by Alyxandra Harvey
Release Date: June 21, 2011
2011 Walker Publishing Company Inc.
Harcover Edition; 352 Pages
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Penguin Canada
4 / 5 Stars
Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.
Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?
Haunting Violet was a fun, entertaining read with a dash of romance, action, supernatural suspense, and mystery. As an historical fiction fan, I have always been interested with the great interest in all things occult displayed by our ancestors and the means they would go to in order to procure seances and other such evenings for their guests. Such evenings were often highlights to get-togethers by the wealthy and famous mediums, whether they were 'gifted' or not, could make quite a living at their jobs if they could entertain and captivate an audience and make them believers. It was certainly questionable how many of these so-called 'gifted' mediums were actually 'gifted' themselves or were rather clever entertainers.
Violet finds herself in the midst of such doings as her mother has become a famous 'medium' and is wanted at many of society's soirees and get togethers to perform seances or others forms of entertainment for the guests. Violet, unsure of her place in society, and with a tendency to believe she is second in beauty and intelligence to her mother, follows her every demand even though she is disturbed by the lies she has told people. Violet is one of those characters with whom you can't help but identify and empathize as she deals with an uptight mother and learns to navigate the difficult paths of society. You feel every slight and every rejection along with her, and really want her to succeed in everything she does. She just kind of creeps under you skin and before you know it, you want her to have everything. I really enjoyed her character and loved her strength and her courage to do what she had to do despite her living conditions and her mother. She had an uncanny eye to pick out people who would help her and knew who would be trouble in her life. Her closest friend, Elizabeth, is also someone I adored, and the two of them created a lot of trouble. Through their eyes, you got a very good glimpse of both sides of society and could compare both lives.
I liked the supernatural side to the story as it didn't overpower the other events in the story. There were a lot of interesting 'ghost' moments that I rather enjoyed and found pretty funny. The ghost dog yapping at people's heels and trying to bite them was pretty hilarious. There was a comment made in the novel that it often took a devastating event in order for such a talent to appear, and I wasn't really sure why Violet's talent suddenly appeared after all these years and it wasn't really explained. I felt like some thing were brushed off rather easily and I would have liked a little more explanation.
The mystery itself followed along predictable lines, and I will admit I did figure out who did the crime. That being said, I found the events to be enjoyable, so I wasn't overly concerned with the fact that I figured it out, and kind of enjoyed the ride. I may be a little biased as I love ghost stories and when you throw in a little romance, some action, and some suspense, along with mysterious characters, you have all the material needed to suck me right in. Throw in a nice big house in the middle of nowhere and now you have the perfect setting to make it gothic seeming. Can you say throw her a bone, too?
The story was beautifully written, and while it was supposed to be historical, it didn't really feel overly historical to me. There were an awful lot of modern elements to the speaking and to the behaviour, and if I were to criticize the novel solely on its historical context, there would be some concerns. I definitely would have liked to have seen a lot more of Violet's world mentioned in the novel, especially the social pitfalls and the disgraces that come about of doing something wrong; I don't think the novel did that part justice, and it certainly would not be so easy to redeem yourself during this time period as it was in the novel. If you look at the novel as a whole, it was entertaining, and I certainly loved the combination of the fake readings, the seances, with the real ghosts appearing, and all of the other social scenes that were overlapped with the ghosts.
Haunting Violet was an interesting and lighthearted read. If you are looking for a more indepth, serious look at the Spiritualist Movement during this time period (Victorian Ghosts in the Noontide, Affinity by Sarah Waters, A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz), this you will not get. You will however, find main characters that are quite likeable, with an ending that gives me hope that there will be a sequel to explain some of the things that were left hanging, and to continue Violet's training. Hopefully she will also find herself in many more adventures and mysteries that will be in need of her unique talents.