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The Witch of Willow Hall

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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…

364 pages, Paperback

First published October 2, 2018

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About the author

Hester Fox

7 books1,618 followers
Hester comes to writing from a background in museum work and historical archaeology. She loves the Gothic, the lurid, the dark...so long as the ending is a happy one. She has never seen a ghost, though she remains hopeful.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,673 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,616 reviews10.7k followers
August 2, 2023
After an unfortunate scandal forces them to flee Boston, the Montrose Family moves permanently into their summer estate, Willow Hall, in New Oldbury, Massachusetts.

The Montrose sisters, Catherine, Lydia and Emeline, take the move about as well as can be expected from teenage girls.

The setting and language of this novel were both extremely captivating for me. I was surprised to learn that this is a debut, the writing feels lush and experienced.

I loved the overriding gothic vibes that extended throughout the story; so well done.

There is always an underlining feeling of menace, something I always enjoy. In regards to witchcraft, it is subtle in nature, and I felt well portrayed.

It is by no means the bulk of the story, but hints are sprinkled throughout, with it becoming a more prominent feature in the second half.

The interactions between the sisters, particularly Catherine and Lydia, reminded me so much of Downton Abbey's, Mary and Edith.

It is not a warm and fuzzy sisterly relationship by any means. In fact, their constant battling provides most of the drama in the book.

There is also quite a bit of romance. I am exhausted by the courtship patterns of this time period. I just cannot even imagine dealing with all that formality.

No one ever seems to say what they feel, which can be frustrating. Honestly, it's a wonder anyone ended up with the person they wanted to be with!

Overall, I was very impressed with this. It was a pleasure to read.

The overarching feeling of suspense, the subtle supernatural undertones, the hauntings and the domestic drama were all so much fun!

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves Historical Fiction, especially if you enjoy a gothic atmosphere.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Graydon House Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I very much appreciate the opportunity and and am kicking myself for not having picked this up in October as I had originally planned.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,079 reviews59k followers
October 5, 2019
The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox is a 2018 Graydon House Publication.

A fine supernatural Gothic tale!!

This is a book after my own heart!! I love a good old school Gothic story. However, the modern versions of Gothic can often leave me feeling frustrated, as they rely too heavily on magic and the supernatural to carry the story and less on the slow, careful, buildup of suspense. The creepy, spooky elements should reveal themselves at well-timed, calculated moments for an optimum effect. In this case, the author captures the essence of true Gothic horror and even adds a romantic element into the mix, putting the cherry on the cake.

The year is 1821- two centuries after the Salem witch trials-
The Montrose family has fled Boston in the wake of a scandal. Settling into New Oldbury, the three sisters, Catherine, Lydia, and Emmeline try hard to adjust to their new normal.

Catherine is a schemer, a manipulator, using her beauty and charms to attract men, hoping to find a husband. Lydia’s engagement to Cyrus was broken after the rumors began to fly, but she soon meets John, and the two find themselves drawn to one another. Emmeline, is the youngest, the most carefree, boasting more of a mother/ daughter relationship with Lydia, who is very protective of her sister.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear to Lydia that Willow Hall has many secrets and long dormant imprints, which her arrival has suddenly awakened. The house will force Lydia to face a long- buried aspect of her own life, the truth she and her family have denied for many years- Lydia has certain abilities- a power within herself, one she loses control of from time to time. The more she understands, the more power she will have, but will it cost her the one thing she most longs for- true love and happiness?

I haven’t read a good Gothic Horror novel that combines the magical elements of both witches and ghosts in a long time.

If I had to complain, I would say the author was just a little too cautious with this one at times, but overall, I must hand it Ms. Fox. She has written a pure, traditional Gothic novel, with grace and aplomb, while also appealing to a broader audience.

Before I go, I must, of course, address the romantic elements in the story. Love and romance are often at the center of Gothic novels, and again, the author did a great job of weaving those elements into the story without it becoming the dominate theme. Not only that, the love story was beneficial in lifting the heavy gloom, to reveal the promise of hope and long overdue peace.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Melisa.
324 reviews516 followers
October 11, 2018
A very enjoyable, creepy fall read!

I love this period - the propriety and all the rules and manners, the language, the fashion, the balls. All of it! Well, not all of it - although women’s rights were just starting to take off, women were still treated as the lesser sex. But I did enjoy how we have some very strong, outspoken, intelligent leading ladies in this story.

We have a family who has moved to the country from Boston due to a scandal that has occurred, however we don’t know what has happened and learn along the way.

I love an unlikable character and this book had several, including a well drawn villain and a wicked sister. I also enjoyed the sweet romance.

As someone who likes my books based in reality, this one had just the right amount of “spooky” in it for me - enough that it was believable and not super over the top.

A great atmospheric, gothic tale!

Thank you to Harlequin Books for my advance copy, this book will be available October 2nd! This was a group read with my @6bookbesties, Be sure to check out the reviews from Holly, Berit, Mackenzie, Jennifer and Kendall.
Profile Image for Christina Loeffler.
143 reviews17.3k followers
October 14, 2018
4, this was the perfect Halloween read stars!!!

Full review featured on my blog Recipe and a Read!

