Published June 21, 2011.
Violet Willoughby has participated in one too many fake seances to believe in the supernatural – especially after watching her mother fool widows and wealthy old men into handing over their fortunes. But she is forced to reconsider her jaded views when her mother is invited to conduct seances at the country estate of prominent Spiritualist Lord Jasper. There Violet encounters a frightening vision she can’t ignore – the ghost of a girl her own age, seeking justice from beyond.
Thrust into the center of an unsolved murder amidst the highest echelon of Victorian society, Violet must discover the mystery behind this girl’s violent death, before her twin sister suffers the same fate. The only person Violet can trust with her new secret is her mother’s assistant Colin, the boy she’s grown to love but can never be with because of the rigid rules enforced by the world Violet and her mother have swindled their way into. Can Violet find a way to accept her new talent and prevent another murder without risking her own chances for a future with the one she loves? (book back blurb)
I find the Spiritualist movement absolutely fascinating simply because so many people were hoodwinked so rampantly, and publicly, for so many years and it took a decent amount of time for them to catch on. This higher level of society, too hoity toity for their own good, bamboozled into thinking that women with wooden planks bound to their knees were their dead relatives come back to contact them. So smart they were.
What I loved most about HAUNTING VIOLET was that it didn’t take itself too seriously, just like Violet didn’t take herself too seriously. Here she was, having grown up in a world of trickery and lies, and she was nominally undaunted by it. She didn’t get suckered into the life like her mother did. She held her own ground and kept being her own person. The book overall was a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of “street people” working their way into the first class cabins, the games they played and how duped they made the people above them who thought they were just that, above it all.
Violet is a strong, well-intentioned character that doesn’t take any shit, not from ghosts or Colin or her “better off” suitor. Her mother she puts up with a little more but, well, I can relate with her there. The breaking point comes a little later when it comes to the parental figures. But she does reach it, just not in the way you might think. Or someone as strong as Violet, you’d think her set on one path but she really ends up wandering down another. It’s shocking and at the same time relatively expected, but she doesn’t curl in on herself. Violet stands tall, regardless of what she faces.
The main plot, Violet solving the murder mystery of the ghost’s death, is compelling and at times frightening. The ghost shows up at the most inopportune times and does things to Violet that not only frighten her but aggravate her as well. It doesn’t take Violet long to desensitize to the ghost and start throwing the sass right back. How else is she supposed to solve the murder when the victim won’t even cooperate?
Violet just has so much sass and spice about her, it’s hard not to like her. Not that I went in going “I’m not going to like Violet.” She’s just such a dynamic, resilient character that you can’t help but root for her. Even when it comes to Colin, things aren’t simple with her and she lets it be known that she’s pulled in multiple directions about it. Subtlety isn’t really her thing, as evidenced a few times throughout the book. And while she gets embarrassed at first, she gets over it. Quickly. You can’t help but love someone that springs back to their feet as often as Violet does.
The voice is fantastic. The second I started reading HAUNTING VIOLET the voice had me. It has just enough pomp about it to showcase the Victorian times but it’s not so convoluted that that’s all it becomes. It sounds just like what a “lower class” person pretending to be an upperclass one would sound like. It’s compelling and riveting and it had me turning the pages. Seriously, I zoomed through this one in about a day. I didn’t want to put it down.
Harvey’s ability to capture the time yet keeping it relevant and interesting is great. Not only are you sucked into the plot of trying to find this killer hiding in plain sight but you’re immersed in this beautiful world that’s nothing but lies. You can’t help but feel guilty for Violet and want to hit her mother with a stage coach (did they have stage coaches in England or just carriages?). Violet’s mother is the type of pseudo-villain that you just love to hate. She’s such a rich character that her nastiness just oozes off of her and you try to keep away lest you get some on you but you stay close enough so that you can get all her dirt.
Overall, HAUNTING VIOLET is a fantastic historical fiction steeped in accuracies and riddled with compelling characters that’ll drive you through straight until the end. You’ll get sucked in in no time and as you read, you’ll find yourself trying to work out who dunnit, competing with Violet to see who can come to the right conclusion first. You don’t want to miss this one.
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