The Witch of Willow Hall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

If you like scandals, this book is for you!

Especially if it is taboo scandals from the 1800's. Well...it is taboo in this day and age as well.

First I fear I should warn you, it has a slow start to it. Or at least it did for me. But it is worth the push through to say the least. Lydia is easily relatable and you can't help but feel for her. Especially if you happen to have siblings even more so if it is sisters. Their relationships were spot on in my opinion, you either want to disown them and never want to speak with then again or you'll do whatever you must to protect them. 

This is very much a ghost story with a touch of romance and sibling rivalry. Oh and a jerk named Cyrus.
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The Witch of Willow Hall is a classic page turner. It is beautifully written, evocative, and well-paced, reminding me of my favorite Mary Stewart novels. In the titular witch, Hester Fox (whose name could not be more perfect for this sort of novel) has given us a very relatable heroine. The main characters are fully realized, multi-dimensional human beings with complex natures and motivations. The book deals with several controversial subjects, but Fox handles them with a delicate balance of horror and resignation. Her deft blending of the fantasy/paranormal elements and the real world makes this book a standout. This is a memorable book, not one I will read and forget. I am eager to read more of Fox’s work.

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, author of The Antiquities Hunter (Pegasus)
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It's been two centuries since the famed Salem Witch Trials took place, but that doesn't mean a Massachusetts woman can't still be accused of conjuring evil.  Lydia Montrose should know.  Although the 18-year-old is quiet and serious, there's a restless itch inside her that sometimes grows into more.  It's whispers of a scandal involving her older sister, however, that forces the family to flee Boston.  As they settle into Willow Hall—their country home in tiny, isolated New Oldburg—both Lydia and her younger sister, Emeline, feel happier, especially thanks to their association with handsome John Barrett.  While Lydia falls helplessly in love with the only man who's ever really noticed her, Caroline, the eldest, only grows more self-centered.    

Despite its idyllic setting, Willow Hall is a place acquainted with tragedy and sorrow.  It's not long before its quiet darkness seeps into the sisters' souls, taunting them with a power that will take its toll on the entire Montrose family.  As the dormant force that lies asleep inside Lydia slowly awakens, she will have to harness what she doesn't understand in order to save everyone and everything she's ever loved ... 

The Witch of Willow Hall, a debut novel by Hester Fox, has gotten a lot of buzz this year.  And deservedly so.  Its bewitching (See what I did there?) backdrop, compelling plot line, and shivery Gothic vibe combine to create a read that is engrossing and entertaining.  Lydia is a sympathetic heroine whose bravery and kindness make her an appealing character to follow.  Her relationship with her sisters feels authentic, true.  While this is a sad novel, it ends on a hopeful note which, combined with its other appealing aspects, makes The Witch of Willow Hall a very satisfying read.  I loved it.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and a little bit of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman)

Grade:  B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Witch of Willow Hall from the generous folks at Harlequin via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!
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I enjoyed this book; however, we don't have a strong historical fiction YA readership at our library so I won't likely order it for the collection.
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Thank you NetGalley for sending me this ARC an exchange for an honest review .

The Witch of Willow Hall fell completely flat for me. 
I expected so much more. With the title the ‘The Witch of Willow Hall’ I expected more witchy content. The entirety of the book Lydia doesn’t know she’s a witch and discovers fairly close to the end she is when her mother confirms it.

This was more of a ghost story than anything. Lydia has several contact with the dead throughout the story. We see a lot of feuds between Lydia and her sister, Catherine, as well. I couldn’t stand Catherine’s character. She was spiteful and a brat. It drove me crazy. 

And the romance… I’ve noticed a pattern with many historical fiction books, there is ALWAYS romance (at least the ones I’ve read). I believe this is a big reason why I steer away from historical fiction. In ‘ The Witch of Willow Hall’ the romance was your typical ‘two men fighting over the hand of one girl’ feud. I’m so bored with these “duals”, they are so common. 