Welcome fellow readers, to 1800's Boston, Massachusetts - two centuries after the Salem Witch Trials. Meet Lydia Montrose - she is the daughter of a wealthy businessman and a prim AF lady of the house. She does not shine quite as bright or as boldly as her elder sister Catherine, and she is not as imaginative and carefree as her younger sister Emeline. As a prominent family in the large city of Boston, we enter our story with the devastation of having to leave their established society due to the rumor mill churning on about Lydia's sister Catherine. They've left Boston in the wake of scandal for what was intended to be a summer home in the quiet countryside town of New Oldsberry to make Willow Hall their home.

Yet at the same time I want to untether my heart, toss it up into the sky and let it take wing. There's a wildness here that, if nothing else, holds promise, possibility.

While Catherine and her mother lament this move, Emeline is too young to care about much except for the prospect of mermaids in a nearby pond. Lydia, having recently had her engagement broken off wants nothing more than to care for her younger sister and avoid any more scandal befalling her family. However, Lydia has past secrets buried deep within her that she must keep bottled up but that Willow Hall seems to want to bring to the surface.

As the family settles into their new home strange happenings seem to follow in Lydia's wake. She hears the deep, painful wails of a woman in mourning, she sees pale-faced little boys roaming the grounds and their tinkling laughter fill the halls. As Lydia continues to ignore these signs, tragedy befalls the Montrose family and these dark secrets about her familial past come bubbling to the surface.

A witch has a third eye that she may use to see the world not as it is, but as it may be. See what you want to see, bend the vision to your will.

In addition to the historical fiction/fantasy that Fox has constructed here, there is a bit of romance thrown in. Based on the synopsis I didn't see this coming and while I haven't been reading a lot of romance recently I'm honestly a sucker for a good love story. I love getting swept up in the excitement that goes along with romance and I'm a bit of a cheese-ball so I loved seeing that pop up here. However, I think that even if you aren't a big romance fan that it wouldn't sway you from enjoying this story. The romance isn't overwhelming or insta-love the way many are these days. It feels genuine and my heart soared and sank as the romance ebbed and flowed and I was absolutely on the edge of my seat to see how it all played out.

"Lydia Montrose," he said, his sea-storm eyes dancing with light, "you are an exquisite little mystery and I have never wanted anything or anyone so badly in my life." I mean - COME ON. *swooning*

What left me wanting a bit more with this one, however, was that it got a bit bogged down on weaving what felt like less necessary plot points. I was left wanting a bit more witchy-ness and development into the history of the Montrose family. The first quarter of this moved fairly slowly for me and it did start to pick up but didn't really get moving to me personally until the second half. While I enjoyed the ending and my overall takeaway was pure enjoyment and entertainment I wish I knew more about what felt like the basis of this novel (witches and history) and little less about the MCs feelings about the scandals that will ultimately be forgotten.

Despite a few misgivings I absolutely adored this novel and I'd suggest it to anyone to pick up and read. It has a little bit of everything in it and I think anyone who loves a good October read would really enjoy this. It was expertly written, well paced and had developed and likable characters throughout.

I read this with the Traveling Sisters and we had a great time discussing all of our feelings. We've ultimately ended up all enjoying this read so far which doesn't happen too often! Thank you to Harlequin Books and Edelwiess for a copy of this ARC.
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
2,024 reviews15.7k followers
October 9, 2018
Beautiful, atmospheric, and haunting.....
this was an exquisitely told debut...Hester Fox has wovin together this Gothic story of heartbreak and hope effortlessly.... as soon as I opened the cover of this book I found myself transported into the lives of the Montrose Family... finding myself in the middle of A scandal and the gloom and magic of Willow Hall....

This was not the story of a witch, but rather the story of Lydia Who just so happens to be a witch.... The witchcraft in this book was very under played and subtle, something I felt worked extremely well... Lydia was such a remarkable and charming character... Believe me I love hocus-pocus and spells as much as the next person, but I think that would have overshadowed the quiet beauty of Lydia... she just was one of those characters that reaches inside you and grabs a little piece of your heart.... you just feel everything she feels, because she is so authentic and worthy.... any book that can evoke feelings in me about a character, is an absolute bonus in my book!

Lydia, along with her parents and two sisters Catherine and Emeline leave Boston in the wake of a scandal.... Willow Hall is where they find refuge... but is the house haunted? There is definitely an eerie air of mystery about the place....

This truly was a story of family and The complexities within.... Catherine, Lydia’s older sister was a extremely colorful character.... she was definitely a worthy villain, the sister nobody wants to have... I was fortunate enough to have an author Q & A with Hester Fox... One of my questions was: who is your favorite character in this book? and her answer was Catherine, and I can see that she would be fun to write!

This truly was a magical book, not in the way of the supernatural, but in the way of storytelling.... there really is a little bit of everything in this book.... a little romance, A little witchcraft, a little taboo, a little haunting, A little tragedy, a little scandal.... A book with a beautiful ending that will leave you heartbroken and yet still hopeful!

Absolutely recommend to fans of Gothic historical fiction, who love character driven stories with a bit of a slow burn...

*** many thanks to Graydon House for my copy of this book ***
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
383 reviews1,768 followers
October 13, 2018
Two centuries after the Salem Witch Trials, there's still one witch left in
Massachusetts. But she doesn't even know it.

It was the year of 1811 and it was the Bishop boy that started it all. He pelted stones at passing carriages. He lurked around every corner, responsible for every terrible thing in the world that Lydia's mind could not comprehend.

Her Pa brought home a black cat for her and her sister Catherine. It was an outdoor cat. The cat's name was Bartholomew and would squeak in greeting before she got to the straw filled crate. That day when she entered the barn, the cat did not greet her. She peeked into the crate the cat was dead and the straw had blood on it. Things got hazy for Lydia. She went storming into the street, in a rage. She had a purpose of what needed to be done. But she still did not know how she was going to do it.

