Hester Fox comes to the blog today with her debut offering, set in New England in the late 1800’s and encompassing scandal, secrets, and revelations all reinforced with an old house’s lore and a touch of the supernatural in
The Witch of Willow Hall
Forced to leave Boston for their country estate of Willow Hall, Lydia Montrose and her family are in crisis. The scandals that ran them out of Boston society didn’t stay in Boston as perhaps some hoped, but followed them to the country. Of course, changing location never really changes people who have no intention of it – and Lydia sees that quite clearly as her sister Catherine is even more tied to her selfishness, her mother is more invested in ‘how we do things’ for public consumption than ever, and Lydia, the peacemaker and in the constant line of fire to mediate family tensions is slowly and surely starting to bend under the weight of her family dysfunction. There is a legend that surrounds Willow Hall, and things that go bump in the night, and when Lydia comes to see a long-buried connection to the now-famed witch trials, her own dormant and unknown talents are stirred.
This is not a story about a witch casting her spell, but one of scandal that then pushes all of the skeletons out of the family closet. It is a story of relationships and characters, some developing, some stagnating in their old patterns that worked so well for them in the past. The real growth here comes from Lydia and her recognition of just how dysfunctional her family actually is, and what she has done, and continues to do, to hold the family ‘together’ in one form or another. With the addition of a romantic interest for her, and her sister Catherine’s ongoing need to ‘win’ in every situation, the brooding yet kind John Barrett actually notices Lydia, long the unnoticed one in the family, and their interactions stir and strengthen her own sense of value and ability. An interesting connection that plays on his secrets, Lydia’s uncovering of family secrets, her own new awareness of something “other’ within her and the gradual fracturing of the ties that bind this family together as more is revealed, the story is a slow-to-develop yet always intriguing series of moments as light is shown into corners and the secrets that hide like shadows come to light.
I’ve seen comparisons to Wuthering Heights and others in that same gothic vein, but for me, this was ultimately a truly tragic tale of a family being attacked by its own secrets, as it clutches desperately to appearances and trying, unsuccessfully, to push the jam back into the jar. Outstanding for the deft characterization of Lydia, who spends most of the time trying to play middleman and soother for the family, and her realization that she is so much more, and needs not be defined by the boxes in which her family has placed her. Gothic in feel and tone, characters that feel real and plausible, and a solid nod to the history of New England and its often troubled relationship with witchcraft and the spectre of the trials from the 1600’s, this is a debut that is both intriguing and well-crafted, and while not overloaded with supernatural or witchcraft elements, the layers and threads all tie together in a lovely package.
Title: The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction, Late Regency, Magic, Romantic Elements, Setting: American
Published by: Graydon House
Published on: 2 October, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 59 minutes
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Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.
Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.
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…
"Hester Fox's THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL offers a fascinating location, a great plot with history and twists, and characters that live and breathe. I love the novel, and will be looking forward to all new works by this talented author!" --Heather Graham, New York Times bestselling author
"Beautifully written, skillfully plotted, and filled with quiet terror, readers will devour this absorbing, Gothic tale of romance and suspense. Perfect for fans of Simone St James and Kate Morton." -- Anna Lee Huber, the national bestselling author of the historical Lady Darby Mysteries
"Beautifully written, with an intriguing plot full of suspense and mystery, The Witch of Willow Hall will cast a spell over every reader." -- Lisa Hall, author of Tell Me No Lies and Between You and Me
"I was entranced by this intriguing and spellbinding novel with its messages of love and loyalty and being true to who you really are. I hope Hester Fox goes on to write many more such novels--I for one will be buying them." -- Kathleen McGurl, author of The Girl from Ballymor
"With its sense of creeping menace and chilling undertones, this compelling story had me gripped from the first page. The vividly drawn characters cast their spell so convincingly, I couldn't stop reading until I discovered what happened to them. A wonderful debut novel.”--Linda Finlay, author of The Flower Seller
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.