Warning: this is one of my all-time favourites. I’ve read it 5 times.
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Genres: YA Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
Violet Willoughby has grown up to be skeptical to anything paranormal, period. Her mother, Celeste Willoughby, is a fraudulent medium based in London during the 1870s. When they receive an invitation from Lord Jasper, inviting them to his country mansion as guests, Violet’s mother is over the moon, as it’ll give her the chance to impress high society, and for Violet to impress her rich wannabe suitor, Xavier. Only, a ghost of a girl wants Violet to solve her murder. She’s mute. Violet gets help from her friends, Elizabeth, an earl’s daughter, and Colin, her mother’s poor assistant and the boy she’s grown to love but can never be with due to the firm rules of Victorian high society. Can she solve the murder? And will she choose Xavier over Colin?
Like I said above (scroll up), this is one of my all-time favourite books, and yes, I have read it 4 times cover to cover. I would’ve read it 5 times but my friends stole it back because she only lent it to me and borrowed it from the library. I was nearly done (reading it the second time). But eventually I took it out from the library, read it, bought my own copy at the Forest of Reading Festival in Toronto, got it signed, and read it again. So ha.
Anyway, Haunting Violet provides in-depth details about 19th century England and Spiritualism, an exciting plot, suspenseful mystery, and an adorable romance. I think this would project as a chick lit book, though, because the romance in it is a major storyline.
First of all, the settings and the background information are examples of the strong points in the books. You can’t just focus on the storyline and totally ignore the settings, and that would just make the book’s quality lower. Alyxandra Harvey showed (not told) me 19th century London, complete with smog and traffic, along with stately Rosefield Manor and its surrounding area. She describes it so well. Also, the information I found out about Spiritualism was great. It was like having a backstage pass so I could see how everything worked.
The characters were relateable, but you don’t really know much about a couple of them. Violet was one of the more developed characters. Seeing Violet’s perspective gave the story a lot more emotion than I think it would have if it had been written in third person. You could tell how hard her mother was on her (her mother’s EVIL…but for a strange reason, enjoyable to read about), and how much trouble she had choosing between Xavier and Colin (Xavier’s the pretty rich boy, Colin’s the handsome poor guy), because Colin was the one she really loved but he was dirt poor, but Xavier was the one who could free her from her evil mother. Colin…actually, you don’t know that much about Colin except he loves Violet, comes from Ireland, is an orphan, and is dirt poor. The same goes for Xavier, pretty much. Mrs. Celeste Willoughby (Violet’s mom), however, is really developed; you know why she’s being a fraudulent medium, what she’ll do so she’ll be accepted into high society, and her whole backstory. Like I said before, she was fun to read about.
The plot, in itself, was good overall. The only part that I had an issue with (and I only realized that now, was too caught up shipping) is that the stakes aren’t really made that clear. Like it said in the summary, Violet has to find the murderer of a girl who died the year previous. So it kind of went like “You have to ____ or else _____ happens.” You know there are stakes, but it’s only vaguely outlined. Like, will Violet die if she doesn’t find the murderer? What else will happen?
Lastly, the romance between Colin and Violet. Of course, Xavier plays in on this, but she doesn’t really love him, only feels “obligated” to marry him for his wealth, and so that she could finally have some freedom from her mother. Anyway, the chemistry between Colin and Violet is undeniable. At the beginning, you can see that Colin likes Violet, even though Alyxandra Harvey only gives subtle hints (“Colin disliked him for no reason other than he liked to be contrary.” Of course.) It become more obvious as the book progresses, and Violet eventually falls in love with Colin. However, it becomes really hard for her to choose, because she’s an underprivileged girl whose only hope for a good life is to marry rich (ahem, Xavier). I’d say more, but I’d like you to discover why it’s so good, so I won’t be a spoiler!
All in all, Haunting Violet was an enjoyable read (which is why I’ve loved it so much), filled with romance, historic London, and lies (lots of them). I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to try something new (initially I didn’t want to read this book, can you believe it? I didn’t pay attention to “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I only wanted to read it after my friend took it out and I read the summary.)
Thanks to Alyxandra Harvey for writing the book (and signing it!). Also, thanks to Google images, and the Forest of Reading.