Sometimes all it takes is shiny cover art to get my attention. I don't even have to know what the subject matter is and I will read the book. The cover art for Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey sold me. That girl is preoccupied by someone or something. The cover, like the story itself, has an air of mystery. Is that girl even alive? Did something happen to her? Why?
Sixteen-year-old Violet Willoughby is a reluctant partner in the family business. Her mother has a "talent" for talking to spirits. That "talent" is attractive to the cream of society in Victorian London. The only problem is her mother's "talent" is nothing but smoke and mirrors. With the help of the dashing teenage Colin, who was roped into the business after being orphaned at a young age, Violet and her mother have an "in" to the top of the social ladder. Violet would rather spend her time engrossed in books, which her mother feels is a waste of time. Meeting a rich suitor is more important. If it came down to protecting her own reputation, Violet's mother would rather protect herself than her daughter.
You feel sad for Violet at times. This isn't a normal mother-daughter relationship. Violet can't always be herself because she's afraid of what her mother will do. What if someone discovers the truth? She's stuck in her mother's web.
They ride the gravy train to the stately home of Lord Jasper, but this time the scheme is a little trickier. They can't rig Lord Jasper's home like others in the past. I had to laugh at how Violet's mother forced her to rig her body with so much stuff, Violet could barely walk. Imagine your leg going numb just so your mother could swindle some rich people. Only this time, Violet starts seeing things and people that make her think she is going crazy.
Surely everyone can see the teenage girl dripping wet? Surely everyone can feel the cold air seeping in the room? Or is Violet going crazy? Not everyone can see what she sees. Who can she trust? Certainly not her mother. If her mother knew, she would find some way to exploit it. How about her best friend Elizabeth? How much can she tell Elizabeth?
There is even a little romance mixed in. Colin has always been there. In the beginning he seemed more like a big brother, than a suitor. He's there to protect her. Colin is familiar. But Colin isn't of the pedigree Violet's mother wants.
Too many strange occurrences force Violet to confide in Elizabeth. They discover the dead girl, Rowena, drowned under mysterious circumstances last year. Everyone says it was an accident, but the signals from Rowena indicate otherwise. Just asking questions about Rowena is met with resistance. Someone literally wants to stop Violet. Will she stop? The murder mystery kept me turning page after page. How much danger is Violet willing to put herself in? The only caveat in some of those passages is the dialogue. They talk about "getting justice" for Rowena. That term seems more modern-day, than Victorian England. I don't believe in ghosts, but maybe you will after reading this. It's a good one.
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Bloomsbury) in exchange for an honest review. For more on author Alyxandra Harvey, visit http://alyxandraharvey.com/