Cover Image: The Witch of Willow Hall

The Witch of Willow Hall

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Member Reviews

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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Initially, I was shocked to find that this book is author Hester Fox’s debut novel.  Beautifully developed, the story line had the perfect blend of suspense and romance.  There were a few awkward sentences that made me double-read, and I hope those are caught by the editing process before its October release.  Fans of Gothic romance will devour this book!  Willow Hall reminded me a little bit of Manderley, and Catherine’s dark character seems like a nod to Wuthering Heights.

There aren’t enough words for me to say how much I love John Barrett.  He was like all the best parts of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley.  Jane Austen fans who crave a bit of supernatural kick in a story — do yourself a favor and read this!  It’s like Downton Abbey, ghost story style.

I hope this is the first of a series.  It would be such a tragedy if we didn’t hear more about Mary Preston’s history.  Even more, I want to know what happens with Lydia!  The ghostly elements of the story were very mild, not scary in the least, and I would love to see even more in future books.  If you can’t tell, I’m very much looking forward to more from Hester Fox!
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Great story. Couldn’t put it down. Great character development. Definitely recommend. I would suggest maybe changing the cover.
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Well written gothic mystery. Atmospheric. Perfect for fans of St. James or classic gothic fiction like Holt. Easy hand sell, especially come fall.
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This book was around 3-4 stars for me. It's an interesting mesh of a gothic ghost story with a witch aspect and a romance. It doesn't really take it as far as I would like though. There are occasional moments of creepiness and a dark history that have a lot of potential but never get fully fleshed out. The second half of the book becomes predictable with the characters too stereotypical, but I'll be interested to see what the author comes out with in the future.
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This is a beautifully written book, I truly enjoyed the writing. It’s old and slow but wonderful.

This is a story about family, loss, grief and witches. 
It takes place in a newly built home but on land where some tragic things have happened and some spirits still reside. Lydia is a wonderful character and I really enjoyed reading from her. After moving to Willow Hall from Boston, running from a horrible rumor about their family and her father investing in mills they are trying to start over. Her older sister Catherine is jealous and mean. She does anything she can to take Lydia’s happiness and has some dark secrets of her own. Emmaline is the baby and she’s wild, fun spirited and loveable. I adored her and my heart broke during parts of this book. This is a slow burning haunting story about finding out who you are and becoming who you’re meant to be. 

During the middle it was a little too slow for me but I was invested in Lydia’s story and the family. I wanted to see her get her happy ending. A very good read.
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This took a bit to get into, but I am glad to have stuck with it. It was not slow, I realized, just atmospheric. This is a book for a cold and dark winter's night.
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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, 

The Witch of Willow Hall is a little confusing in all the genres it tries to be- a ghost story? A romance? Historical fiction? A little bit of witchcraft? Definitely not sisterly love, that’s for sure.. 

The Witch of Willow Hall is the story of Lydia Montrose, middle daughter of an upper class Boston family who has to flee from the city to the country in 1821 after some scandalous rumors emerge about her older sister, Catherine. Lydia, who has always had unexplainable events occur around her, feels even more uneasy in her new home when she starts seeing dead people everywhere. 

The ghosts were my favorite part. With Hester Fox’s beautiful imagery and creepy settings there were scenes that left me with goose bumps. I wish there had been more of it, and more involving the witchcraft (which isn’t really explained until the last 20%). Instead, most of the story centers around Catherine’s drama and an eventual love triangle. 

Catherine bored me. Her villainy was predictable and disappointing. Lydia’s character in comparison is weak and wishy washy. It is Catherine, of course, who sets the lovers up for their main foil- a misunderstanding which could be easily resolved with being honest and upfront with each other. So frustrating, how about more witchy magic? That would have made more exciting drama. There was so much potential for this book that even though I enjoyed it I still feel disappointed.
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When rumors force a wealthy Boston family to flee the city to the country side with their three daughters, life takes a turn in so many ways. Not only does the middle daughter, Lydia, see her sisters  for who they really are to her, she finds out exactly who she is and comes into her own.

From the start, the author had my attention and I was fully immersed in the story.  Historical fiction with a side of romance and major helping of creepiness, this debut novel hits the mark!
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The Montrose sisters, Lydia, the shy one,  Charlotte, the beautiful, strong willed and Emeline, the baby who Lydia loves so much. . Their father is rich and invests in a mill  and their mother is somewhat frail. While looking for their dog,  Lydia meets John Barrett , a very handsome man who is partners with their farther. The Montrose family had to move from Boston to a different house due to a scandal no one will talk about.  What is the scandal? Will it soon be forgotten so they can go back to Boston? The book is full of deception, hate, pain, anger and so much heartache. Everyone has a secret. It seems that each secret is more disgraceful that the next. The Witch of Willow Hall is a book that I am so happy to be able to read. It's that good.  I received this book from Net Galley for an honest review and no compensation otherwise.
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From the bustling society of Boston, the Montrose daughters find themselves hurried off into the country and the quiet confines of their new home, Willow Hall.  Vain, self-centered, selfish Catherine. Quiet, kind Lydia and spoiled, sweet little Emeline.  Lydia, ever the peace keeper, tries to keep everyone content and thankful for their lovely new home.  Is she happy?  She thought she was, at least content, until disaster befalls them all.  Will Lydia be the one to once again bring peace to her family?  She just isn’t sure if she has the strength to make this happen or the power.  

Fox delivers a highly entertaining and tantalizing story in the Witch of Willow Hall.  Her novel begins with the underlying story of family in disgrace and a family with dark secrets.  There is hidden history that has been kept from those who need to hear it.  Though you might figure it out yourself, it doesn’t matter.  Fox keeps the story hooked into you with plight of sweet Lydia and her efforts to extract herself from the toxic influence of Catherine and become her own person.  The hints of the supernatural are subtle and slowly take their place within the storyline.  Older teens who enjoy escaping into a book will gladly crawl into Lydia’s world.  This is one of those novels that sneaks up on you, grabs you and immerses you within the pages so that you have difficulty just putting it down to get a snack.  Pick it up and enjoy the immersion.
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What a story! It absolutely captivated me — as soon as I started, I had to keep going to find out how the tale would unspool. This is an excellent gothic romance, deliciously dark, full of secrets, shame, and the supernatural.
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In 1821, Lydia’s family is forced to leave Boston and moves to New Oldbury. The introduction of the story is interesting, but once in New Oldbury, when Lydia meets her father’s young partner, the story turns into a romance. When dog goes missing, the search for him takes a few pages. Why they left Boston? It slowly builds up to be revealed, which is a good hook. But at some parts, the story is too drawn-out, not much happening. I gave up after 20% of the book.
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The ULTIMATE  page turner!

I typically don't read such dark novels, and I always hesitate when reading a new author's first published book, but the fact that the main character had a great aunt that was killed during the Salem Witch Trials, and I do too, I picked it up. 

Set in the 1800s of Boston, Lydia and her family have fled to the country side amidst a family scandal. She soon discovers that she too, is a witch and is struggling to come to terms with it while trying to learn more about it. As her relationships with her family start to crumble, she starts to realize how strong her feelings for her father's business partner are and then must deal with her sister's scheming ways. 

I can't convey enough how well or how captivating this book was to me. I never would have guessed that this was Hester Fox's debut novel and I cannot wait for another one! Not gonna lie, I'd love to see a Hale Women series and watch them evolve each generation. We'd get to catch up with the others and see what new troubles their powers cause as the times change around them.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2413141180
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