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. (From Goodreads)
Best Bits: Fall is my favorite time to read historical fiction. I'm not really sure if it's the setting, description, or characters...but there's something extremely satisfying about being transported into another time as the weather changes around me. Velvet begins her story working in a steam laundry, and eventually finds her way into the home of a medium. There she experiences things that she never believed she would, and the reader gets a taste of what life was like for both the very poor and the very wealthy. I also loved the medium subject matter. This is actually historically accurate, in the late 1800's and early 1900's mediums were increasingly popular (you can see some pretty freaky photos of mediums and ectoplasm from this time period if you look around online). It just added another layer to the story, because the reader is privy to information that allows us to understand the motivations of Madame before Velvet does. Plus, woo there is quite a twist at the end.
Nit Picks: I wish we could have seen a bit more of her childhood friend, and neighbor, Charlie. He kind of gets brushed off throughout the book, but ends up with a significant part to play. So, I think I would have felt more for him had I gotten to know him a little more. There's also quite a bit of time between finding out the nature of Madame and Velvet realizing it. It got a little frustrating at times, even though I sympathized because this woman essentially saved Velvet from poverty.
By Mary Hooper
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Received from NetGalley