was not that. There was barely even any magic really.

So it ended up being an okay read but it just wasn't what I thought it would be.
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4.5 stars 
I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction. However, throw in the Salem Witch Trials & ghosts and I’m there!! 
I enjoyed every second of reading this book. I love Hester Fox’s writing. I was captivated. I cannot wait for more from this author.
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The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox is ultimately a romance and family drama much more so than about witches and ghosts. Either way, suspend disbelief, and the setup makes for a very quick, entertaining read. The fact that the back story of the scandal beginning the book is not explained and that the ending is the beginning of new relationships makes me wonder if other books are planned following the same characters. 

Read my complete review at 

Reviewed for NetGalley.
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There were many twists and turns in this book. I didn't totally buy into the ending, but other than that, it was an enjoyable read.
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I wasn't sure what to expect, but I enjoyed reading this. An interesting story with fun characters. Well written.
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This was a good read, not what I was expecting at first, but I found it to be overall satisfying. Would definitely recommend to my friends.
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The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox has us traveling to New Oldbury, Massachusetts in 1821.  After a scandal in Boston, the Montrose family departs for Willow Hall.  The family consists of Samuel and Martha Montrose and their three daughters:  Catherine, Lydia and Emeline.  Samuel has invested with John Barrett in a nearby cotton mill.  John was surprised that the family is living in Willow Hall full-time, but he refuses to express his concerns regarding the home.  Lydia is captivated by John from the moment they meet, but she has trouble expressing her interest (an introvert).  Catherine, with an outgoing personality, quickly latches onto the handsome man.  But John is not the only gentleman in the area who attracts the fickle Catherine.  As time passes at Willow Hall, unexplained things begin to happen.  Then Lydia receives a warning to prepare for what it is coming.  The Montrose family will be forever changed by the happenings at Willow Hall.  Lydia is the only one who can protect the family.  Will she be able to handle what is to come?

The Witch of Willow Hall is not what I expected.  I wanted a mysterious story with witches using their magic and ghosts creeping about the place.  Instead, it turned out to be more of a strange romance novel.  Catherine is a mean spirited and selfish woman who seems slightly off balance.  She does not care how her actions reflect on her family or what must be done to clean up her messes (of which there are many).  If her sister, Lydia has something, then Catherine will take it away.  As they grow up, it becomes suitors.  Catherine does not want Lydia to have any joy in her life and goes out of her way to make her miserable.  Lydia and John Barrett’s relationship was frustrating.  Lydia is awkward with him which leads to miscommunication, misunderstandings and outright rudeness. The unlikeable characters lacked development and the dialogue did not suit the era.    I enjoyed the authors descriptions that helped me to visualize the story.  However, the pacing was slow and then it becomes sluggish.  The story is vague in the beginning with details slowly being revealed (if you stick with it that long).  It all comes together in the end when disturbing information is revealed.  I did find the last quarter of The Witch of Willow Hall to be the best.  The story wraps up quickly at the end and some issues were left unresolved.  The Witch of Willow Hall had potential.  I wish the author had focused on the paranormal elements.  If they had been developed, it could have made for an intriguing tale. As you can tell, The Witch of Willow Hall was not a pleasant reading experience for me.
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What an interesting novel. there is an essence that surrounds this novel making it reminiscent of Joyce Carol Oats. It comes through the haunting aspect of the novel and the ease of which the story develops and grows, allowing the gothic nature of the film to grow. That’s the beauty of the novel, that it makes sure to focus on the characters while also having that gothic feeling lingering right on the fringes of the story. It never goes away, and that’s the eeriness of the story, that in Willow Hall, the paranormal creeps up on the reader, making them by surprise before returning to the shadows of the story. It’s a magnificent way to tell the story while also giving the characters a chance to develop as the narrative goes on.

The characters really get to shine and develop as the story went on. There’s scandal and tragedy that moves the story forward and the characters react in tandem with these events instead of just reacting to them afterward. Lydia is a very strong character as she works to understand the hauntings of Willow Hall as well as the mysteries that surround her. She matures throughout the story and even becomes a softer character in the sense where she learns to love herself and be at peace with the differences between her and her sister. Lydia finds inner peace, which is more than can be said for her sister. On that note, Catherine is a completely detestable character. She yields nor sympathy from the reader on any level, and that seems to be Fox’s intent, to create a character so self-involved that she is oblivious to the ghostly world around her. It works to create another layer of tension in the story, one that is more character driven than plot driven. It gives the story some dimension and a way to understand the characters

Overall the writing is solid. Fox writes the story with ease, allowing summation to have its proper place in capturing the passage of time. The story keeps moving forward. The story doesn’t lag and focuses on building up those very gothic moments with visually beautiful detail, making them as vivid and as haunting to the reader as they are for the characters. It’s an unexpected delight and quite a different route as far as gothic literature is concerned.
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Gothic, dark, family.  I really liked this book.  Would recommend to a friend.  Good character development.  Would read more by this author.
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