The Witch of Willow Hall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

The Witch at Willow Hall by Hester Fox is a wonderful surprise. Fox creates a suspenseful atmospheric story that weaves family drama, romance and the supernatural together.  The end result is an elegant novel that goes beyond being just about witches and ghosts.
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Set in Massachusetts 200 years after the Salem Witch trials, this book is set in a haunted house, Willow Hall.  The Montrose family moves there after being chased out of Boston by a scandal.  Not only is the house haunted, but one of the girls discovers that she is a witch and attracts the ghosts who live there.  Part gothic mystery, part witch story, this is an interesting story of the family who lives there. And the girl who comes to terms with her powers with help from her ancestors.
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*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. A huge thanks to the publisher and Barclay Publicity!*

When I first found out about this book I was instantly intrigued.  The synopsis drew me in, and I just knew that this would be a book I would enjoy. The book’s description may be what caught my eye, but once I started reading, everything else about this book kept me hooked to the pages!

By the time I was just a few pages into The Witch of Willow Hall, I could already tell I was going to adore this book.  It was just one of those novels that had so much atmosphere. This such a perfect book to read so close to Halloween. It was filled with just the right amount of spookiness and mystery!

I absolutely loved the setting, too. I love reading about the 1800s anyway, but with the gothic atmosphere, I loved it even more!

The characters in this novel were so well done, too. I adored Lydia so much! She was such an authentic and relatable character. I loved the romance, too. It was perfectly paced and I really felt the characters’ connection.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Witch if Willow Hall! It was very well-written, so atmospheric, and filled with so many twists and turns. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and is looking for a mysterious and intriguing read!
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I feel like this book is like at three and half star rating for me only because it was more of a romance than what I expected it be, a tale about a witch. The story has some scary stuff, like ghosts and our main character does some supernatural things, for which she has no explanation because she doesn't know she is a witch. I liked it overall and had I been expecting it to be more of a romantic story then it would be a strong four rating!
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What a great, atmospheric fall read! The Witch of Willow Hall really gave me all of the great gothic-style autumnal vibes I didn’t even realize I needed! Historical fiction with a bit of the supernatural thrown in; this book featured witches, ghosts, mystery, and a bit of good romance. 

The story centers around Lydia Montrose, the middle sister of the Montrose family, as she and her family have moved out to the country manor of Willow Hall escaping scandalous gossip in Boston surrounding her sister Catherine. No spoilers of course, but when you find out what the subject of the scandal is, it is indeed scandalous! Their new home is a sleepy estate on the edges of New Oldbury, a much smaller town than Boston. While most of the family is bored by the country life, Lydia feels a subtle menace about Willow Hall that she can’t quite put her finger on. As the daughters become further entwined in the house and its history, tragic events from both their past and the present emerge which could put the entire family in danger. Lydia must utilize talents she didn’t realize that she even possessed in order to protect her family and ultimately, herself. 

I ended up really being drawn to the character of Lydia and her remarkable strength in dealing with a family that is at best indifferent to their danger, and at worst, blatantly ignoring their issues. Lydia shows herself again and again to have a strong enough will to deal with her obstinate and selfish sister, while also trying to protect her family at all costs. It doesn’t hurt that deep down Lydia just wants to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, like reading her novels and working in her herb garden, definitely striking some good points in my book! The relationship between Lydia and her family, especially her sister Catherine, is never truly good, yet she tries so hard to do right by them and maintain their confidence. All of these familial responsibilities are only compounded by the fact that now that Lydia is at Willow Hall, it seems she’s begun to see ghosts. And on top of all of that, she can’t seem to stop thinking about her father’s new business partner, Mr. Barrett.  

I’m not usually one for a lot of romance in my books, but the blossoming romance between Mr. Barrett and Lydia was done really well in this story and had me rooting for them through til the end. There were elements of this story that definitely evoked a regency romance feel for me, which I really ended up enjoying. 

