5 Rated Books 7 Rated Books Book Reviews Joint Review

Blog Tour & Joint Review: Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Title: Haunting Violet

Author: Alyxandra Harvey

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Supernatural, Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens (US & UK)
Publication date: June 2011 (US)/July 4 (UK)
Hardcover: 352 Pages (US)

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?

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel

How did we get this book: ARCs from the Publishers (US & UK)

Why did we read this book: Both of us are fans of hauntings and ghost stories (being the only type of horror that Ana actually likes), and Haunting Violet seemed a perfect fit for both Smugglers to take on.


First Impressions:

Ana: I love ghost stories (even if I am scared of them) and I love novels set in Victorian times, so reading Haunting Violet was pretty much a given. The potential was even greater considering that the heroine and narrator is a con artist who finds herself having to solve a very real murder with the added bonus of a sweet romance between childhood friends. And you know… I really enjoyed reading Haunting Violet. It was a fun, quick read but unfortunately that’s all it was as it never truly reached its potential for greatness.

Thea: First off, I have to disagree with Ana because I don’t think Haunting Violet is necessarily a horror title. It’s much more of a ghostly mystery (just because ghosts are in a book doesn’t mean they are horror, just as vampires or werewolves in a book are the same). Ahem. That said, I enjoyed Haunting Violet much more than dear Ana – it’s a scam job, a mystery, a novel about abuse and relationships and love – and I truly enjoyed it from beginning to end.

On the Plot:

Ana: Violet Willoughby has spent most of her childhood assisting her mother in her fraudulent séances. She doesn’t believe in ghosts and she wishes they could have a different life, but the options for a young girl with no means and no connections are not exactly that great. Still, being somewhat famous in the spiritualist circles has proved to be a potential way out for Violet with the prospect of a good marriage just within her grasp.

But, when Violet and her mother are invited to attend a house party in the state of their patron, Sir Jasper, Violet starts to see real ghosts. One of the visiting ghosts is the spirit of a murdered girl looking to catch her killer and only Violet can help. With the help of her childhood friend Colin, she sets out to investigate the murder and unveil the mystery and catch the villain.

Haunting Violet starts off really well and I truly loved its first 100 pages or so. I liked the writing style and Violet’s voice. I enjoyed reading about Violet’s moral struggle with regards to their way of life and her inability to break free from her mother. This struggle was even more interesting if you consider the background of the Victorian society and the few options afforded to a penniless, bastard, young woman like Violet. I also enjoyed Violet’s relationship with Colin and how it started to evolve from friendship to love. In addition I have always been strangely attracted to stories about séances and the craze that seemed to have spread out throughout Europe at that time. Not to mention that the first scenes with the ghosts were truly terrifying.

But those were the first 100 pages. I think the best way to explain how I felt about the story is how it seemed it never truly evolved much beyond those first 100 pages of introduction. It is like the author only but scrapped the surface of all the different threads that were presented to start with. Starting with the Victorian setting – some things were only but glossed over like issues relating to gender and class and the dialogue sounded extremely modern. All things considered, this is really nothing more than a Wallpaper Historical (in terms of accuracy and setting). Now, I don’t really mind reading wallpaper historical novels all that much and have in fact, enjoyed several of them throughout the years but that is as long as everything else in the novel works well: characters, plot, writing. But as it turned out, everything in Haunting Violet was sort of wallpaper-y, with no real substance. The romance develops without any real depth, the characters are wishy-washy, the mystery was contrived and lacked believability in the way that it was investigated. And the whole thing surrounding Violet’s “powers” sounded quite hokey actually: like for example, all of a sudden there was talk about of “third eye” and Violet learnt how to open and close it in her FIRST attempt. Not to mention that every time the ghost of the murdered girl showed up and Violet asked a direct question about her murderer, something would happen to prevent the ghost from clearing that up – and that was extremely contrived.

What started like a good read with a lot of potential, soon turned out to be a frustrating read with underdeveloped threads and characters, shortcuts and inconsistencies. It was still somewhat fun to read but I could see the potential for a truly great story but alas, it never came to be.

