The Witch of Willow Hall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

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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I loved this book! It was beautifully written and I fell in love with the Montrose family even the spiteful Catherine. Lydia is the buy and some what reminds me of the Lydia from Beattlejuice. This book is full of scandalous affairs and heartbreaking secrets and ghost. I read it in one sitting. What else made this a great read was how the author draws you into the world. I felt like I was in 1821 listening to Mrs. Tidewell telling me all the juicy gossip and rumors and couldn’t get enough. This book is set to release in October and if I hadn’t received this as a ARC, I would have bought it in heartbeat so I could ready it in the fall with a nice cup of tea and the afterlife close around me. I will be buying this book to add to my collection.
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A pretty good story with characters that I didn't much care for for the most of the story. It's an interesting enough read.
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CREEEPILY GOOD.   A bit long in parts but definitely worth the read.    Scandal forces the Montrose family out of Boston and Lydia (main character and from whose viewpoint the book is written) must face the repercussions even though she is not the character who caused the scandal. 
Gothic and dark book at a time where there are not a lot of gothic dark books being written.  I liked the flow of it (even with the long parts).  Definitely worth a late night reading!
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I loved this story. It had a bit of otherworldly spookiness that I’m not usually into, but it was well done. The characters are deep and complicated, the story is not predictable and kept me on the edge of my seat. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel. I didn’t want to leave this world! (Or I’ll just have to reread it!)
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This book was not to my liking and I decided not to finish it. While I did find the story interesting, the actual execution left a lot to be desired.
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If I had known this book was written in first-person, present-tense, I would never even have picked it off the Amazon Vine. That POV just does not work for me as a reader, especially in historical novels set in the past. Your mileage may vary.
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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC! The Witch of Willow Hall is skillfully crafted - before you know it you are caught up in the story. I loved the slow reveal - telling around the events until you know what happened without making it the main part of the Lydia's story.  Some of the events were sad but made for a better more poignant story. There is a definite gothic feel to this story. It reminded me of how I felt reading the Philipa Carr and Victoria Holt (I know - same person) novels I devoured in high school. 

I look forward to seeing more from this author!
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Okay, I didn't know if I was going to like this book.  The first chapter deals with the murder of a cat.  And I have cats.  And it almost made me put the book down.  But once the "action" moved from Boston to Willow Hall, the book really picked up.  The ending was a bit trite, but I loved the way the characters histories wove together.  The sister was infuriating, but the main character was very interesting.  All in all, a great middle with lagging in the beginning and the end.
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I was enthralled by this book the moment I began reading it. The Gothic tone set a mood for me similar to that a book by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte can invoke; old fashioned in descriptions and language, and yet it was written so much more recently. I loved the sweet innocence of it; if it can be called sweet innocence, a book on witches and ghosts. And the authors name - Hester Fox? Fabulous name for an author writing about the supernatural.

Lydia is certain that the scandal her beautiful sister Catherine brought down on the family has ruined her chances for love and marriage, since her fiance unceremoniously and self-righteously broke off their engagement. The family moves in disgrace from their elite Boston home to the wilds of northern Massachusetts. From the beginning, Lydia notices strange things about the newly built home; moaning and crying, apparitions, and even her own mood  and that of her younger sister Emaline seems volatile. These strange events seem intensified by the heat of a heavy, oppressive summer.. Early into the novel she meets the compelling Mr. Barrett, although his odd behavior strikes a chord of wrongness in her. Many things go bump-in-the night, visits from a long dead relative, the mystery of Mr. Barrett's life, and Lydia's dawning of her own mysterious powers all lend to the mystical, magical quality of the book. I would recommend this to young adult readers, but also to adults who enjoy Gothic novels and romance.
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This was a lovely gothic romance (reminded me a bit of Jane Eyre). Interesting characters, believable love story. I had some quibbles with details (men without undershirts?) but overall found it to be a compelling book.

So why only three stars? Well, when I go to read a book called "The Witch of Willow Hall" I expect a fair amount of witchiness, you know what I mean? Quite frankly, this book fell down on that front (but really that front alone.) 

The witch thing was a huge factor in Lydia's life but I was surprised to see it was NOT really a huge factor in the overall narrative. In fact, save for a vague reference to a childhood misdeed and one "someone stamps foot and doors slam in response" moment early in the book, there wasn't ANY witchy action until the 50% mark in the book! Don't get me wrong, there is some GHOST stuff (which is cool and adds to the gothic flavor) but WITCH stuff? Nope. Not a lot. I found that monumentally disappointing. 

So, if you are a fan of historical romance, check this out. Fan of SUPERNATURAL romance? I'd keep looking.

Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This book is reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice but with a gothic parallel story line. I enjoyed it immensely. The characters were strong and polarizing. Taboo subjects are broached with sensitivity. It could have been a mishmash of genres thrown together, if the author had not crafted the storyline so well. I think it was well done.
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Lydia Montrose has moved to New Oldbury with her family to escape the scandal that her sister, Catherine, has caused. This move is supposed to bring the Montroses to a safe haven, and at times, it seems that this might be the case. However, Lydia begins to see and hear things that are not there. New Oldbury is not the save haven that is was supposed to be, and those small fractures in Lydia's family become wider and wider. Even Lydia finds herself changed by the atmosphere, finally coming to realize that she's been different all along. 

The Witch of Willow Hall was a thrillingly creepy read. There are ghosts and witchcraft and terrible family dynamics that grab the reader from the start. From the first chapter its clear that there is more to almost everything in the novel than initially meets the eye. The author does a superb job of creating a mysterious atmosphere from page one, not really letting the reader go until the end of the novel. To truly find out the truth behind Lydia, the sad past of where there new house sits, and a whole host of other little mysteries, its imperative that the reader continues to the end. The almost claustrophobic atmosphere is compelling and doesn't abate until the end of the novel. 

Fans of the atmospheric novels by Simone St. James won't want to miss this mysterious and ghostly read.
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“And Lydia,” she added before I could dart away back to the stable, “you must never show the world what it is that you have inside of you.” 

It is 1821, banished to ‘the edge of the world’, according to her sister Catherine anyway, the Montrose family find themselves living in the much more isolated Willow Hall, having had to flee Boston. A portrait of a doomed ancestor on the Hale side presides over the library, always watching, one of grim fate, that of a witch who was hanged. It seems that scandal seems to follow the women, and now thanks to Lydia’s eldest sister Caroline, they have had to give up life in society, no more parties, visits with friends and it all hits their mother hardest. Rumors destroyed them “We’ve only been here a day, but it already feels too full of ghosts of a happy family that might have been“, things will only get worse. Something sinister is lurking, and both Emmeline and Lydia will be caught up in its terror.

Little Emeline is dreamy, delights in exploring their new surroundings with images of mermaids playing in her mind. It may well be this childish fancy that endangers her. The romance isn’t all hummingbirds in the heart, Lydia isn’t as beautiful as her sister Catherine and her intended needed, for appearances sake, to be well rid of her and the stink of scandal. Maybe it wasn’t a great love, but it aches all the same that he abandoned her  when family could have used some support and broke things off, chosing the cowards way. Is love through with her? What is the story behind the mysterious Mr. John Barret, whose partnered up with their father? Are the rumors true, that ghosts and all matter of supernatural beings haunt their new home? Emeline believes so. After their chance meeting with Mr. Barrett, Catherine delights in having visitors, male ones to be exact. Lydia knows she is scheming, her beautiful sister is always up to something. Her improper sister seems bent on ruin.

Lydia’s peculiar nature is growing stronger, she is seeing things, messages in mirrors, a woman in the night, or is it simply a ‘figment of her imagination’? Whom dare she confide in  about the things that are happening to her? Everything is about to turn dark, and Lydia’s powers bind her to her dear sweet sister  Emeline in ways she never had imagined. Caroline has her own future happiness, survival to contend with and she will do everything she can to secure it. But at what cost?

Lydia’s family isn’t the only one whose past is clouded, there is more to Mr. Barret than meets the eyes. Not all menace comes from outside forces either. Her inheritance is an unusual one, an ancestor long dead may have answers, but her mother may have been keeping her in the dark. What are her reasons?

Without giving anything away, I found the story similar to gothic stories I used to read in the summertime, well-loved, battered copies from my grandmother’s bookshelves. I was always surprised that despite its lack of sex there was always some depravity within. The same holds true here, nothing was easy for women back in the day.  Easy to scoff at what was considered ‘ruinous’ in bygone days but reputation was serious, it was about more than just being snubbed. Any whiff of indiscretion and there goes your standing in society, your very livelihood too, business connections, even maids would leave you standing in the lurch. It didn’t make for sisterly affection when one sibling is self-involved at the risk of brining down her entire family. Imagine the deeds of other family members barring you from future success, or hope for a happy marriage? There is romance, but it isn’t the entire story. It is about protecting family, even to one’s own detriment. Supernatural forces come into play, wreaking havoc on a family that already has disturbances of its own making.

Secrets have a power of their own too, depending on who knows them. Will Lydia be strong, brave enough to embrace her abilities and salvage what she can from her family ruins? An enjoyable read that has haunts, family scandals, deaths, and a witch whose blood still flows in the veins of her descendant. This is will be out in October, the perfect month for all things otherworldy.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Harlequin

Graydon House
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