The Bishop boy was found and didn't hide the fact that there was fur on his cuffs and his brown shoe was splattered with blood. Then he turned to the stash of pebbles he was collecting. There was a dozen people gathered around the cobblestones by the time Tommy Bishop was crying for his mother. That was when Lydia came back to herself and realized how many eyes were on her and what she had done. Her mother snatched Lydia up. More than anything else she was afraid of what was going to happen to her. She was afraid that she would be sent away. Her mother sat her on a bench. She braced herself for her sentencing. She was never punished. Her mother told her if anyone asked about it, they would say that it was only a scuffle. Her mother then told her that she must never show the world what it is inside of her. She told her not to tell anyone what happened. Her mother also made it clear that should it come out again that they could find themselves turned out of their home or worse. She never thought that they might be turned out for other reasons and and certainly not for the rumors that surround them now, which are that: rumors.

This is a spooky gothic novel. It is just perfect for the fall Halloween season. I loved the gothic atmosphere and even enjoyed the romance that fitted into the story. The book had everything in it: A witch, ghosts, spookiness, suspense and some dark secrets. There was some magic but there wasn't any witch spells, which made it realistic.

The estate they live in 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, Emmeline.

I loved the characters and there were some unlikable characters too. I loved Lydia the best. John was a very likable character too. Cyrus was an unlikable character too. Another unlikable character was Catherine. She was just so selfish and just cared about herself. She was so jealous. I loved the ghosts too which I am not going to name them, because it could spoil the story.

This was a Traveling Sister read and I think we all enjoyed it and I enjoyed reading this and discussing it with them.I

I want to thank Edelweiss, Hester Fox and Grayson House/Harlequin for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
October 21, 2018
Spooky, suspenseful & a little bit witchy!

This book reminded me so much of the gothic romantic suspense novels that I used to love reading growing up. They were my absolute favourite stories and this tale just made me feel all nostalgic and reminded me of my fondness for these types of stories.

THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL by HESTER FOX is a dark, haunting, romantic and an excellent debut novel that had me totally absorbed, entertained, and interested throughout this entire book.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that this story was all that gripping or suspenseful for me though but it definitely had an ominous feel to it that I found quite appealing.

HESTER FOX delivers an atmospheric, intriguing and beautifully written gothic romantic tale of suspense and mystery here with wonderful character development, a captivating setting and an extremely spellbinding storyline. I really enjoyed the creepy dark vibe and the supernatural aspect to this novel even if it was a little subtle the real magic here was in Lydia's character.

It was one of those books that definitely cast its spell on me and I wanted to savour every single page.

*Traveling Sisters Read*

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Beautiful, alluring, eye-catching, intriguing and a fitting representation to storyline.
Title: Appealing, suspenseful, intriguing and a fitting representation to storyline. My interest is always piqued when the word witch is in a title and I’m usually all over it!
Writing/Prose: Well-written, engaging, captivating, and fluid.
Plot: Foreboding, menacing, engrossing, leisurely-paced, enjoyable and extremely entertaining. I adored this storyline!
Ending: A lovely ending that I was extremely satisfied with and left me feeling hopeful.
Overall: A fascinating read that had me totally engrossed within this gothic romance tale from start to finish! I absolutely loved the creepy and menacing feel that subtly emanated throughout this wonderful atmospheric tale! Would highly recommend!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Harlequin and Hester Fox for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review!

Review can also be found on our Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee Reading book blog:
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
October 10, 2018
A Gothic tale, just perfect for October. A terrfic blend of romance and ghostly happenings. Set in 1821 New England, two centuries after the infamous witch trials, we come to a creepy house, with a family whose lineage holds many secrets. So incredibly atmospheric, this was a sisters read and some of us were reminded of the atmosphere rnvoked in past Gothic reads, Rebecca, Jsne Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The chilling kind of old fashioned read where one can use words like torrid and sordid. If you read this you will see how well they fit.

Characters to like, especially Lydia, one to find reprehensible, Catherine and a mysterious stranger, John. What they mean to each other, what the house wants from them will be revealed to the reader, exactly when it is time. Although chilling, suspenseful, it never gets uncomfortably dark, I thought it was just right. Not a big fan of romantic novels, but this story would not have worked without, which I don't often say. The writing, the descriptions, are very well done, and the atmosphere created just perfect. A wonderful rest for a dark, rainy evening.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,184 reviews30.5k followers
September 29, 2018
Woo hoo, witchy woman...she got the moon in her eye! 🎶 🌙 🌙 🌙 🌙

It is the 1800s in Boston, Massachusetts, some two hundred years after the Salem witch trials. One member of the Montrose family is a witch, but she has no knowledge of this.

There is a scandal that causes the Montrose family to flee from Boston to New Oldbury. Their new home is the gothic, eerie, but stately Willow Hall. It holds its own secrets within its walls. Will the Montroses be able to outrun their past, or is their family destined to be outcasts?

While there is a main character witch, The Witch of Willow Hall is not chock-filled with sorcery or witchcraft, so you should know that going in. What it is instead is an exceptionally atmospheric, well-told historical drama centered on family secrets, romance, betrayal, and tragedy.

I adored Lydia and found her story interesting and engaging. This is a slower-building story where not much happens until the end of the book, and that’s ok because the story is about the people, the Gothic feel of ominous foreboding, and the richly cinematic atmosphere.