Overall, I loved this beautiful little Gothic romance story that takes a strong look at the lengths we are willing to go to for family. It’s the perfect read for someone who wants to get in the fall mood, but doesn’t want to be spooked by too much horror.
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A deliciously dark and spooky witch tale set in New England. The period details are delightful and the writing does its best to emulate the Gothic tales that Lydia, the protagonist, so loves.
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I picked up this book from NetGalley based on a promotional line comparing it to a spooky Jane Austen novel set in the U.S. Well, as we know, about 95% of the time, any comparison to Jane Austen will both A.) lead to me reading the book and B.) leave me massively disappointed. While I’ve definitely read books that fared worse (for one, for all I can tell the only reason this comparison was made was because of the time period and the “manners romance” aspect of it…which, just stop it. It’s a historical romance. There are plenty of those, and they don’t all need to be compared to Austen), this book was a disappointment to me. Maybe not a massive disappointment, but a disappointment all the same.

Lydia, the middle daughter, has always known there is something strange about herself, ever since she mildly blacked out as a child when fighting with a local bully and re-awakened to find him beaten on the street. But at this point, any concerns about scandal she may bring to the family pale in comparison to the mess that her sister, Catherine, has gotten them into. Fleeing to the country, the family now find themselves closed up in a mysterious house with many strange rumors surrounding it. But on the positive side, they have quite a charming neighbor, a gentleman named John.

There were a few strong points of this book that I want to start by highlighting. For one, I’m always going to love a good historical setting. While there were a few anachronisms here and there, nothing was too extreme to really throw me out of the book in any meaningful way. Instead, I still enjoyed the general rhythm of language, emphasis on social callings, and historical setting that were employed. As long as an author doesn’t greatly mess these basic features up, they’re always going to come away with at least a partial win under their belt as far as I’m concerned.

Secondly, as readers of this blog know, Kate is the horror fan. While I’ll read the heck out of dark fantasy novel any day of the week, I tend to steer clear of straight-up horror. And this is probably one of the closest reads to that genre that I’ve wandered into for a while. Don’t get me wrong, horror fans will likely be underwhelmed by this book, since, let’s be real, this is definitely a historical romance at its heart. But I will say that there were elements of the story that legitimately creeped me out. It didn’t help that I was reading this book the one night my husband was out of town. But I think either way, there would have been some shivers.

The other positive note is that, alongside with these legitimately creepy scenes, the book didn’t shy away from going to some pretty grim places with the story. It starts out with a pretty rough scene dealing with animal cruelty and then continues in a story that insists that even main characters aren’t safe from harsh consequences. There was one scene in particular that was lead up to and the entire time I was partially rolling my eyes, expecting the author to pull back at the last minute. Instead, she went full throttle into it and I was honestly surprised and (in a very grim sort of way) pleased that she committed to this particularly story thread.

But, even with these positives in its favor, I still greatly struggled with the story. For one thing, there were a few twists that I found entirely predictable and the story took way too long to finally come out with the “mysterious” truth. And then when this secret does land, it didn’t really seem to have much of an impact. Not only did I already suspects this particular twist, but the revelation doesn’t greatly change the situation. The family is still disgraced; the mystery behind why doesn’t have much impact on the reality of that situation.

I also didn’t particularly enjoy Catherine as a character. As the focal point of said “twisty” family rumor, there was a lot of room to do something interesting with her arc. Instead, she is written as pretty much an awful person with no redeeming qualities. There are a few moments where I thought we would see some growth or some expanded depth of character revealed, but then in only a few short pages, she goes right back to just being plain terrible with very little else in the way of character development to support her. And with this being a fact of her character, many of Lydia’s own struggles are automatically undercut. I couldn’t sympathize with her indecision or naivete when everything that the reader has seen (and we’re only exposed to Catherine for a period of a few short months, when presumably Lydia has a lifetime of experience) would point to a relationship that has been not worth fighting for for quite a while. There were a few moments towards the last third, in particular, where Lydia’s choices are so incredibly stupid that I had to actually put the book down and take a deep breath before continuing.

This same problem, Lydia’s bizarre choices and fixations, lead to my not particularly enjoying the romance at the center of this story. And this is where the Austen comparisons are coming into play, as there is a lot of miscommunication and confusion at the heart of this romance to draw out the moment of happiness until the end. But the thing is, Austen created legitimate stumbling blocks and points of misdirection in her romances. We get why Elizabeth misunderstood Darcy. We understand why Emma didn’t recognize her feelings for Knightly. But here, we have a hero who is actually spelling it out for our heroine and she, instead, is choosing to believe the terrible sister who has mislead her and betrayed her at every turn. Or she simply gives in to crippling indecision and insecurity for no real reason whatsoever.

