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The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox: A Book Review

The Widow of Pale Harbor
Author: Hestor Fox
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date:  September 17, 2019
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
Synopsis: A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of witchcraft. Who can save Pale Harbor from itself?

    Maine, 1846. Gabriel Stone is desperate to escape the ghosts that haunt him in Massachusetts after his wife’s death, so he moves to Maine, taking a position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbor.

    But not all is as it seems in the sleepy town. Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. Sophronia must be a witch, and she almost certainly killed her husband.

    As the incidents escalate, one thing becomes clear: they are the work of a twisted person inspired by the wildly popular stories of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. And Gabriel must find answers, or Pale Harbor will suffer a fate worthy of Poe’s darkest tales.

    Hester Fox comes to writing from a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician. This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has the privilege of cleaning and caring for collections that range from paintings by old masters to ancient artifacts to early-American furniture. She is a keen painter and has a master’s degree in historical archaeology, as well as a background in medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside Boston with her husband.

    My Review: The author of The Witch of Willow Hall has recently penned another gothic love story. Gabriel arrives in Pale Harbor as their new minister. He immediately hears malicious rumors about the mysterious Sophronia Carter murdering her husband and practicing witchcraft. When he visits her for the first time, he discovers that she is not what the rumors say and quickly falls in love with her.

     Sophronia Carter is a courageous heroine. Because she is ostracized by the whole town, she normally stays in her castle. After she meets Gabriel, Sophronia begins to take a risk and begins to attend social functions to the dismay of the town’s residents. Therefore, Sophronia is an admirable and independent character because she does not let criticism define her life. Throughout the novel, Sophronia makes her own choices and slowly gains self-confidence. I also like Sophronia’s intelligence and her love of philosophy and literature. 

     On the other hand, Gabriel is a hard character for me to like. He is a minister, yet he rarely interacts with his parishioners. He barely attends any of their dinner invitations or mingles with them. He also does not seem like he cares about his job. He constantly neglects his duties for Sophronia. Therefore, he portrays a very unconvincing preacher. The characters seems to insinuate that he was made to live and breathe only for Sophronia. Thus, Gabriel is a character that disappoints me because he lacks character development. He simply serves as a role for Sophronia’s love interest.

    Overall, this novel is full of betrayal, redemption, and courage. As for the characters, Helen is the most fascinating. She is very enigmatic, and I love unraveling her secrets. The setting is the best aspect of the book. It features a gloomy castle which evokes an eerie atmosphere. Yet, I am very unsatisfied with how there was very little witchcraft in the The Widow of Pale Harbor. The synopsis promises that there would be some magical elements to it. However, the fantasy elements only appear in a few pages, you can easily miss them if you are not paying attention to the story. I am also disappointed with the underwhelming romance and the predictable mystery. Still, The Widow of Pale Harbor is a light and fast-paced read to spend on a rainy night. I recommend it for fans of Victoria Holt, Simone St. James, and Laura Purcell.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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