I’d been anticipating Alyxandra Harvey’s Haunting Violet for a while because the cover is so pretty. And, having read the book, I can now say the cover is even lovelier because it really fits the book. In fact, both versions of the cover fit the book rather well. There is an alternate, slightly darker cover that I don’t love quite as much but is sufficiently spooky and topical. Behold:
This was a case where the book really lived up to its excellent cover. If a book is set in England, there’s about a 99% chance I will read it. Toss in Victoriana? Make it 99.9%. Add in some ghosts? It is the book equivalent of a perfect storm for me. Haunting Violet was a perfect storm.
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?
This novel was remarkably well set-up. It immediately sucked you into not only the spooky future ahead of Violet, but the personal issues she’d be facing as well. The beginning of this book was what really intrigued me, mostly because it was such a great example of showing me Violet’s life and her relationships and how she felt about both without having to just tell me. It established what Violet’s relationship with her mother was like, set up the supporting characters who would be close to her, and gave a glimpse of how trapped Violet felt by the life her mother had set them up for. And God, her mother. I would have loved this book sans the ghosts even, because Violet’s relationship with her mom was so tragic and story-worthy all on its own.
The ghosts, clearly, were super spooky. And I loved the contrast between the Real Ghosts and the fake séances that Violet’s mother performed. I thought it was a great way to really hammer home the differences between Violet and her mother. And the suspense of will they or won’t they be caught filled in the hole’s nicely with the suspense of OMG is this ghost insane!?
I really loved how the characters in this book were written (down to the villains), but I especially loved Violet. I loved how conflicted she was. I loved how she saw through people’s crap. I loved how she was young and made mistakes, but also how she owned up to them. Violet felt so age and era appropriate to me, and I found that refreshing in a period novel.
Colin, too. Sigh. Colin. He was such an excellent boy in general and for Violet. I liked how he had a history with her, one that built into affection and friendship and stunned her a bit when it became clear to Violet (as it was already clear to the reader) that the feelings of friendship had become something else entirely. I loved how devoted he was to her without being overbearing or creepy.
My main problem with Haunting Violet was that the main mystery of the ghost felt obvious to me – it was clear from the get go for me who was behind it all. It didn’t hurt the suspense of the book overall sure – the rest of the plot stood up plenty straight on its own – but I think more subtlety there would have been helpful.
I really enjoyed Haunting Violet, and it was set-up for a sequel which I hope we get. I’m nervous about that because my bookstores hadn’t stocked this book and I ended up having to order it online. But still…please let there be a sequel? Pretty please?