Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey is set in 1872 and follows Violet Willoughby, the daughter of a fake medium. They live a fraught life trying to fit in with the high society people and make the right connections to hopefully keep them from going destitute. Violet’s mother Celeste is quite desperate to be seen as one of them, encouraging a romance between her daughter and the son of a newly wealthy family. Celeste even took in a homeless boy, Colin, to act as a servant and to make her look like she’s a woman of means.
Violet is initially sceptical about the existence of ghosts after years of helping her mother put on fraudulent séances. She’s hidden bellows to create gusts of wind and is good at the game of distraction when it’s time for her mother to do something sneaky. But Violet is suddenly immersed in the spiritual world for real when she begins to see ghosts. One in particular is persistent and demanding of her attention. While visiting Lord Jasper’s home to do a big reading, Violet starts to see the ghost of a young girl, often surrounded by water. She soon learns that a neighbour drowned the year before, and it is this Rowena who wants her help to protect her twin sister.
This is another of those books that surprised me, as I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I’m not usually fond of historical fiction, even with the supernatural thrown in, but this definitely kept my interest. It’s very well written, has good characters, enough mystery to keep you guessing and a sweet love story. Violet is a sympathetic character as she must deal with her mother's emotional outbursts and social climbing tendencies, as well as her own developing medium powers. She handles both well, being both intimidated and strong when it comes to her mother and the ghosts. She doesn't have a lot of power when it comes to her mother as they could end up on the streets it she doesn't go along with it, even if she does hate what they do. And she's a believable 17 year old girl of the times, walking a fine line between wanting to marry for love and for duty/status.
It’s a fairly quick read and perhaps not immensely original, but it’s very enjoyable and worth a look. I’d be tempted to try more of Harvey’s books in the future.
Very interesting review, thank you Carrie!