I have very little patience for these types of heroines or these types of plot points that aren’t based in anything other than an author’s need to follow a typical romance plot storyboard where the main characters can’t get together until the final scene. If you don’t have a legitimate, plot- or story-based reason for keeping your romance in suspense, you might just need to re-think the entire thing. Either flesh out your plot/characters, or just accept that your romance needs to follow a non-traditional path. This type of forced suspense not only kills any real suspense there might be, but also damages the characters at its heart.

In the end, I was ultimately let down by this book. I’m glad I got in at least one sort-of spooky book before Halloween, but it’s too bad that other than the creepiness and general historical setting, this book didn’t have a lot going for it. If you really love historical romances with a dash of creepiness, than you might enjoy this. But if you’re wanting any depth of character from your heroine, hero, and villain, you probably need to look elsewhere.

Rating 5: Some legitimate spooky scenes were let down by a plot and set of characters that were simply too weak to carry the story.
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Heartbreakingly enchanting story. Engaging and continued to keep my interest.. The Witch or Willow Hall was a perfect October read, however, it will be a great read for all seasons. Hester Fox, does a wonderful job of telling a story, building her characters so you become invested in the outcome of each person. This novel reminds me slightly of Pride and Prejudice, and since I love Jane Eyre this is a good thing. 
I recommend this novel for a light, entertaining read.
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After a scandal tarnishes their family, Lydia Montrose and her older sister, Catherine, and younger sister, Emeline, move from Boston to the country. Their father has built a fine new home, Willow Hall, in the area of a town called New Oldbury. It’s 1821, and he and his new business partner are finding success in building mills along the river.

As she struggles with Catherine and the secret her older sister has been keeping, Lydia finds herself falling for the young man who is her father’s business partner, but she is sure he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. Catherine is the beauty, the sister who draws the attention of all the men. And Catherine is vying for the attention of not just the man Lydia is interested in, but also his longtime friend.

But there are other compelling concerns for Lydia. Not long after their move, she sees some strange things in the house and around the property, which she can mostly shrug off as her imagination. But there comes a time she can’t ignore that something is going on, especially after a tragedy occurs. Can she accept that she might have some particular gifts? And what can she do to use them to protect her family?

I had expected this story to be more gothic than it was; it kind of wants to be a few different things at once, and it mostly works, but sometimes it just seems all over the place. It’s about a young woman who has to come to terms with being a witch (which is slow to develop, and I wouldn’t mention that but for the fact it’s in the title); it’s an early-1800s love story with all the expected trappings; it’s partially a ghost story about past tragedies haunting the present. I enjoyed it but hoped for a bit more.
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At first I was kind of disappointed it got boring, I was like what feud? what is happening? where am I? I thought this book was about witches? but gradually it builds up and it gets so exciting. SO what I'll tell you is be patient and finish it because you will be surprised and I personally find this a good book and there is a deeper meaning to it !
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I loved this book!  It was a perfect mixture of supernatural (both scary and intriguing), romance (just enough to make your heart go pitter-patter) and family drama (Lydia was so well mannered in dealings with her sister)!

I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the story. Just when I thought I knew how a problem would be resolved, the author took a different turn.

I was sad to see the story end and will miss some of the characters.  I would love to see a part 2 (please?)!
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If you enjoy stories with spirits who commune with the living, dialogue, protocol and etiquette of the 1800s, a bit of scandal, a bit of chicanery, a bit or romance, sisters who love and hate each other in equal measure, town gossips, a little more romance and a few more spirits clogging up the works, this book should be on your radar.

The wealthy Montrose Family has problems which has forced them from Boston society. Their problems take on a different dimension in their pretentious new home in New Oldbury, a suburb of Boston. Of the Montrose sisters; Lydia is happiest with her books; Emeline, the youngest, when she is playing games and telling stories to Lydia; and Catherine who never seems to be happy, merely content when she is psychologically torturing Lydia. Their new home, Willow Hall, is built on the site of a previous house and all is not as it should be. But read on and enjoy this gothic tale which has the power to make you twist your hankie and speed up your heart.

