Monday, October 22, 2018

Book Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Graydon House
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "New Oldbury, 1821   In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.  All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

The Montrose family was once a well-respected family from Boston.  The year is 1821 and there's a scandal, which means they are pretty much banned from all reputable society.  So, the family departs Boston for the country to start over at a country estate, Willow Hall.  Her father has made an investment at the local mill and hopefully he, his wife, and three daughters can start fresh unless the gossip follows them.  This comes at a bad time for middle daughter, Lydia, though. Her engagement has been broken due to her older sister's scandal and now both older daughters look like they are doomed to be spinsters.  That is until their father's new business partner, John Barrett, enters the scene along with his friend.  Lydia knows that her older and more beautiful sister, Catherine, will probably steal the spotlight, but she can't help but start to feel things for Mr. Barrett. Meanwhile, strange things start happening at Willow Hall. Lydia hears voices, sees ghosts, and her youngest sister, Emeline, starts acting strangely. The more she learns about the history behind Willow Hall, the more she is worried.  The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox is a haunting debut for readers who enjoy a spooky and supernatural tale, but can't handle too much horror.

Lydia is a character that I was instantly rooting for in The Witch of Willow Hall. She is in her older sister's shadow and has resigned to this fact. Catherine, her older sister, is the type of overbearing and extremely egocentric character that I just couldn't stand. I wanted Lydia to stand up for herself, but she truly lacked confidence and was always reminding the reader that Catherine is prettier than her, more charming than her, etc.   It was also irritating to have Lydia let Catherine control her, because obviously she didn't have her best interest in mind.  Then there's the younger sister Emeline, whom Lydia is very close with.  However, since moving to Willow Hall, Emeline has been acting strangely from time to time.  Ultimately, this concerns Lydia, but what about their parents? Shouldn't they be concerned?

Speaking of Mr. and Mrs. Montrose, they needed to be more developed in The Witch of Willow Hall. Lydia's mother is an absent mother and that I found frustrating. I wanted her to watch Emeline more closely and actually parent her daughters, but she was often distressed. I do wish Fox developed some of the minor characters a bit more, because at times I wanted them to be more fleshed out and understand their back story.

When Lydia meets John Barrett, things change for her completely in The Witch of Willow Hall. She forgets the horrific scandal in Boston and actually tries to come out of her shell, but of course, Catherine is there to botch things up from time to time. Lydia and John's relationship reminded me a bit of a relationship out of an Austen novel. There's a slow burn, some miscommunication, but fireworks eventually.  I was definitely rooting for this couple from the get-go.

Fox writes The Witch of Willow Hall with a lot of atmosphere and I enjoyed the Gothic vibe to the story.  I really can't handle any books that are considered horror, so this was a nice "spooky" read to satisfy my desire to read a timely fall tale.  There's ghosts, an old house filled with secrets, tragedy, spooky voices, and supernatural events...the quintessential fall read!  I am so glad I picked up this debut as it ended up being the perfect companion to a hot drink, a warm fire, and a cool Autumn night.


  1. I like the atmospheric vibe as well, but I also get frustrated with absent, and or oblivious parents. Overall, I agree with you. This is a perfect autumnal read!

    1. Me too. Despite the lack of parenting, I thought it was a fun read for those who prefer things not so spooky. Thanks for visiting, Joy!

  2. Glad you found such a great read for the season! I agree, I prefer spooky or Gothic over horror, and this sounds great!

    1. Yes, this definitely was perfect for me too in that it wasn't too scary. I hope you get to read it soon. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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