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.
Fox's passable sophomore effort (after 2018's The Witch of Willow Hall) sits squarely in the gothic romance genre. In 1845, Gabriel Stone moves to Pale Harbor, Maine, in order to take the vacant position of minister. He's still grieving the death of his wife, who died in childbirth a year prior, when he meets the mysterious and wealthy widow Sophronia Carver, who never leaves her home. The townsfolk believe she murdered her husband, and children claim she's a witch. As Sophy and Gabriel become closer, strange events with similarities to Edgar Allan Poe stories threaten their burgeoning relationship and the wellbeing of the town. The inclusion of Poe elements elevates the typical "mysterious threats" plot, and Sophy is a strong gothic heroine. However, she's diminished by the bland Gabriel, who falls for her a little too quickly considering his supposedly all-consuming grief. Fans of gothic romances will find this one capable but not exceptional.