Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry’s work is back-breaking and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet’s very life is in danger …A romantic and thrillingly exciting new novel from an acclaimed and much loved historical writer for teens.
2 1/2 stars
Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for this eARC! This book will be released November 13th, 2012.
The blurb calls this book “romantic” and “thrilling.” The fact is, this book is neither.
Honestly, I was expecting so much more from this book. The premise was interesting, and Mary Hooper is an established historical fiction writer. Sadly, this book plays on too many historical fiction cliches that bother the heck out of me.
The first problem is the way the book was written. I have no idea why so many historical fiction books think they need to ramble on like historical pieces of the times. Yes, I understand there is certain language you can and cannot use when writing in historical periods, but we’ve cut out the rambling in modern day books for a reason. This is certainly a personal thing as well, since I prefer all unneccesary words to be cut, but still. It bothers me, and it made me iffy about the book from the get go.
The second was the characters. Apart from Madame Savoya, they were all pretty flat and generic. Velvet annoyed me especially, since she had the potential to be such a strong main character, but then fell into the utterly gullible and naive cliche. She toyed with Charlie (a boy from her past who is inexplicably smitten with her even though she brushes him off at every turn), with whom there was NO connection of any real kind, no matter how much they protested there was, and then she was completely taken in by both Madame Savoya and George, her assistant.
The kicker came with the ending–or rather, the lack thereof. I hit the button on my Kindle for the next slide and NOPE. Nothing. I literally couldn’t believe it. Looking back on those two pages or so, I guess they do suggest an ending, but it’s NOT a finished one. Not by a long shot. The climax is a brief and abrupt thing, then all of the sudden you have TWO pages of falling action and that’s just it. Note that when I say two pages, I’m talking for the screens of my small-as-possible Kindle. I’m not sure if this would even make two pages of book. Before this I was thinking of opimistically giving the book 3 stars, but this just killed the book for me.
I will say, however, that the idea continued to impress me all throughout the story. The intrigue that Hooper worked in was basic at times, but the entire setting–mediumship, etc–was really enjoyable and interesting. I learned a lot both about the real ideas of spiritualism and about how all the hoaxers got away with what they did. This is basically the thread that kept me reading.
I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but I LOVE the genre. Maybe my standards for what I do read is a little too high, but this book just fell way short of all of them. I wanted so much more from the book, but I found the standard writing style, flat characters and an ending-that-wasn’t. Most of my frustration comes from the fact that I believed this book could be so much more. Hooper has a fantastic idea, but the execution just didn’t fit.