Thank you to Harlequin for the physical copy. All opinions are my own. I was fortunate to read this atmospheric book with five beautiful friends. ♥️

My reviews can also be found on my blog with pictures 🤓: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Debra .
2,425 reviews35.2k followers
July 25, 2018
3.5 stars

"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."

A witch who doesn't know she is a witch! A family who flees Boston amidst scandal, moves to the town of New Oldbury in 1821. Looking to start over, will they find happiness, or will the past haunt them?

The Montrose Family was once a prominent family living in Boston until they were enveloped in a mysterious Scandal. Deciding to leave the city (and rumors) behind, Mr. Montrose, along with his wife and three daughters (Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline) moves into a summer home known as Willow Hall, in New Oldbury, MA. The reader knows that the is a son, but he does not make the move with the rest of the family. Why? Mr. Montrose will be a partner in the local Mill owned by a young man by the name of John Barrett.

Lydia meets John Barrett as he helps her find her younger sisters lost dog and she feels an instant attraction to him. Lydia is not the most confident person and is often put down and somewhat bullied by her older sister Catherine. While the older two sister often clash, both adore their younger sister, Emeline. Young Emeline is full of adventure and years to find mermaids in the pond on the property and speaks of a boy at the pond who speaks to her.

Lydia has not felt comfortable in Willow Hall or the surrounding woods. She doesn't sleep well and begins to see and hear things that no one else in the family can. She knows that something isn't quite right at their home and has questions about one of her descendants. When tragedy strikes, Lydia begins to see ghosts and learns more about her abilities.

I loved the Gothic feel of this book. Plus, the premise is interesting: a family driven from Boston due to a scandal, a young woman who is a witch but doesn't know it or how to control her powers, a residence with a past, ghosts, tragedy, and a young man with ties to the property.

If you come into this book thinking it is going to be all about witchcraft, you will be disappointed. Yes, there is a witch in this story, but you will not see lots of spells being cast or black magic. This book touches on several things - ghosts, witches, mystery, some romance, scandal, family secrets, a little magic, and tragedy. As the book moves along, the reader learns about the scandal which caused the family to leave Boston, and the history of Willow Hall.

This book does have a sense of dread and foreboding throughout. It's not a fast-moving book in the action sense, not a lot of action happens until closer to the end of the book. Having said that, the story is interesting and as the truth comes out, secrets are revealed, and several characters show their true colors. Lydia is a likable character and I was invested in what would happen to her, would she find answers, would she find happiness, would she find a way to harness the powers she doesn't quite understand, etc. This book is a slow burn where the story builds, along with the sense of foreboding, until the end when revelations take place. I would have liked a little more magic thrown in but overall an enjoyable read.

I received a copy of this book from Graydon House and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions in this review are my own.

Read all my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,713 reviews25k followers
October 2, 2018
This is a perfect gothic, ghostly historical read for this time of the year, set in 1821 featuring elements of the supernatural. Hester Fox writes a family drama novel that just drips with chilling atmosphere. The well off Montrose family move to the small country town of New Oldbury after rumours and scandal drive them out of Boston. Willow Hall is their new home, infested with an unsettling and disturbing air, with a tragic history and ghosts that does not bode well for the family. The Montrose sisters are the beautiful and attention seeking Catherine, the plain Lydia endowed with powers that are beyond her comprehension, closest to her younger sister, Emeline. The brother, Charles, is overseas, the father is involved in negotiating business deals and the mother, is weighed down with and struggling to handle the misfortunes that have hit the family. The family are to discover that rumours and scandal follow them to their new home, and in combination with the harrowing local history that haunts Willow Hall, this spells danger and tragedy for the Montrose family.

There are hints that the scandal revolves around Catherine, although she shows little sign of any regrets for her past actions. In the oppressive heat, tensions and rivalries abound between a desperate Catherine and Lydia as the pair dance around the only two eligible men in the local area, the quiet and thoughtful John Barrett and the more lightweight August Pierce. Lydia and Emeline both see what others cannot, with Emeline becoming obsessed with mermaids and the local pond. Lydia had been engaged in Boston to Cyrus, a business arrangement organised by her father, but it was broken, collateral damage to the family scandal. Lydia had not been greatly disturbed by the loss of Cyrus, but the past comes to haunt her present and threatens to destroy her future. Catherine, spiteful, resentful, and jealous, is a dangerous woman determined to wreck any hopes that Lydia may have at happiness.

Lydia is caught between family loyalties and secrets, facing blackmail, trying to understand her powers, afraid for her future and for other people as her romantic dreams threaten to disintegrate around her. Her only hope lies in her grasping and utilising the powers endowed on some of the women on her mother's side of the family. Hester Fox's debut historical novel is beautifully written, capturing the social attitudes of the time, particularly with reference to the position of women. She creates compelling characters in Lydia and particularly in her scheming and manipulative sister, Catherine. The key highlight for me was the gloomy and menacing atmosphere that pervades the entire novel. This is gripping historical fiction that cannot fail to enthrall the reader. Many thanks to HQ and HarperCollins for an ARC.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,074 reviews363 followers
October 18, 2018
The Witch of Willow Hall is a perfectly written gothic tale of witches, dark secrets and history. 

This is the debut novel written by Hester Fox and all I can is, "Wow!" Every first book should be this amazing! I was completely blown away by the history, the suspense and the storyline itself. It was, without a doubt, a great book! 

