The Witch of Willow Hall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Wow - what a story! The main character is likable, but all the characters get the time to be fully developed. It pulls you in from the beginning, has twists and turns that you don't see coming, and manages a romance without losing it's creepy vibe.
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This was a delightfully creepy read - a perfect book for anyone that likes a bit of mystery, a little romance and a dash of the supernatural.  From beginning to the end there are so many twists and turns - some that you'll see coming, some that will come out of nowhere.  

Lydia is the middle of three sisters and after a scandal she must break off her engagement as the family flees from Boston to the country home that her father had recently purchased near New Oldbury.  Once there things begin happening that can't be explained and there's a new neighbor that has Lydia's interest but she can't figure out if it's herself or her sister that he's keen on seeing. 

Overall this book was a great read and very enjoyable.
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A spooky, atmospheric read as a family reeling from scandal finds themselves at a country retreat that is haunted by echoes of the past. Creepy and compelling.
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Posted to Goodreads: The Montrose sisters Catherine, Lydia and Emeline have been moved from Boston to a small town to get away from scandal.  However, not everything is normal at Willow Hall where there may be supernatural forces at work.

I got this book at BEA and I expected a supernatural romance but instead I got a family drama book with just a little bit of a supernatural aspect.  The book was fine but I think I would have liked it way better if I knew what to expect when I began reading it.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Hey book slayers!

It’s been a while since I have had the chance to write a review, I’ve read some great books and just didn’t sit down to blog about them, and I really need to start setting time aside for this, because I truly do love sharing my opinions on these great books I read.  This time, I was sent another ARC through NetGalley in the form of The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox in exchange for an honest review.  The book was released at the beginning of October, and you should definitely go to your local bookstore and pick it up, it’s definitely BookishWiccan approved!

My Rating: 4.5 / 5

First, let me say, there will be spoilers. SO, if you don’t want the book ruined for you before you read it, close this post, NOW. If you keep reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Now, let’s dive on in to the review.

Honestly, I was expecting something completely different when I picked this book up. I am not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t what I read, and I think I am more thankful for that than not. I wasn’t expecting to love this book so much; to connect and develop such a love for these characters.  Between Lydia, and Emeline, as well as Catherine, John, Ada, and all the others, I truly felt like I was a fly on the wall of the early 1800’s Boston family.

To start, this book is based in the 1820s, starting in Boston, Mass., with a little story pre-cursor in 1811, giving you a slight insight into the background of the story and why it begins as it does.

When the book begins, we are greeted by Catherine, Lydia, Emeline, and their mother, as they travel from Boston to New Oldbury (what a town name!), after the family has been shunned from the Boston social society – but more on that later.  Catherine is complaining of having to be so far away from the place she called home, and moving to “the edge of the world”, Lydia is drowning in her own thoughts, and Emeline just cannot wait to get out of the carriage and explore her new surroundings, while their mother is just trying to hold things together. The Montrose ladies are traveling to meet their father/husband at the new home he had built – intended originally to be a summer home, turned into their new permanent residence. What they don’t know, is the history of this massive estate, and what it will mean for their family. But more on that in a bit…

The Montrose girls are learning to adjust in a new, very small town, and it’s quite the change from the hustle and bustle of Boston. Their father had moved them to what was supposed to be their new summer home in New Oldbury, and they took up permanent residence.  Father was in the milling business and there was great prospect for new mills and a chance to make great money. Seeing as the rumors about the Montrose girls continued to swirl around Boston, the family decided it would be best to uproot and move to a new home, away from judging eyes. New Oldbury doesn’t have the same feel to Catherine and Lydia, both young women in their late teens/early twenties. It’s missing the shops and the social aspects, despite being an elaborate home, the city wasn’t necessarily what the girls pictured, and they are trying to figure out how to best live their new lives.

Willow Hall, nestled on the outskirts of New Oldbury, in the midst of a forest full of secrets, has been home to many tragedies, and the Montrose girls slowly learn of the mishappenings on their new property from their father’s business partner they have a chance encounter with. One day while Catherine, Lydia and Emeline are exploring their new surroundings, Emeline’s dog, Snip, gets away from her and runs off. A storm begins, and Lydia takes it as her duty to return her younger sisters best friend, and off she runs through the forest to find the dog. It is on this walk where Lydia first meets Mr. John Barrett, her father’s business partner.  Over the course of the next few weeks, Lydia learns that Mr. Barrett is actually not only her fathers business partner, but he owns half of the land their property sits on, and just out of view, deep in the forest, is where Mr. Barrett calls home.