Overall, this book was not a favorite. If you are looking for a paranormal, historical fiction, romance novel, this is your book. If you are looking for witchy, dark, gothic novel this isn’t your book.
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Summary: The Montrose family has moved to a small mill town to get away from the scandals of the big city. Lydia, who considers herself the less attractive of the sisters, suffers from the rumors that her more beautiful sister Catherine has brought upon the family. She feels she will never find someone who will love her and take her despite the rumors. When she meets a handsome and mysterious man, she wants desperately for him to love her, but knows that it is hopeless. On top of those problems, Lydia is realizing that she may be more powerful than she believes – there have been witches in the family…

My Thoughts: I loved it. The romance was adorable, and on top of that, there was drama that added a lot to the plot. Highly suggested to anyone that likes non-smutty paranormal romances.
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In 1821, the Montrose family is forced to move from the city to the country.  They move due to scandalous rumors concerning the oldest girl, Catherine.  What are the rumors?  Lydia, and her younger sister Emeline love living in the country while their oldest sister Catherine hates it.  Catherinemisses all the activities that she participated in.  However all three sisters enjoy the new business associate, John Barrett.  Lydia starts to fall in love with John but then Catherine takes an interest in John and starts to flirt with him.  Meanwhile Lydia is seeing things and hearing voices that try to get her to do bad things. Will she do bad things?  Lydia must decide who she is and what she wants.

The author has written a suspenseful novel.  There is a menace in the atmosphere of Willow Hall with gothic undertones.  Dark twists in the novel held my interest and attention while reading this novel.  There vivid details in the descriptions of Willow Hall.  The story is also about the sisters relationships with each other.  Catherine isn’t an easy sister to live with but her parents don’t discipline her and never have.  The book has a historical and suspernatural feel to it.  It is a suspenseful mystery.
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Dramatic and atmospheric--a perfect October read!

Lydia Montrose's life swirls with secrets--the one that has torn her family apart and caused a permanent move from Boston; the one that her older sister is hiding; the one that involves a childhood bully; and the one that she and generations of her ancestors share, even if Lydia herself hasn't acknowledged it yet. When the ominous setting of Willow Hall--a dark place with secrets of its own--brings all of these secrets together in a potentially disastrous way, Lydia may be the only person who can save what is left of her family. But is it too late for her to figure out what she is and gain control of her latent abilities?

I honestly couldn't stop reading until I found out for sure!

Blended perfectly with all of the supernatural and family drama is a delightful romance, making The Witch of Willow Hall a novel that also made me smile and blink back happy tears, keeping me hopeful of an HEA even when things looked their bleakest. 

This was such a strong debut novel--I can't wait to see what Ms. Fox has in store for us next!

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
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This is one that I wanted to love more than I did.

This was an atmospheric book, but it was more of a ghost story than a witchy read and I was looking for the witchy aspect. I almost wish the witchy aspect wasn’t included, especially since it doesn’t show up until the 70ish% mark.

That being said, I think if you know you’re not getting much of the Willow Hall Witch, you’ll find yourself enjoying this one, especially if you like historical fiction or period ghost stories.

The overall plot was pretty slow and character driven, but if you’re in the mood for it, it’s one that can be oddly hypnotic. This was also a pretty dark book. There was a surprising amount of death and violence in this book, especially for the bleak and melancholic tone this book had.

I think it just boils down to this one not being a book for me. That being said I did want to include one positive for the way witchcraft was portrayed in this book. While there are some parts that edge on the supernatural, there was also a lot of herb use and looking at the witches as healers.
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I was really excited for this book, I believe I read it around Halloween time when I was customizing my reading list for the month around witches, goblins, and ghouls. It was the perfect page turning fit. It was a great addition to the gothic romance section of my reading that I had badly neglected. I think this was a perfect break out book for the author and I can't wait to read more by her. This wasn't a spooky read, it was more creepy, which was perfect. I am a huge scaredy cat so anything to spooky tends to put me off but this one had just the right amount of creep to make it entertaining for my taste preferences.
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It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.
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→ What I Liked:

The Romance
I enjoyed the connection between the main character, Lydia, and her love interest. Their interactions were by far my favorite to read and the romance was really what kept me going through this. I really wanted to know how things came together (or didn’t) for the two of them.

The Readability
While it took some time to gain my interest, this took on an unputdownable quality for me. It really turned into quite the page turner and I read the entire second half of the book in one sitting.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Characters
Besides Lydia and, to some extent, her love interest, there wasn’t much depth among the characters. They all felt quite one-dimensional and were defined by one or two qualities that didn’t really change. I also hated the way the older sister Catherine was written -- she was a stereotypical catty teenage girl whose only purpose was to cause strife. I’ve been over characterizations like these for a while now.

The Lack of Subtlety
I was literally rolling my eyes at the beginning of this with how hard it was hitting me over the head with the witch stuff. There were plenty of “hints” about Lydia’s true nature, but they were so blatant that they may as well have been screaming off the page. It really drew from the story itself for me.

