Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill
  The Orphan of Cemetery Hill
Author:  Hester Fox
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2020. 352 pages.
ISBN:  152580457X / 978-1525804571

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review through the 2020 historical fiction blog tour from Harlequin Trade Publishing.

Opening Sentence:  "Tabby's legs ached and the wind had long since snatched her flimsy bonnet away, but she kept running through the night, her thin leather shoes pounding the cobbled Boston streets."

Favorite Quote:  "We all of us contain a great reserve of power, yet most of us will go through life without ever trying to mine that reserve. Perhaps we all have something of your sister's gift, but have just not learned how to access it. Perhaps we are all of us conduits to the great beyond. ... this is my gift to you - the motivation to find within yourself the extraordinary gift that you have heretofore taken for granted."

***** BLOG TOUR ****


The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is Hester Fox's third book. All three have followed the theme of CHARACTER of LOCATION. All three main characters are women with an unusual history. All three are set in New England. All three are gothic with witches and powers and conduits to the beyond. Beyond that, each one has been unique. The Witch of Willow Hall is about a young woman finding her voice. The Widow of Pale Harbor is more romance than anything else. The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is about grave robbing, "scientific" experimentation, and actual villains dubiously named Resurrection Men.

In Boston in 1844, twelve year old Tabby is all alone. Her parents have died. Her aunt and uncle want nothing more than to exploit her. She and her sister Alice have run away. Now, Alice too is gone. Tabby is running and finds herself seeking refuge in a cemetery. That seems both a haven and a danger for Tabby can communicate with the recently dead.

Fast forward almost a decade. Tabby is still living by the cemetery, having been taken in and cared for by the cemetery caretaker. Now, the intrigue and a romance begins. The intrigue involves first a robbed grave. "She had known that there was evil in the world, had seen the darkness and greed that had driven her aunt and uncle, had felt the devastating injustice of being robbed of her parents. But she had never known the depth of depravity that could lead men to steal the bodies of the dead. The trials of this world were bearable because of the promise of divine rest, of reuniting with loved ones on the other side; how could anyone endure life otherwise?"

Then, it gets worse. There is a murder. Then, a kidnapping. False accusations, jail breaks, fleeing fugitives, really bad guys who will let nothing stand in their way, secret societies, and even Harvard Medical School all keep this book moving at a fast pace. Mind you, this book is less about gothic mysticism and communing with the dead and more about individuals looking to exploit others for their own benefit. It is more action adventure than ghosts and ghouls, but a gothic mystery nevertheless.

In the middle of all the action is also love and family. Tabby and her adopted father Eli. Eli's backstory and what Tabby will do to protect him. Tabby and her sister Alice. Caleb and Rose. Tabby and Caleb. The relationships ground the mystique and gothic mystery in reality. I vest in the characters and want to follow along, particularly Tabby herself. She is by far the strongest character of the book.

Although similar in look and feel, all three of Hester Fox's books have brought their own unique twist, with this one being my favorite. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

About the Book

The dead won’t bother you if you don’t give them permission.

Boston, 1844.

Tabby has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous.

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances.

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men.”

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery—or bring about her own destruction.

Author Bio

Hester Fox is a full-time writer and mother, with a background in museum work and historical archaeology. Most weekends you can find Hester exploring one of the many historic cemeteries in the area, browsing bookshops, or enjoying a seasonal latte while writing at a café. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and their son.

Q&A with Hester Fox

Q: Why is historical fiction so popular, particularly gothic?
A: Historical fiction provides an escape. It transports you to another time, and with Gothic in particular, another atmosphere. Who doesn’t want to imagine themselves fleeing through a stormy night in a white nightgown, heart pounding and adrenaline flowing? Who doesn’t want to see good vanquish evil, and fall in love along the way?

Q: How do you approach your research?
A: I try to consume everything from the time period, from the music, to books, to even food if possible. Pre-Covid days, I would go to historic houses or museums to help me get in the right frame of mind. Beyond that, I like to research as I write, otherwise I can get stuck in a never-ending research rabbit hole.

Q: What was the most challenging part to write in The Orphan of Cemetery Hill?
A: This was the first time I wrote scenes set outside of New England, and leaving my comfort zone was both exciting and challenging. Part of the story takes place in England and Scotland, so I had to branch out and research things like dialects and local history for whole new settings.

Q: What was your most favorite part and why?
A: Writing the seance scene was probably my favorite. Can you imagine what it would have been like to attend a Victorian seance? It must have seemed like the pinnacle of scientific advancement, a heady promise of actually being able to make contact with dead loved ones. Even just the spectacle of a practiced medium would have been incredible to witness.

Q: What's a typical writing day for you?
A: These days it’s just finding bits of time between household work and my baby’s naps. When I’m in the drafting stage, I try to write about 1000 words a day if I can get a good chunk of uninterrupted time. That said, there are some days when I don’t even have a chance to sit down and write, and those days are important too, as they give me a chance to rest and recharge.

Q: Where do you like writing and why? Favorite snacks and/or beverages?
A: We just moved, so I don’t have a dedicated writing space at the moment. I am dreaming of building a tiny writing shed in our yard, filled with books and art though. Pre-Covid, I did a lot of writing in coffee shops and I really miss that. Iced vanilla soy latte and a big pastry are my writing fuel!

Q: What was your last 5-star read and why?
A: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters. Atmospheric, haunting, gorgeous prose, and ghosts, ghosts, ghosts.

Q: How would your main character(s) fare with a stay-at-home order?
A: I think Tabby would do very well, and there’s probably nowhere safer to be than a cemetery these days!

Q: Is there anything you can tell us about the book that is not a spoiler and not on the blurb? Something you'd like to share with us?
A: The eponymous cemetery of the title is based on Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in Boston’s North End, which you can visit to this day on the Freedom Trail. Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood of brownstones, you can really get a sense of what it must have felt like over a hundred years ago.

Q: What was your inspiration for writing the book?
A: I’ve always been fascinated by cemeteries, and have spent more time than is probably healthy exploring the graveyards of Massachusetts. I really wanted to set a story in one, but wasn’t sure what that story would be. The answer came to me when I found a little informational plaque about a doctor in the 1800’s who was fined for having employed graverobbers to procure corpses for his medical dissections. I knew a little bit about the history of graverobbing in the UK, but hadn’t realized that it had happened in the United States, and so late into the 19th century. From there, I begun spinning out a story that incorporated all my favorite things: ghosts, graveyards, plucky young women, and of course, romance.

Q: What came first, the novel or the title?
A: The novel, but the title came shortly after. I wanted to stay with the theme of the SOMEONE OF LOCATION like my previous two books, The Witch of Willow Hall, and The Widow of Pale Harbor.

Q: Which character/s do you relate to the most?
A: I probably relate to Tabby the most because she is very concerned for the people around her, and feels things deeply. That said, Caleb was so fun to write because he had such a journey as a character, from deeply flawed and not a great guy, to someone soft and loving.

Q: What do you like most about writing?
A: I love the freedom it gives me to explore different times and places, and being able to write the books that I want to read. Sometimes the writing process can be tedious or difficult, but it’s never boring.

Q: What scene, in the book, are you most proud of?
A: Caleb’s first scene when he is on his way to his father’s funeral. I just loved researching the funerary customs in the 1850s, and it was a lot of fun to write a scene that incorporated those details.

Social Links

Author Website: http://hesterfox.com/
TWITTER: @HesterBFox
Insta: @trotfoxwrite
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17440931.Hester_Fox

Buy Links

Barnes & Noble

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