Now, Willow Hall is known to locals as a haunted place, and after the tragedy that happened in the home prior to the Montrose family purchasing, the hauntings of Willow Hall became stronger once the Montrose family moved in.  The first hints of witchcraft and the supernatural were those of voices and ghost sightings, a message in a fogged mirror, all chalked up to being coincidences, or family members trying to frighten others.  As time goes by, more and more supernatural happenings take place at Willow Hall, and eventually, the worst imaginable, a death.

This book had so much to offer, from a strained relationship between siblings, a father absent to his children, and falling in love with a handsome stranger – to death and heartbreak, joy and self discovery. It offered beginnings of life and ends of life, dreams dreamt, dreams crushed, and dreams achieved. The journey Lydia (our main character) takes from the beginning of this book through to the end is one that drew me in completely. I wanted to know what was going to happen to her, and what she would choose to do. She is loyal to a fault to her family; and I frantically flipped through the pages wondering what decision she would make next.

The curveballs this book threw at you were amazing, and for the most part, quite unexpected. It took a long time for the mention of witchcraft to surface, but, the subtle hints at it throughout the book definitely add to its ambiance. The way Hester Fox created such an atmosphere I could lose myself in was something that I have had a hard time finding in many of the books I’ve read recently. It was refreshing, and not something I normally find myself reading (historical fiction), but the added supernatural elements drew me in.

There were parts of this book that moved me to tears, whether it has to do with touching on my own personal past experiences, or just becoming to attached to the characters that my heart literally breaks when theirs does. I cried tears of happiness, tears of sadness, and even tears of anger. Whatever it was, I am so thankful Hester Fox resonated such feelings in me, this book was a welcome change from the major fantasy books I have been reading (though that will always be my favourite genre!).

I had so much more I wanted to add to this review, but, I decided to try to take a bunch of the spoilers I had written out, because I truly believe you should read this book to get its full effect. It was well written and very enticing, and definitely something I will read again.

Creep it real, witches.

Stay spooky, and stay wild, moonchild.

Happy Reading!

Love,
 J.
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Written by Hester Fox, this novel follows Lydia Montrose, the middle daughter of a wealthy family that has fled Boston on the heels of a devastating rumor about there family involving the eldest son whom we never meet.

Now. Where to begin. I was enthralled with this novel. Sometimes, okay often, when you read a lot of novels you do get into a slump, especially when you are trying to read as many new novels as possible. Willow Hall broke my slump.

Set in the 1800’s upper class, this novel does have a very British feel to it, with an American twist. The characters here all have depth and you do understand them, even if it takes some time.

The most interesting thing about this novel is that I didn’t see everything happening from the beginning. Oh, I could predict a bit (hello love interest), but I didn’t see how everything would twine together. 


Another great thing with this book, and the reason I will be recommending it to one of my book clubs, is the fact that there is no time jumping. The backstory you learn from juxtaposition or from learning rumors in town. Okay, I made that sound a bit too much like a video game, but the characters interact with one another and that is how you learn the history.

AND THE WRITING, oh, so refreshing. It just flows. I did have an ARC, so there were a few minor mistakes, but it was just so well written. There were no accents to make things confusing, they didn’t dwell too much on the surroundings except where they used it to lend to what you should have been feeling.

