Review of THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR by Hester Fox


Hester Fox’s sophomore novel, THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR, will be published September 17th 2019 by Graydon House.

Sophronia Carver and Gabriel Stone are both outsiders in the small village of Pale Harbor, Maine. Sophronia has lived in Pale Harbor for many years, but she was been spurned by the townspeople after her husband’s brutal death a few years earlier. The townspeople believe that Sophronia murdered her late husband and have accused her of being a witch. Gabriel has recently come to Pale Harbor under false pretenses – his wife has recently passed away and he is pretending to be a minister to honor her memory. Despite how the rest of the townspeople feel about her, Gabriel forges a friendship with the reclusive Sophronia and draws her out of her self-imposed exile. As they grow closer, strange and freighting events take place throughout Pale Harbor. The incidents and deaths are straight out of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. The townspeople believe that Sophronia is responsible for the incidents, but she knows that these are messages and threats directed towards her. As one of the very few people who believes that Sophronia is innocent, Gabriel takes it upon himself to find the person responsible for the happenings before the perpetrator hurts or kills Sophronia.

I was really excited to read THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR because I loved Fox’s debut novel – THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL. Like her first novel, PALE HARBOR is also an eerie and suspenseful romantic, Gothic suspense novel. Fox captures the transcendentalism movement and the nation’s obsession with Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. She also brings to life the setting – a small, coastal town in Maine during the mid-1850s – and uses it as a creepy, isolated background to the novel’s events. Gabriel and Sophronia are both interesting and tortured characters. The slow unraveling of their past traumas kept me turning the page, but their romance didn’t always work for me. Sophronia’s maid, Helen, was the most memorable character. I spent the whole novel going back and forth on whether I liked her or hated her. After finishing the novel, I’m still not sure how I feel about Helen.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.