Thea: From the other side of Smuggler Headquarters, I have to say that I patently disagree. With regards to the setting and historical accuracy, I do agree that dialogue had a tendency to slip into the more modern vernacular, the setting itself didn’t seem inaccurate to me (but then again, I’m the American of the duo so take that with a grain of salt). There wasn’t any modern sensibility ham-handedly forced into the novel, and for that I was extremely grateful.[1. As opposed to another Victorian novel I read this week, which had all the subtlety of a falling anvil as Women’s Rights! were flouted about as the main character constantly rails about her station.] But as to plotting, storytelling, thematics? Haunting Violet does a fantastic job of weaving a primary murder mystery alongside the story of a young girl’s struggle to find a place in the world, as she is a bastard daughter forced into a life of deception and thievery by a manipulative, abusive mother. The book does a fantastic job of examining the Victorian fascination with Spiritualism, and both the devotion and skepticism mediums invoked as seances became haute couture. I loved seeing the brashness of Violet’s mother, “Mrs. Willoghby,” as she ingratiates herself in high society with her many parlor tricks. I would argue that it is this storyline, Violet’s struggle to find a place in a society, acceptance from her mother, and her battle between her conscience and pragmatism, that is the core thematic arc of Haunting Violet.

Of course, at the heart of Haunting Violet, there is the mystery story as well. There’s the small matter that Violet – despite not believing in ghosts and being the daughter of London’s most famous spiritualist hack – starts to actually see ghosts. At Rosefield, Violet keeps seeing the ghost of a pale girl with bruises around her neck and wrist, dripping water and lillies. Soon, she learns the identity of her spectral visitor is Rowena Wentworth, a girl who mysteriously drowned the prior year. Rowena’s ghost will not rest until her twin sister is safe from the grasp of her murderer, and Violet, with the help of her friends Elizabeth and Colin, is the only one who can help discover the truth. Although the villain of the matter is fairly obvious (at least once all of the pieces are in place), I didn’t hold that against the book as the mystery unfolded in an organic, slightly spooky (in a good old fashioned ghost story) type of way.

Also, I loved that not everything is sunshine and ponies in this book – as befitting a penniless, bastard daughter of a defamed medium. The ultimate reveal comes to a violent crest of action and drama, and though our intrepid heroine saves the day, she doesn’t become the long-lost heiress to a fortune, nor does she marry her true love and live happily ever after. There’s happiness, to be sure (and I did enjoy the romance, but be warned it is a tertiary plot at best), but it isn’t a Disney-pretty-princess conclusion. And I liked that a lot.

On the Characters:

Ana: Character-wise, Haunting Violet presented the same sort of problem I had with the setting and the story. The seeds for good characters were ALL there. Violet was interesting to start with but….she was simply not developed enough as a character. I feel like I barely know her and what moved her which is basically how I feel about the majority of the characters (and there were SO many of them). I could just about see glimpses of awesomeness. Violet’s mother for example, had a really good shot at being to be a conflicted character and sympathetic villain but was nothing but one-dimensional villain. I know close to nothing about Colin beyond him being nice to Violet. There were again, glimpses of his past, but the conversations about it started but never ….ended.

Violet really seemed to struggle with her mother’s lack of ethic but did nothing about it. She wanted to investigate the mystery but her friends were the ones to really do the work – it is as though she was not an active character in her own story. Was that the point of her character arc?? I don’t think so – the denouement was resolved without Violet actively doing anything.

The fact that I actually liked them all (or perhaps I liked the idea of these characters) just adds to the overall frustration.

Thea: In contrast, I thought the characters were well-developed and rounded, especially where Violet, our protagonist, is concerned. Violet’s struggle is a tough one, as she must battle between her guilty conscience and the reality that this is the only way she and her mother can afford to feed themselves and make a living. As Colin puts it in the book, no one will hire Violet as a governess, because Ladies do not want overly-pretty governesses under their roofs. And, while Violet feels bad about drugging old ladies and deceiving her friends Lord Jasper and the young, spirited Elizabeth (daughter of an Earl), she has no qualms about pickpocketing, stealing silverware, or taking advantage of other snooty peers and high society types. The real struggle, however, is with Violet’s relationship with her beautiful, talented, yet petulant and cruel mother. Mrs. Willoghby is a manipulatress of the highest order, ruthlessly attempting to ingratiate herself in the peerage through her act as a medium and using her daughter as marriageable bait. Violet is constantly torn between embarrassment for her beautiful mother’s drinking and gleeful lack of propriety, and a desire to do right and earn her mother’s respect, if not affection. This struggle defines Violet’s character – embarrassed, ashamed, but responsible and reluctant to leave the mother she both reviles and admires. And that’s to say nothing of the ghost story arc that also shapes Violet over the course of the book – the discovery of her abilities, her fear and reluctance to acknowledge the truth, and the gradual acceptance to discover the villain responsible for a young girl’s death.