There were happy moments, devastating moments, misunderstandings, and just a hint of magic. If you enjoy sweet love stories, mysteries, historical fiction with a touch of fantasy, I think you will love this novel. And, honestly, I think everyone should give it a shot. The author just did such a good job.
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This book is nice and unsettling! It's like Pride and Prejudice, but with more illicit goings-on - and witches! It's not exactly what one would call a happy book all the way along, but it's nice: as a reader, you don't know what to be more suspicious of. The house with all of its strange noises and movements, the youngest child's imaginary friend, the spiteful sister, or the mysterious and handsome neighbor. The book appropriately catches creepy vibes, all while adding a good old-fashioned romance.
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THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL is a wonderful throwback to those beloved vintage gothic romances. Set in 1821, the story follows the Montrose family as a scandal in Boston sends them retreating to the small town of New Oldbury. Their fresh start in the country is anything but peaceful, as a malevolent force seems to be plaguing their home, Willow Hall. Will middle daughter Lydia's inheritance of a powerful family legacy be able to save them? WILLOW HALL was an enjoyable witchy read and an impressive debut from Hester Fox. Just the right about of spooky goodness and sweet romance.
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I enjoyed this book for the story that it was, but it definitely wasn't what I was expecting. Based on the blurb I was expecting there to be a lot more about witchcraft and magic. Instead, this story turned into a big love story mixed with family drama, which I wasn't expecting.  A lot of the book focuses on what I described to my wife as Lydia being bipolar - one second she is in love with a man and certain he loves her too and in the same breath becomes certain he hates her. Lydia and Catherine can't see past their differences long enough to move the story along. I was 80% of the way through the book before I realized why it was the WITCH of Willow Hall. It took that long before the family's legacy was explained. It seemed like the first 80% was just a bunch of backstory set up for the last 20% of the novel. I enjoyed learning the history of the house and it's ghosts, as well as descriptions of them rotting away and all the terrible deaths, however I found it very much lacking on magic and witchcraft, leaving behind a more empty romance which while I read, I stayed with it mostly hoping it would eventually become what I was expecting.
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This one didn't work for me. The premise sounded really interesting - witches, historical fiction, mystery - but unfortunately it didn't deliver.
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As a thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced readers copy. I shall give an honest review of this novel.  The novel begins with the Montrose family leaving Boston and moving to their country home. Unknowingly this estate has historical significance to their family and as the novel progresses becomes apparent. The family has experienced financial difficulties, so the appeal of Willow Hall is rather low. The highlight of this location must be its atmospheric setting and near by pond. There were moments that had me shook, and others that were expectant. The novels protagonist Lydia is the middle child of three sisters (Catherine, Lydia and Emeline). Their mother is reclusive, and their father has more presence in the storyline than their mother. The novels pace was an issue for me for about thirty percent in I could not sense what the author was trying to say. However around 40 percent was its efforts succeeding and one I could not put down. The notion of Witches is mentioned in this book but is not its primary focus. The novels strength lies in its ability to focus on the inner workings of the character and gives attention to what lies beneath ex. motive. The ability to focus on what was plausible compared to the supernatural events occurring made the novel enjoyable for me. I admit I would have enjoyed having the character know her history and identity as a witch earlier, but I can understand how the magical elements of the novel were not its focus but mainly a device to accent the characters strengths. Through identifying the character as a witch made her stand apart from the others and showed her inner strength or power. This inner power is expressed towards the novels end but is too late and not deserving. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and was entertained by this story. I recommend this novel for those who enjoy elements of fantasy and suspense. Also to those who enjoy historical fiction. I give this novel three out of five stars.
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This book was a little slow but had a satisfying ending. Lydia, the granddaughter of witches, slowly learns about her heritage as a series of tragedies strike her and her family. She struggles with trying to right the wrongs herself, only to find out that she needs to see to her own happiness before things will turn out right.
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The Witch of Willow Hall is Hester Fox’s debut novel. Its tagline drew me in: "Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there's still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn't even know it.”  

Three sisters (Catherine the eldest, Lydia the protagonist, and Emmeline the youngest) move with their parents from Boston to the cozy little town of New Olbury. Catherine was involved in a scandal that remains unspoken within the family and a mystery to the reader for many pages. Catherine is charming and beautiful; Lydia plain and studious; and Emmeline a spoiled child born in the mother’s later years. Of the two bachelors in the town, Catherine sets her hat at both. Lydia is attracted to one of the young men, John Barrett, her father's business partner in a chain of textile mills, while she is being pursued by Cyrus the cad who broke their engagement because of the aforementioned scandal.

Their newly-built house and the surrounding land houses secrets. Lydia sees ghosts and hears voices. There are witchly and ghostly happenings, and the sense of foreboding, impending doom, and Gothic horror are skillfully maintained by Ms. Fox throughout. There are some anachronisms that break the historical tone. This is less a Gothic horror novel than a slow burn 1820s romance which is fine, if like me, you’re really not into horror.
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This book was everything I didn't know I needed. It was dark, romantic, and completely enthralling. This was the perfect fall read!
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Title:   The Witch of Willow Hall
Author:   Hester Fox
Genre:   Fiction, paranormal, mystery
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

The Montrose family left Boston to escape the rumors claiming a family scandal. Now ensconced in their new country home, Willow Hall, middle daughter Lydia wants nothing more than peace and quiet, to take care of her younger sister Emeline, and no more family scandals.

