It’s a dangerous thing to be a witch, even when all your life it’s been kept secret. The truth will out, eventually, and when it does what are the costs? Lydia Montrose and her sisters and parents have left the city in disgrace as “…the most reviled family in Boston,” and now live in the wilds of New Oldbury. It’s a gloomy place, prone to storms, fog, and wicked winds. Suddenly, a shot may ring out. You never know in this Gothic historical fiction novel by first-time author Hester Fox.
Set in 1882, The Witch of Willow Hall is a tale of witchcraft, tragedy, and love. Lydia knows she is merely “currency in a business transaction” when her engagement to an opportunistic cad is arranged, but when the dashing Mr. Barrett comes into her family’s life through business connections, Lydia becomes less willing to serve as a pawn. If only her older, prettier, and definitely more desperate sister wasn’t always getting in the way.
“You attract them. Some mean you harm. Prepare for what lies ahead,” warns a chilling message. There are a lot of layers in that bathroom mirror scrawl, written by heaven (or hell) only knows who. As Lydia finds out more about a Salem ancestor and what exactly has been passed down to her, things get ever spookier. I’m talking multiple ghosts, a potential poisoning, blackmail, a perhaps deadly fever, fights for honor, and fake news.
If you’re in a mother-daughter book group, or if you’re just looking for an eerie autumn read with shades of English Gothic novels try Fox’s The Witch of Willow Hall.
I caught up with the author at Brookline Booksmith, where she read from her novel and I led a question and answer session with the audience of about 40. We talked about the book of course, but also about her writing rituals (coffee houses serve as procrastination locations, real work gets done in her home office) and her inspirations. Look for Fox’s next project to be a twist on the Beauty and the Beast tale.