Lydia Montrose is the middle child and a loving sister. Her family was run out of town after horrible rumors began to swirl around the family. It's 1821, and these types of "rumors" can be a death warrant even 200 years after the Salem Witch Trials. Her family moves to Old Newbury where her father sets up a mill. But things at the house itself are more than a strange. Lydia hears noises and sees ghostly type apparitions. What exactly is going on in their house and with Lydia's family? This slow simmering tale will answer those questions - and more.

One of the first "big girl" books I ever read was "The Witch of Blackbird Pond." It set the stage for my intense love affair with gothic tales, horror and spooky reads. Although, when I re-read Blackbird Pond I chuckle at how tame it is in comparison. The Witch of Willow Hall is not so tame - it has everything a reader could ask for in a great witch story. The characters are very well drawn; the love that Lydia and her sisters have for one another shines throughout the book. There is a touch of romance and a plot full of  well placed twists to keep you on your proverbial toes. The Witch of Willow Hall is the perfect Halloween read - but be sure to leave your light on when you do! 

Thank you #Netgalley, @HesterBFox, and #Harlequin-GraydonHouse for my copy of this perfect gothic tale! 
Profile Image for Mackenzie - PhDiva Books.
478 reviews14.4k followers
September 28, 2018
Haunting, romantic, and atmospheric—Hester Fox’s The Witch of Willow Hall is a deeply engaging gothic historical fiction novel that explores the notion of how we choose to become who we are. Set in the small community of New Oldbury, Massachusetts in the 1800s, this book has a cast of characters that will make you forget where you are and feel like you are part of this town.

About the Book

The Salem witch trials are long past when the Montrose family arrives in New Oldsbury in 1821. Now the thing that terrifies communities is the hint of a scandal that could besmirch their good name. The Montrose’s are the victims of such a scandal, cast out of Boston and into New Oldsbury, where they take up residence in their new country home, Willow Hall.

But gossip still clings to sisters Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline Montrose. Broken engagements, a shattered business relationship, and the shunning of their social circle have left the Montrose’s with no choice but to start over. But all isn’t lost. There are two eligible men in New Oldbury that may just make the Montrose sisters forget about their troubles. And yet, the events of their past haunt the Montrose sisters…

As the series of events set off by that rumor in Boston begin to unfold, a darkness seems to creep in on the family. But there may still be one witch left in Massachusetts—Lydia Montrose. And Lydia will have to learn about her strength as a person, as well as her strength as a witch, if she hopes to save those she loves most.


I must admit, I am completely captivated by this book. I found myself forgetting where I was, being transported to that weeping willow tree beside the pond outside of Willow Hall, with the forest looming around me. Though there is a haunting, gothic setting to this novel, it is more historical fiction with a dash of romance than ghost story. But don’t think you’ll escape this book without a few ghosts!

One of my favorite parts of this book are the characters. The sisters themselves are so different and well-developed. The shallow eldest sister Catherine, who may seem narcissistic but has much more depth of character than we first think. The youngest sister Emeline, who desires to be one of the older girls and feels left out by her age. And the middle sister Lydia, taught to believe herself to be plain and only desirable due to her father’s money, only to learn that she has a strength of character and heart that goes beyond the rest of her sisters. Mr. Montrose, who is stoic to the point of seeming absent, until it matters most and we see the love of a father for his family. Mrs. Montrose, whose body has failed her in the wake of a broken spirit following the shame of her family.

And then we have Mr. Barrett and Mr. Pierce—New Oldbury’s most eligible bachelors. Mr. Barrett is as quiet and proper as Mr. Pierce is charming and alluring. If this book delves into any topic, it may be that first impressions may be deceiving, and that outward appearances may only be skin deep. I loved the dynamics between Mr. Barrett, Mr. Pierce, and the sisters. It added a surprising and welcome story line of romance and courtship that was delightful to read!

This book is incredibly atmospheric. Hester Fox has a talent for descriptive writing that really made this book outstanding. The woods were filled with shadows and secrets, pressing in around Willow Hall and becoming a daunting force to enter and leave the manor. And then there was the willow tree by the pond, where so many important points in the story occur. The nature in this book was a character in itself, threatening to work with or against the characters, depending on how they engage with it.

And finally, we have the ending. I won’t spoil anything about the book but I want to state how much I loved the way the ending of this book was written. The last chapter in particular was truly fantastic! It left the perfect tone to end the story on, and left me wanting more from Hester Fox.

I read this book with the 6 Book Besties and we all enjoyed different things about the book! We want to thank the amazing team at Harlequin books for partnering with us on this book. I hope you enjoy it!
October 21, 2018
Norma, Lindsay and I read The Witch Of Willow Hall with six of our Traveling Sisters and we all agreed that this was the perfect book for this time of year.

The Witch of Willow Hall is just what we were craving. It has all the elements for a great spooky, atmospheric, entertaining and chilling read with just a little bit of creep to add a little shock to the story. There is just the right amount of tragedy and romance with a sprinkle of witchcraft and a dash of the supernatural, making this the perfect gothic historical fiction for us.

We loved the gothic feel here with Willow Hall and were intrigued by the mystery it holds from the past and now the mystery of a scandal that a family is fleeing from. The suspense to the story grabbed us right from the start and increased as tragedy hits and secrets are slowly revealed.

The sisters here in this story are compelling, complicated and one very messy one that we grew to love to hate. They are very different from each with some mystery to their characters making each very intriguing. We loved the dynamics between them.

