I'm a big fan of Alyxandra Harvey's Vampire series, The Drake Chronicles. The second book in the series (Blood Feud) is my favourite though. I loved the historical flashbacks to the French Revolution injected between the main story, and in my review remarked that Alyx should think about writing historical when she was done with the Drakes . Little did I know she already had one in the pipeline, Haunting Violet, which went immediately on my must read list as soon as I became aware.
Haunting Violet is set in quite probably my most favourite time in history to read about, Victorian, and centres around the fascinating spiritual medium world, which was extremely popular then. So already I'm sold on this story. And it doesn't disappoint at all; Evocative of its time, eerie and spooky, genuinely mysterious and with that trademark Harvey wit and strong female lead - it's a winning combination.
I loved the character of Violet. Despite being bullied and used by her fraudulent and resentful single mother, she remains a strong character willing to fight back. She has a modern outlook while still fitting in with her era, which makes her both interesting and relatable. Compassionate (if at times grudgingly so to the ghost who desperately needs her help) and intelligent she rocks big time. I thought the plot between the two potential love interests was extremely well done, cringing at her mother's attempts to marry her off to a wealthy gentleman and championing the underdog. There are both very funny and touching scenes in the book, captured in a style unique to this author.
The mystery was also fantastic. What can be more thrilling than a haunted country mansion and a party of nobility and gentry with a murder suspect firmly hidden amongst them. It had a kind of Agatha Christie feel to it, as in it could have been ANY of them, and it was down to the unlikely heroine to eliminate the suspects one by one. For most of the book I didn't know who was responsible, thinking `aha' several times. And while I did guess the eventual culprit a few pages before the reveal, it was still exciting and full of danger so not at all disappointing. Violet's interactions with the ghosts she comes across range from chilling and terrifying to absolutely hilarious, so throughout the book I was either holding my breath in suspense or laughing out loud.
What I really enjoy about Alyxandra Harvey's writing is her snappy, no nonsense and to the point approach. None of her books are particularly long, generally around 300 pages. Yet she always manages to pack so much in and it never feels as if you've been short changed. Haunting Violet is no different and once again the pace gallops along at an engrossing speed with no dips of concentration or loss of interest along the way. I'd highly recommend her books to the more reluctant reader or those with a shorter attention span. Impressively, she also manages to convincingly place us in Victorian England, using authentic sounding language and behaviours without overdoing it and alienating readers by being formal and heavy.
Haunting Violet is a definite success in my eyes and a book I'm only too happy to recommend. Mingling historical settings, romance, a murder mystery and a ghost with Harvey's unique style makes it a must read for fans. I'd also recommend it to fans of Victorian historical fiction and mysteries too, in fact I can't think of many it won't appeal to.