Thank you NetGalley and Graydon House for a copy.
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Spooky and atmospheric, this is a solid return to the gothic romances of a few decades past--I appreciate the references to Alice Hoffman et al but I think it's more of a throwback than that. Glad to see it being published for a YA audience.
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I both liked and disliked this book. I felt like it could have been wrapped up much quicker, that there was a lot of repeated scenes, etc. Some of the mystery building was annoying and drawn out, but in the end it all worked out and was a good thing.
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When I heard that The Witch of Willow Hall was a Jane Austen-esque ghost story, I knew I needed to read it! I received this as an e-ARC from NetGalley. I am typically not a fan of scary things (movies especially, but books as well), but this book had just the right amount of eerie for a giant chicken like me! 

I enjoyed the dynamic between the three sisters. It is always interesting to see how an author handles the bond between sisters who are vastly different and might not even like each other very much. I found this part of the story to be incredibly realistic.

Lydia was an interesting heroine as well. She is a very soft and quiet character, which left a lot of room for the story surrounding her. Getting to see the setting from her point of view was chilling as well. I really liked reading the story from her perspective. The book was very atmospheric, and I definitely could envision myself there. 

As for the creepiness factor, there is a lot of spectral activity, but nothing that seems to be overly threatening (apart from one character, but I won't discuss it to avoid spoiling a key point in the plot). I got a lot of Bronte vibes from the paranormal side of this book, who I also love dearly! This was the perfect book to read around Halloween for me, a little bit scary but not too much. 

The only thing lacking for me was the mystery of why the family had to remove to the country. It is alluded to throughout the novel, but I found the wait for the explanation more annoying than intriguing. I'm not sure how this could have been done better, but that is why it dropped a half star rating for me. 

Overall, I absolutely loved this book! I loved the characters, the setting, and the ghost story! A great read for a scaredy-cat like me! 

My Rating:

I gave The Witch of Willow Hall 4.5 STARS! If you enjoy Austen and the Bronte sisters, and are not a huge fan of really scary books but would like a little bit of creepiness, then this is the book for you!
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This was different than I expected but really compelling! Great for fans of historical or gothic fiction. And the central romance between Lydia and Mr. Barrett was perfection! There were some disturbing instances and it was creepy but I loved the writing style and look forward to more books from Hester Fox. It was a good atmospheric read for October :)
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Historical fiction has been one of my favorite genres to read since I was very young. I remember perusing the shelves in my middle school library for books in this genre. One that stands out to me (and that is by an author that I read a large majority of her books back in the day) is A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi. It's a story about the Salem Witch Trials, which loosely relates to this book, and was one of my absolute favorite historical fiction books ever. I can definitely say that The Witch of Willow Hall has made that list!

In order to escape a scandal, Lydia and her family have just moved from Boston to their Summer home turned permanent home at Willow Hall in the country. While Catherine, the eldest, and their mother are fairly unhappy with the move, Lydia and Emeline, the youngest, don't seem to care too much. Emeline is too concerned with the mermaids in the new pond and Lydia, trying to forget about the engagement she had to break off, just wants to focus on taking care of Emeline and avoid any more possible scandals happening to her family. But Lydia has secrets from her past buried deep beneath the surface that she tries to keep hidden, and Willow Hall is determined to bring them to light.

I definitely went into this expecting a paranormal historical fiction story and was surprised to find out that there was actually a bit of romance sprinkled in as well! I'll be the first to admit, I was hesitant, but I really ended up enjoying this surprising bit that was written in the story. I'm not usually a huge fan of romance or anything like that, but this one was so well done I just couldn't help but fall for it every step of the way. The story itself did start off a little slow but really started to pick up until maybe about halfway through, but once it did, I found it difficult to put down! But I believe that the slow buildup is one of the plus sides to this story, as it really gives the reader time to get engrossed in the world and everything that is going on. It shows that you don't need a lot of flash and a quick moving plot to write a great story! I just loved the atmosphere that was present all throughout the story and found myself wanting to stay within the pages of the book for just a bit longer whenever I read. I do wish there had been a bit more development with the witch-y side of the story and maybe just a little more backstory on the history of some things, but overall, I really really enjoyed this story. As I said above, it's one of my new favorite historical fiction books! It has an overall creepy vibe that I really enjoyed and it's definitely a book that I didn't know I needed to read, but am very happy I was able to read. It's an atmospheric (have I said that enough?) story that really draws you in with the eerieness and unknown feeling that Willow Hall gives off and keeps you guessing with every page. It really is a fantastic gothic tale that I'm sure will be enjoyed by many and will easily become a new favorite among historical fiction readers such as myself.