We highly recommend this fun and entertaining gothic historical fiction to anyone who loves an easy paced story.

Thank you to NetGalley, HARLEQUIN – Graydon House Books and Hester Fox for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!!

Traveling Sister Read Review

Profile Image for Kendall.
644 reviews653 followers
September 30, 2018
The Witch of Willow Hall is a rich gothic mystery at it's finest!!!

Our main character Lydia and her family move to New Oldbury after a scandal arises with her family. After the scandal, their family is ready to have a fresh beginning but somehow the past always sneaks up on you....coming back to haunt you.

Lydia starts to realize that she has some special powers. A witch! Loved this part of the novel!! I am huge fan of supernatural. Lydia's family dates back to the Salem Witches... dated well over 200 years go. Lydia starts to realize that she needs to control her powers because if she doesn't... word will be getting to the wrong person and may wreck even more havoc to her and her family.

What I loved about this?! I couldn't get enough of the gothic vibe and supernatural aspect. I was hoping to dive more into the Salem witch Trails giving us more history upon that but this wasn't the case which was a tad bit of a bummer for me.

The author does a fabulous job of focusing on family, love, and romance with a hint of supernatural. I was a tad nervous going into this one because historical fiction isn't usually my to go genre but I surprised myself and really enjoyed reading this alongside my besties.

Overall, this was a wonderful read and am so glad I was able to experience Hester Fox's piece of literature.

Huge thank you to Harlequin Graydon Publishing for the advanced arc in exchange for my honest thoughts.

3.5 stars rounded down on this one :)

Publication date: 10/2/18
Published to GR: 9/28/18
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,325 followers
October 22, 2018
3.5 stars.

Gothic. Mysterious. Haunting. Secretive.

This was a spine-tingling, highly atmospheric story. Willow Hall, the countryside mansion that this novel revolves around, has such an alluring and dominating presence. The house itself, the grounds the house lays on, the woods and the hidden pond. They all held a vital piece of this story and added an extra layer of suspense and intrigue. I loved that!

The characters were so very well done! The author, Hester Fox, does an outstanding job developing each and every character whether they were central to the story or held background roles. There is a supernatural element to this novel which is handled very gently and subtly. I tend to shy away from novels involving strong supernatural aspects. My hesitation is always that the story will feel unrealistic, however, that definitely wasn’t the case with this novel. I truly felt interested and invested in this story throughout.

For me, the intrigue and suspense in the first half of this novel outweighed the second half. While I was still interested and engrossed in the main storyline, I felt that some parts of the second half dragged.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read that was perfect for the month of October!

This was a Traveling Sister read that we all enjoyed. To find this review, along with the other Traveling Sister reviews, please visit our blog at:


Thank you to NetGalley, HARLEQUIN – Graydon House Books and Hester Fox for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!!
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
September 15, 2021
A little too whimsical and romantic for my liking.

I liked the premise of this one but unfortunately it didn't work its magic on me. I was hoping for a creepy and chilling read but this for me was dull and boring and just dragged along.

"Growing up Lydia Montrose knew she was descended from the legendary witches of Salem but was warned to never show the world what she could do and so slowly forgot her legacy. But Willow Hall has awoken something inside her…
1821: Having fled family scandal in Boston Willow Hall seems an idyllic refuge from the world, especially when Lydia meets the previous owner of the house, John Barrett."

Perhaps I needed to read this on a windy, cold and dark October or November night to create some atmosphere as I felt the book certainly lacked the suspense or intrigue for me.
The characters were bland and the story dragged and to be honest I have forgotten the characters names only a week after finishing.

A disappointing read and certainly not one for my favourites list.
Profile Image for Holly  B .
851 reviews2,021 followers
September 28, 2018


A gothic romance with a mysterious family tree.

The Montrose family is at the heart of this story and they have moved to the country with their three daughters to escape a scandalous family event.  It is 1821 and their new estate is Willow Hall. There are stories about the home and whispers of ghosts and strange happenings. The younger sister, Emeline is quite taken with mermaid stories and now has added ghosts to her list.

The two older sisters, Lydia and Catherine are often at odds and seem to be competing with each at times. Catherine has a secret that could bring dishonor to the family and Lydia warns her to stay out of trouble, but no one can seem to control Catherine. When tragedy strikes, we learn more about the family history, hidden secrets are revealed and ghosts start appearing (one image really spooked me). There are some truly creepy happenings that made me uncomfortable and there was an eeriness that created a sense of dread, although it is not a scary book.

This was more of a gothic romance mystery than a witch story, although we do have some witchy influences. The pace is slow and steady as the story builds and the family secrets are revealed. There are some shocking twists and interesting dynamics that kept me intrigued until the end. I also enjoyed the author's wonderful descriptive writing.

Fans of gothic tales about dark family secrets with a hint of witchery should enjoy this one!