At first, things at Willow Hall are peaceful. Emeline cares only about looking for mermaids in the pond, and Catherine can’t seem to make up her mind if she’ll pursue their father’s new partner, John, or his best friend. Reading sounds much better to Lydia, at least at first.

But soon Lydia hears a woman wailing in the night and sees a pale boy in the gardens. The oppressive air around Willow Hall closes in around the family, and darkness hovers, along with memories from Lydia’s childhood. Lydia will have to discover the truth about Willow Hall—and herself—to grasp peace.

This novel is almost Gothic, almost a romance, and all spellbinding. Lydia was a wonderful character. I loved her from the beginning. She cares so much about her family—even the horrible ones—and does her best to save them from themselves. She’s dutiful, but she’s not blind to the faults around her. I’d actually love to read more about her. The Gothic feel of this novel is well-done, without being overpowering or too creepy. Catherine was such an inconsistent character. Sometimes, I almost liked her. The rest of the time, not at all. A very enjoyable book that I read straight through!

Hester Fox is an artist and author. The Witch of Willow Hall is her first novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
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My Thoughts...



The Witch of Willow Hall gave me some of the same feelings as Night Circus and The Winter Witch.  This is a story of discovery as well as a story of family.



I loved Lydia, but she frustrated me on several occasions.  Without using spoilers, suffice it to say that Lydia falls into the writing trap of problems only being problems because people don’t talk to each other.  This is a pet peeve of mine.  I do not like books whose plots depend on misunderstandings. 



Also, there is a point at which I was literally yelling at Lydia to not be so stupid.  When you know your sister is an evil hag who has vowed to ruin your life, why, oh, why would you take her word for anything?  In fact, at this point, I’m thinking you should assume Catherine is playing a perpetual game of opposite day.  Whatever she says, the opposite is true.  Words to live by.



Beyond those things, though, Lydia is a caring and lovely young lady who is dealing with extraordinary circumstances.  Her life is turned upside down by others decisions and she is trying to lie as well as possible.



I wish the plot had developed faster, and this book could have been edited more, but this is a good paranormal historical fiction read.  I really did enjoy it.
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My kind of creepy...The Witch of Willow Hall had intrigue, mystery, atmosphere and a witch, of course. Loved the world building; the time period, the ghostly occurrences, the house...every spooky detail. I will be looking for more by Hester Fox!
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A solid debut novel, and an author from whom I expect more great titles in the future. This intriguing gothic novel is rife with suspense and interesting family dynamics in 1800's Massachusetts. I believe that I would have given the novel 5 stars if not for the presence of one of the sisters as a narrator- in my opinion, the story could have benefited from being presented in a more direct way.
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I really enjoyed the atmosphere, concept, and execution of this title. I think the language got bogged own a bit at times, and the author needed to get out of her own way to let the story come through a little bit more clearly. Overall, however, I found it an engaging read and would recommend the author. I don't think it's a title that would necessarily do well in my library, but I found it enjoyable.
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When I was a teenager I was obsessed with reading gothic romance.  I devoured every Victoria Holt (Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr were her other pen names), Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart book I could get my hands on.  I also read Anne Rice.  And Dracula by Bram Stoker was my favorite classic that I read at the time.  As an adult I read Susanna Kearsley and any other gothic romance I can get my hands on.  Up until now, none of them have come close to being as mysterious, creepy, haunting and romantic as those I read as a teenager.  Hester Fox’s debut book, The Witch of Willow Hall is everything I love about gothic romances.  

The year is 1821.  Lydia Montrose and her family have recently moved to New Oldbury from Boston after a scandal caused by her older sister, Catherine.  Their house, Willow Hall, is large and opposing at it sits on the hill.  Lydia has a hard time sleeping in the house.  Who is the woman in the garden she sees out the window late one night?   Emeline, the youngest sister, is captivated with the pond and the young boy she meets there.  And Catherine is on the hunt for a husband so that she can avoid more scandal.  Her situation will soon no longer be a secret.   Mr. Barret, their father’s business partner, has become an interest to both Lydia and Catherine.  
 
What was the scandal that caused them to move to New Oldbury?  Why does Lydia feel uncomfortable in the house?  Will Catherine find a husband?   

There is mystery, tragedy and romance.  A great read for a stormy, cold afternoon by the fire (maybe not so much late at night).
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