Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL (October 2nd 2018 by Graydon House) is Hester Fox's debut historical novel.
The Montrose family is one of the most prominent families in early 1800s Boston until the oldest daughter, Catherine, causes a scandal so atrocious that it forces the family to start their lives over in the small town of Old Newbury, Massachusetts. The Montrose family members have many secrets - even from each other - and they are determined to preserve their secrets while rebuilding their new lives in Willow Hall. Middle daughter, Lydia, immediately suspects that something is wrong with their new home. Like the Montrose family, Willow Hall has it's own share of tragic secrets. As Lydia delves into the mysteries of the house and the supernatural elements inhabiting it, she also unravels the secrets of her own family - including that her mother's family is descended from one of the women who was executed during the Salem Witch Trials and that she herself is a witch!
THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL is very eerie, and the novel is packed with suspense and a escalating sense of dread. There is romance, family secrets, blackmail, betrayal, and various family dynamics. The novel is beautifully written, and the storyline was very interesting. I was intrigued that the novel was written in the present tense. I'll admit that it was a bit jarring at first, and it continued to surprise me a few times throughout the novel. But, once I got used to the present tense, I found it very fascinating. Lydia Montrose is an intriguing character, and she becomes more and more appealing as she learns that she is a witch. The other main characters are interesting as well, and they all add something to the story. The "evil" sister, Catherine, works as a great foil against "good" sister Lydia. The ups and downs of their relationship added to the storyline, and caused some unexpected twists. Catherine is not a likable character, but her story will keep the readers interested. The romantic elements in the novel were also captivating. John Barrett makes a remarkable hero who is tortured by his past.
My only criticism is that I would have liked to know more about the Montrose family's only son as well as their ancestor who was killed during the Salem Witch Trial. It also took a little too long to reveal the big family secret that drove the Montrose family out of Boston. Since the story is told in Lydia's first-person perspective, and she clearly knows about the scandal, it seems a bit unfair that she waits so long to pass along the information to the readers.