Thanks so much Harlequin for providing my copy for review. This book will be available on October 2, 2018. Review will post to my blog on 9/28/18.
Profile Image for Anna Lee Huber.
Author 22 books2,954 followers
January 6, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Jess☺️.
487 reviews84 followers
October 27, 2018
The witch of willow hall by Hester Fox is a different kind of read for me but I absolutely loved it the only reason I gave it 4 🌟 Is because I could of done with a bit more about the witches and the family history of them , saying that it was an enjoyable read which was sad, spooky and lovely all at the same time.
The characters you can love some and dislike the others (the older sister Catherine 😤) the story flows along so effortlessly you can't believe you've reached the last page.
This is a easy read with just enough spook for it to be a nice Halloween read.🎃👻
I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Sandra.
233 reviews56 followers
October 31, 2018
I chose this book, thinking it would be a great spooky read for autumn and was a little disappointed. It was really a romance with just a few witchy things thrown in.
Overall the story was good but I felt the writing was a bit flat, the other worldly happenings were not eerie enough and the characters were not engaging.
The story was set in 1821 when the Montrose family moved from Boston to a little town called New Oldbury because of a family scandal. For the three Montrose sisters the move has varying impact on their lives. Catherine, the eldest, misses the social life in Boston and wants to entertain in their new home Willow Hall. Lydia the middle sister, feels the brooding atmosphere of the house and hears and sees strange things! Emeline the youngest and still a child, loves her new home and is drawn to the pond in the woods and hunting for mermaids and ghosts!
A light entertaining read but not really what I wanted. I’ll continue my search for a good spooky read 🎃👻
Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
798 reviews595 followers
October 29, 2018
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? Unfortunately, I was in a rush to finish this book and get it back to the library in time, so I didn't get to savor it like I wanted to!! Still, I thought WILLOW HALL was an enjoyable witchy read and an impressive debut from Hester Fox. Just the right about of spooky goodness and sweet romance.
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
October 9, 2018
4 wonderfully Gothic creepy stars
My reviews can be found here:


There are things afoot at Willow Hall. The family Montrose, have moved into their country home. Fleeing from Boston because of a scandal, the sisters Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline are forced to take residence in this omnivorous home. The year was 1821, and the happenings in and around the home, seem to bring hints of something strange, something otherworldly, something supernatural.

Catherine, spoiled and beautiful, thinks herself to be alluring to all men. She plots and schemes to entrap one of the men who come into her circle. For Catherine harbors a secret, a terrible secret, that she hides doing anything she can to keep her mission going, that of marrying John Barrett or his friend. Catherine needs a husband and what Catherine needs, she will get, letting no one stand in her way.

Lydia, unaware of what she is, contends with Catherine's artifice eventually learning Catherine's secret. Lydia finds herself attracted to John Barrett, her father's partner, but of course feels Catherine's beauty will entrap John. Lydia also carries a secret, there is something different, something eerie, something shudder some about her. What is it that seems to stir up things around her?

John Barrett is a wonderful character, a man who is so reminiscent of Heathcliff, as he carries his own secrets in a brooding style, holding himself back and in check.

Emeline, the youngest daughter, seems to also have a certain aura about her. She is mysterious, ethereal, and haunted. She becomes trapped into seeing things that should not be there, eventually leading her to a horrible place that devastates the family.

This was a ominous tale, one that fleshed out the characters so well, one that made these characters feel real, made their actions so in accord with the Gothic atmosphere of the story. Willow Hall had that aura to it, that impression that all was not right and there was something lurking within its confines. I could not help but think of the moors where Catherine and Heathcliff once roamed.

I recommend this book as one that was disturbing and macabre. This was an excellent debut for this author. If you are looking for a story to fill your October nights, this book might just satisfy your need for the sinister, the ghostly, and the menacing. Nicely done Ms Fox!

Thank you to Hester Fox, Graydon House, and Edelweiss for a copy of this Gothic tale.
This was a Traveling Sister read and we enjoyed this book and discussion.
Profile Image for Becca | Pages & Postcards.
61 reviews90 followers
July 18, 2018
*ARC received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book captured my interest from the beginning. A dark, historical novel about ghosts and witches in 19th century New England sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver.

The main issue I had with this book was that I can't identify the main conflict...I mean, there really wasn't one. Sure, there were ghosts and witchcraft and an eerie house, but that was all in the background of family drama and romantic angst.

The main issue seemed to be that Lydia's older sister Catherine is a complete nightmare who doesn't even care how her actions affect her family and who constantly relies on others to clean up her messes. I don't think I've ever hated a character more. She is petty, mean, and selfish to the extreme. She couldn't stand to see Lydia happy and did whatever she could to ensure that she wasn't. The sisterly hate was the biggest conflict in this story, and it is never properly resolved.

Another issue is the romance between John Barrett and Lydia. There are some insta-love vibes in this book, as I'm still not entirely sure why John even liked Lydia. She was rude to him on several occasions because she didn't know how to express her feelings or communicate with other human beings. There were so many misunderstandings and so much miscommunication that I just ended up frustrated during most of their interactions.

Some aspects of this story had a lot of promise and could have been interesting, had they actually had anything to do with the story. Instead, they just fizzled out. Creepy dead ghost sister? Nothing. Creepy dead ghost boy who threatens the main characters? Nothing. Creepy house that puts everyone on edge and seems to attract disasters? Absolutely nothing. It's like a bunch of stuff was thrown in to create suspense and atmosphere, but never actually has any purpose. Even the fact that Lydia is a witch never really matters that much. We only actually see her "power" a couple times, and her use of power in front of John at the end was insanely anticlimactic. The people who found out she was a witch were way too accepting of her. In fact, the two "love interests" seemed to think of her as a rare commodity once they found out she was a witch.

Also, are we really supposed to believe that this is how people talk and act in the early 1800s? I'm no historian, but this book almost seemed like it could have taken place in the 21st Century, other than the occasional mention of propriety and social rules.