All of the characters in this book were so well-written and each had their own qualities that I liked and/or disliked about them. My favorite, not surprisingly, was Lydia, but I really enjoyed all three of the sisters in their own way. Catherine was a typical older sister and a bit shallow but ended up having more depth than I really thought she would, and Emeline was the younger sister who aspired to be like her older sisters. But Lydia, who had been taught to never attempt to stand out in any way but rather to remain plain and unimpressive, had such a strength and a light in her that was just absolutely captivating. She was such a lovely character and I truly enjoyed following her story and watching her start to understand her secret and unravel the secrets that hide within the walls of Willow Hall. Their parents, Mr. Montrose and Mrs. Montrose, were also interesting characters. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy the father, but I really liked that he came through for his family when it mattered the most. All in all, the characters in this story definitely had a huge part in my enjoyment of the book overall and I really found myself in awe of Hester Fox's way of writing character growth and development!

Hester Fox is From the very first page, I was completely and totally enchanted. Honestly, I was shocked that this was her first novel! She writes like no other author I've ever read. Not only does her writing remind me of the wonderful historical fiction authors I grew up reading, but it also reminds me of the gothic horror writers I've come to enjoy recently, one of those being Wendy Webb. Hester Fox has a unique voice that brings each and every word on the page alive and I found myself devouring every word she wrote, but still hungry for more. By the end, I knew that I had found a new auto-read author, and I am so eager and excited to see what Hester Fox writes next!

If you're looking for a spooky and atmospheric story to round out your October reading list, then The Witch of Willow Hall is one you don't want to miss!
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4 1/2 stars

When I was a teenager, I fell in love with gothic novels, the darker and more haunting, the better. However, somewhere along the line, publishers or authors decided that the paranormal couldn't just stand alone. It had to be explained away, thus turning the gothic into a mystery. While I always enjoyed mysteries, that just wasn't what I was looking for when I read gothic novels. Thanks to Hester Fox' The Witch of Willow Hall, I have rediscovered my love for dark, gothic novels.

Lydia and her family arrive in New Oldbury hoping to start a new life after scandal forced them to leave Boston. Although Willow Hall is new, it seems haunted by dark forces that Lydia wants to ignore, blaming them on insomnia. The darkness grows, forcing Lydia to come to terms with who she is and what she has done through intuition and ignorance.

The pacing and the writing of The Witch of Willow Hall are very well done. Honestly, if you are a fan of dark, gothic novels from Wuthering Heights to The House of Spirits, you will probably devour The Witch of Willow Hall, as I did in practically one sitting. Fox has an ear for the appropriate language and tone. And, despite the fact that I'm not a voracious reader of historical novels, all the elements felt right to me.

There was an average amount of supernatural, ghost story lite if you will, so if you're not a huge fan of paranormal novels, you would probably still enjoy The Witch of Willow Hall. 
Considering that this is a debut novel, I can't wait to see what else Hester Fox has in store for us.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I really liked the feel and atmosphere of this book. I had a bit of a struggle getting invested in the story but that might be a product of a busy few weeks while I was reading this. I would definitely recommend for anyone who loves subtle creepiness and witches.
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The Witch of Willow Hall is a fantastic historical fiction book! Although the genre is adult, but I’m glad that it is a YA friendly story. I like that the plot is amazing and the characters are very good. The story has full of mysteries, secrets, and paranormal stuff. Furthermore, a bit of romance is included here. No errors and problems that contain in the book. I do not know that it has a Gothic theme, but I am absolutely okay with that. Overall, I enjoy reading this book because it is intriguing and spooky. Halloween is just around the corner, so this book is perfect for this season. Also, I will recommend it to the fans of paranormal or witch stories.
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