Meet The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox, a brand new adult gothic fiction title that ties in romance with power, horror, deceit, and death.
Get ready to enter a world of social scandal where any misstep will force you to move your family out into the country. Of course, this isn’t a small family secret or an issue that can just disappear. Plus, it is 1821—a time where women still have fewer rights and act submissive in their respected households.
Cyrus wants to marry you for money? Sure, why not?
Add in a tentative romance, vengeful and depressed ghosts, unexplained powers, and an eerie cast of women ranging from pure and sweet to vengeful and crude. Chilling yet suspensefully romantic, The Witch of Willow Hall will leave you cheering for Lydia and her budding romance while wanting to slap her sister silly. A tad predictable, The Witch of Willow Hall is a solid debut novel for those who don’t mind a slower-paced read.
The Witch Of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
Content Warning: Note that this content warning will also alert you to a few major spoilers. The Witch of Willow Hall begins with a disturbing animal death and includes a vivid miscarriage, attempted suicide, incest, and child deaths.
Sisters Catherine, Emeline, and Lydia are forced to flee their debutante city life over a family scandal that is revealed a little more than midway through the book. Forced to move 50 miles outside of Boston, they find themselves on a haunted piece of land with a chilling history. Known as Willow Hall, the estate has seen quite its share of tragedies and is a tad cursed. Ghosts who cannot move on haunt the pond outside and pace the upstairs floors.
Located deep within the country, mill entrepreneurs gather trying to make money from a harsh industry. Lydia’s father is a part of the business plans and so is John Barrett—a rather handsome and eligible young bachelor. Lydia and John ignite their flame immediately upon catching an errant pup in the woods.
Unfortunately, Lydia’s jealous and possibly mentally unwell sister, Catherine, wants and needs any man that she can get. Desperate to end her own disastrous situation, Catherine causes storm after storm around her—self-destructing and taking Lydia with her. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants and end up on top.
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The Witch of Willow Hall examines the relationships among sisters while leaving readers hanging on the edge of an almost Dr. Quinn like romance.
Will Lydia ever start taking care of herself instead of giving up everything for the ungrateful Catherine?
Who will John Barrett pursue?
How will Catherine escape her rather heinous new predicament?
Add in an accidental death or two, broke ex-fiancé with a gun, and powers that knock men off their feet, literally. With a small reference to the Salem Witch trials, paranormal meets history and vengeance.
Who Will Enjoy The Witch of Willow Hall?
If you are an old school romance lover, The Witch of Willow Hall is perfect for you. I hesitate to say historical romance as the time period lacks prevalence.
Even though I wanted to slug Lydia and her nonexistent confidence, I bought into her romance with John Barrett. Their love is certainly of the times. John made all the right moves and did everything I hoped he would. I had to read ahead to know their fates as the romance completely sucked me into the drama.
Equally, I wanted to jump through the pages to slap Catherine’s bitchy face. P.S. At one point the word ‘bitch’ is used in a fight, causing me to look up the history of when the word became an insult to women (versus referencing female dogs).
In addition, the ghosts and horror elements haunt the pages. The Witch of Willow Hall is not necessarily a keep you up all night kind of scary but is eerie, dark, and kind of depressing gothic scary. The losses are powerful and vivid. Characters leave you chilled. The unique storyline is filled with tragedy and triumph.
A Few Moments of Minor Disappointment:
- If you know me, the animal death at the beginning of the story really got to me. Honestly, the entire scene is unnecessary—skim past if you cannot handle disturbing animal deaths at the hands of sadistic human beings. I understand the point of the scene to emphasize what makes Lydia tick, but I could have done without the image. This is more of a personal qualm/taste than the author’s choice.
- When I picked this title, NetGalley marked The Witch of Willow Hall as a YA/teen book and women’s fiction. Based on the adult relatable and appropriate content, I would find teens hard-pressed to enjoy this one. Amazon categorizes the title as women’s and gothic fiction, which is more suitable. Gothic romance is most accurate. I also expected a heavier historical fiction flair based on reviews and summaries. The Salem Witch trials are a small part of the storyline. Again, none of these criticisms are on the talented author, though.
- The middle of the narrative drags for quite awhile. Knock out 75 pages and tighten the somewhat predictable plot, and I would give The Witch of Willow Hall 4-stars.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Graydon House Books for the free advanced reading copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox [Graydon House Books 2018]
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Gothic, Ghosts & Witches
About The Author: When not writing, Hester Fox is a collections maintenance technician in the museum field. She cleans and takes care of historic collections and has a Master’s in historical archaeology. You can learn more about Hester Fox on her website here.