The Ending
There was so much stuffed into this ending that it felt very rushed to me. A lot of it just felt so very… convenient. And the focus was so much on the romance and so little on the witchcraft that I was left dissatisfied and with very many questions. I want a sequel to learn more about Lydia’s abilities and family history, but felt like the way this ended didn’t leave much room for that.

→ TL;DR:
~Romance was enjoyable
~Page-turner
~Side characters needed work
~Lots of eyerolls
~Ending was too rushed
~Would recommend, but think of this more as a YA romance with paranormal elements than a fantasy or horror with romance on the side
~Will pick up Hester Fox's next book
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This was a really well-written book, and I greatly enjoyed reading it. Gothic and fast-paced, it was a welcome read after a few disappointing reads.
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I can honestly say that this book surprised me. When I first started reading it, I felt somewhat bored and thought I wouldn't finish it. I am glad that I put it down and came back to it later in the day because once I started reading it again I couldn't put it down. The storyline flows ever so smoothly and the characters are beautiful though I must say that Catherine left a bad taste in my mouth. In reading this I was left with the desire to roam freely within Willow Hall and the grounds. I grew rather fond of Lydia and John and I hope that the author will continue their story.
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I picked up this book thinking I was in for a fun romance and a quick read. While it's a simply written book, it's far deeper than I expected. While there is romance, this is so much more. It's a lovely historical tale of women empowerment and the lengths a person would go to protect the people they love. It was just a little spooky which was nice (spookier would have been fine but it's just enough I can recommend it to my less brave friends). 
I really enjoyed this book. I will say that it has some slight issues but nothing that ruined the book.
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I got the ARC for this book back in September. In my earlier posts I had mentioned that I was suffering from a major slump in the summer and the entire month of September therefore, I never really grabbed it until very recently when I purchased the audiobook version of the book.

Let me tell you, it was perfect. This book was so atmospheric and haunting, it is the perfect read/listen for a fall/wintertime. I loved the subtle mentions of witch craft, the historical aspect that the book had and all the emotions. The narrator did an amazing job portraying the feelings of the characters. From Katherine’s despair all the way to Lydia’s pain of loss. I grinned and cringed and cried right alongside these characters.

The Witch of Willow Hall also had the charm and mystery of a small town with its dark secrets. I loved the history/story behind Willow Hall house and Lydia finally giving into her magic and learning of her ancestors.

There were a few characters that I wanted to punch the lights out of, but each of these characters got what they deserved and that satisfied me.

My only regret about this book is, the fact that I didn’t start it sooner. This would have been a perfect read for October with all its spooky ghosts and creepy history.

This was a 5 star read/listen for me. I totally recommend it to everyone who loves a good, subtle witchy book with elements of ghosts and secrets.
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I really tried to get into this book for months, but it just seemed like something was missing. I didn't much care for the "mysterious handsome suitor". I just wanted to read about a witch doing witchy things. 

I think I will re-try this book in the future, but for now I am giving it 3 stars because despite it not being my cup of tea, it was very well written.
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Honest truth, I went into this book expecting many spooks and scares, but instead The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox gave me all the feels. With a heroine stuck living an Austen life with a sibling determined to live her best Bronte, this was a very enjoyable historical fiction novel with bits of paranormal and hints of regency romance.

Three sisters and a terrible rumor or secret driving them out of society, breaking up engagements, and forcing a brother oversea — this is what we’re told from the start. The secret? It’s one that takes quite some time to get to and, by the time it comes around, it feels a little out of place or lackluster. There was no build-up to it and it seemed like it was merely an afterthought to move the family to Willow Hall and have it fit American Gothic conventions. That said, I did love the secret and the story! I think that must be why I felt disappointed by it. So much more could have been done with it, yet it ends up being simply there as a prop to instigate angst between Lydia and Darcy stand-in, John Barrett.

Apart from the angst-inducing secret, there isn’t much else to discuss about The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox. It’s a good historical American Gothic novel looking to channel Austen and Bronte. Don’t go into it expecting a good scare, and be prepared for regency style angst.

((links to be added once review goes live))
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Now, The Witch of Willow Hall is exactly what I wanted to read. Ms. Fox establishes the historical setting with the type of clarity that I love in historical fiction. Plus, there is plenty of mysterious, otherworldly happenings to satisfy my need to escape into fantasy. The story has a surprising dark side that may cause more than one reader to cast it aside for the ick factor, but there is also an unexpected sweetness to the story that more than made up for it. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this one and don’t regret it a minute.
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I liked this book a lot and I love mysteries/thrillers that also happen to be in the historical fiction genre.
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