Gabriel Stone is still mourning the loss of his wife, so he takes a job as minister in the small Maine village of Pale Harbor. Never mind that he’s not a minister, or that he doesn’t even know what his own beliefs are; he’s just glad to move out of Boston, haunted by memories of his wife.
Pale Harbor is not the sleepy village he expects. His very first day, he finds what appears to be an animal sacrifice, and hears tale of the widow who keeps to herself and the castle on the edge of town, the widow who almost certainly killed her husband years ago. As the violence escalates, Gabriel gets to know Sophronia Carver, and soon realizes she’s the target of a deranged madman who’s obsessed with the works of the wildly popular new author, Edgar Allen Poe.
Can Gabriel figure out who’s behind the chilling and macabre acts before it’s too late?
I enjoyed Fox’s first novel, The Witch of Willow Hall, immensely, so I looked forward to reading this. This tale is dark and atmospheric—a fitting tribute to Poe’s works. Sophy is haunted by her regrets, but her loyalty tethers her even when it shouldn’t. Gabriel is loyal to his dead wife, but fascinated by Sophy, and soon realizes he’s the only one in the village who believes in her innocence.
Hester Fox has a background in museum work and historical archaeology. She is the author of The Witch of Willow Hall. Her newest novel is The Widow of Pale Harbor.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
The Montrose family left Boston to escape the rumors claiming a family scandal. Now ensconced in their new country home, Willow Hall, middle daughter Lydia wants nothing more than peace and quiet, to take care of her younger sister Emeline, and no more family scandals.
At first, things at Willow Hall are peaceful. Emeline cares only about looking for mermaids in the pond, and Catherine can’t seem to make up her mind if she’ll pursue their father’s new partner, John, or his best friend. Reading sounds much better to Lydia, at least at first.
But soon Lydia hears a woman wailing in the night and sees a pale boy in the gardens. The oppressive air around Willow Hall closes in around the family, and darkness hovers, along with memories from Lydia’s childhood. Lydia will have to discover the truth about Willow Hall—and herself—to grasp peace.
This novel is almost Gothic, almost a romance, and all spellbinding. Lydia was a wonderful character. I loved her from the beginning. She cares so much about her family—even the horrible ones—and does her best to save them from themselves. She’s dutiful, but she’s not blind to the faults around her. I’d actually love to read more about her. The Gothic feel of this novel is well-done, without being overpowering or too creepy. Catherine was such an inconsistent character. Sometimes, I almost liked her. The rest of the time, not at all. A very enjoyable book that I read straight through!
Hester Fox is an artist and author. The Witch of Willow Hall is her first novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
Roxanne Cole died a year ago, and her family still hasn’t come to terms with her death. Ro was the light of the Cole family, and everything has been dark since her death. Her boyfriend, Cole, vanished the night she died, and no one has seen him since, but when he shows up at the door to Blue Gate Manor asking where Ro is, Mae doesn’t know what to think.
Her sister’s death hit her hard, and Mae is still struggling, but to Cole, Ro was just alive yesterday. When Mae finds the little green book that was never far from Ro’s hands, she also finds dark secrets about her family’s past, and realizes that Ro might be gone now, but that doesn’t mean she has to stay gone.
The Breathless is a creepy Southern gothic mystery that tells three stories: the present-day tale of Cole and Mae struggling to deal with Ro’s loss, Cole’s memories of his relationship with Ro, and a dark time in the family’s past. The setting adds an eerie layer to an unsettling story, as Mae finds out just what was in that little green book. The storyline about the family’s past does deal with a history of racism that was common in that era, but does not glorify it, instead it reveals the results of such violence and hate.