It all just seemed way too easy. There was never any real tension, no overarching problem, no character development to speak of. The Witch of Willow Hall is just a creepy book about boy drama and some serious family issues.
Profile Image for Mary.
1,569 reviews507 followers
October 1, 2018
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there's still one witch left in Massachusetts, but she doesn't even know it.

If you are looking for an atmospheric fall / Halloween read, then I highly recommend The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox.

What it's about: The Montrose family moves from Boston to New Oldbury in 1821 to escape the rumors that are circulating around Boston about them. They move into the Willow Hall estate which, little do they know, possesses a dark history. The youngest daughter, Lydia, quickly starts to find out what this history is, plus realizing her own ancestry, and must harness the power she possesses to protect the people she loves.

That's all I'm going to say about the plot because this book is BEST going in mostly blind, and I appreciate that the blurb doesn't tell you a whole lot. I really liked the pacing in this book, and it was spooky while still being on the lighter side of the spectrum. There are some dark occurrences, but the overall feel to the book, for me, was not as scary as I thought it was going to be.

I think Fox did an excellent job of describing everything and making The Witch of Willow Hall very atmospheric while also giving you a general sense of foreboding. I also liked the aspect of the mystery surrounding Lydia and if the rumors about the family are true. You also don't find out what the rumors even are until a good distance into the book which was a great added build up.

This is a debut novel, but SUCH a good one. I was surprised to learn it was a debut because it doesn't read like one. I also loved the humor in this book! It was a nice surprise and I really liked Lydia as a character. No multiple viewpoints here but loved it just the same.

Final thought: If you want a spooky, atmospheric novel on the lighter side for fall The Witch of Willow Hall is the novel for you! This book can be read at night, so don't expect it to be SUPER creepy, but for me it was perfect.

My vote: A well done debut novel which has its funny parts, but also gives you a bit of the creeps at the same time.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,155 reviews
August 30, 2018
Hard to believe this is a debut novel - it is really very well written. I was totally absorbed in the story and didn't want to put the book down until finished. There's a lot more to the story than witchcraft. The Montrose family flees Boston in 1821 due to scandalous rumors and moves to New Oldbury into a home called Willow Hall. Willow Hall has a history of tragedy. This is the story of what happens at Willow Hall and especially what Lydia discovers about herself and her history. There is also a romance, blackmail and betrayal, incest, and a new tragedy at Willow Hall. The witchcraft in the book is definitely there, but is somewhat understated.

My favorite characters were Lydia Montrose and John Barrow. The characters were well-developed and interesting. My least favorite character was Catherine - I would really hate to have her for a sister! The book was atmospheric and gave me a sense of foreboding and dread.

I really enjoyed the book! Thanks to Hester Fox and HARLEQUIN - Graydon House Books through Netgalley for an advance copy.

Profile Image for Niki Rokicki.
81 reviews38 followers
March 5, 2018
THIS WAS SO GOOD. Creepy af but also romantic af?? Give me a John Barrett without the ghosts pls.
Profile Image for Whispering Stories.
2,757 reviews2,581 followers
October 31, 2018
1811, Boston Massachusetts, USA, home to the Salem Witch Trials two centuries earlier. Little Lydia Montrose is caught up in what is described as a ‘fight’ with a local boy, but the rumours never die down of what really happened that day.

1821, with the rumours still doing the rounds and Lydia now becoming a woman, the family move from the city to a small town and into Willow Hall. The house has stood empty for many years and even the owner, John Barrett won’t live there, preferring a smaller dwelling down the road. There is talk in the town that the place is home for ghosts, but surely ghosts aren’t real?

The Witch of Willow Hall is a fictional historical paranormal story with the most amazing cast of characters. The Montrose family, consisting of Father, Mother and three daughter, Catherine, Lydia and Emeline, who move into Willow Hall after a turbulent time at their old home, due to the incident with Lydia some ten-years before.

The tale is told from Lydia Montrose’s point of view. Lydia is a plain young girl, she is also a witch, she just doesn’t know it. She understands that certain things happened depending on her moods, but she doesn’t know why or how, though there are stories that they are the descendants from one of the Witches hung at Salem.

Catherine is older than Lydia and much prettier too. She is used to men falling at her feet and so deems every man to be in love with her. She is exceptionally shallow and naive and very, very selfish. She detests Lydia and tries to do everything in her power to make her sister miserable. She is also harbouring a dangerous secret, one that could tear her family apart.

Emeline is just a little girl, full of curiosity. She gets in the way a lot and wants to be like her big sisters. Lydia is her idol and they dote on one another.

The plot builds slowly as we get to know and understand the Montrose family, mainly the girls and witness overtime as strange occurrences happen to Lydia that she can’t explain and no-one else notices. There is a very upsetting scene within the book, one I’m not going to talk about. All I will say is that had I know it was coming I wouldn’t have read it sat on a sun lounger around the pool – Luckily I had my sunglasses on!!

The Witch of Willow Hall is a real treat if you love paranormal books or historical fiction. The casting is vivid, the setting beautiful, and the pace just right. I was amazed to discover that it was written by a debut novelist as it really is superb. I was hooked from the very beginning and stayed that way throughout. It is wonderfully enjoyable and the story lingers long after you close that final page.
22 reviews
December 14, 2017
I read an early draft of this book. I found the characters and setting to be very unique and well-developed. The heroine, Lydia, is a compelling character and I found myself engrossed in her experiences. This is the author's debut novel and I am excited to see what she produces next!
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