I enjoyed the other characters in the novel, too, especially Violet’s friend Elizabeth (who unfortunately does not get as much screen time) and the angry Tabitha, twin sister to the murdered Rowena. Of course, there’s also Colin, Violet’s childhood friend and love interest, who is handsome and conveniently there for Violet at every turn. Though I enjoyed the romance that blossoms between these two characters, I could have used a bit more backstory for Colin.

Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:

Ana: Haunting Violet started off really well but turned out to be a frustrating read from the middle onwards. Still, I breezed through it fairly easily.

Thea: I really, truly liked this book – far more than I was expecting to like it. Haunting Violet is a tantalizing ghost story and murder mystery, fraught with seances and spirits, deception and secrets. But more than that, it is the story of a girl, coming into her own – a story that resonates in any time period, with any audience. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From the Prologue:


I was nine years old when my mother decided it was time I took part in the family business. I was pretty enough now, she said, that I might be of use. I’d grown into my ears and my long neck and might be clever enough to handle myself. Besides which, she claimed she had no other option.

So that December, full of Christmas cheer and mulled wine, she’d changed her mind. It wasn’t until later that I realized it wasn’t Christmas cheer that had prompted her, but desperation.

Still, she’d promised me a visit to an actual bookshop where I might even be able to purchase my very own book if I did well. Until then I had only read discarded magazines or books tossed out into the alleys behind the shops and fine houses because of unsightly stains of damp or smoke damage.

I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening, only that it was vitally important. Even Colin, who was only two years older than me but fancied himself more mature now looked grim. He’d come with his mother from Ireland, and had been orphaned and survived as a crossing boy, sweeping the street clean for the gentry when my Mother found him. She brought him home a month earlier to live with us, also contingent on how well we did that night. Crossing boys who were growing tall enough and strong enough to muscle the fine folk of Mayfair didn’t get many tips. Not to mention that he was a fair hand at pickpocketing and had to change corners every day so he wouldn’t get caught.

The snow was gathering slowly in the muddy streets as we left Cheapside. It turned the gray stones and dirty gutters into a landscape made from gingerbread and buttercream frosting. It made me hungry just to see it. My stomach growled loudly. Mother sent me a disapproving glance.

“Violet, a lady does not betray bodily needs.”

I nodded, looking down at my feet.

“A lady gets to eat, don’t she?” Colin murmured, but not so loud that she could hear him. He slipped me the end of a potato, wrapped in a rag, from his pocket. Usually it was insects he delighted in pulling out of his pockets, to see me squirm. Christmas cheer must be contagious this year. I wished it would last all the year long.

“But what will you eat?” I whispered back.

“I’m not hungry.”

He was lying. We’d both had a single muffin for breakfast and nothing since. I took a bite and handed him the other half.

You can read a full excerpt HERE.

Additional Thoughts: As we are an official stop on the Haunting Violet blog tour, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you that you have a chance to win a copy of the book. Make sure to stop by the official facebook page for a chance to enter.


Ana: 5 – Meh.

Thea: 7 – Very Good, and leaning towards an 8.

Reading Next: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK & nook, and sony

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  • Slayra
    June 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I liked the book, but I agree with Anna… it’s definitely “wallpaper historial” and the mystery plot is rather straightforward and predictable but I liked the characters and the book in general. 🙂

    I don’t know if this is allowed, but coincidently I also reviewed this book today (not as in-depth, though, lol): http://pinkgum.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-haunting-violet_29.html 😐 😀

  • Pam
    June 29, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I have to agree with Thea on this one! Also I am reading the same book next 😀

  • Tipsy Reader
    June 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Lol, I love how you both got something very different out of the book. But I can’t help it, I reeeeeally want to read this one.

    Side note, doesn’t the UK cover look like “Torment” by Lauren Kate?

  • Heidi
    June 29, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Thank you Tipsy! That was my first reaction…looks like the exact same art used on the Fallen/Torment covers. Dress…black hair…misty background…barren trees…birds. It’s uncanny!

  • Jeff Rivera
    June 30, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Great review of haunting Violet! I like the fact that there are two contrasting ideas about the book and it really gave me a good look on how the story would fare.

  • Michelle
    July 2, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I’m with Ana on this one. I struggled with Haunting Violet. It wasn’t fantastic for me nor was it completely aweful. For me more than anything I think it was the historical/victorian setting. It made me feel like the story never got going.

  • emily
    November 4, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    this is a reread this was for my book report idk i just want to post it
    Haunting violet summary
    Sixteen-year-old Violet Willoughby has spent her life assisting her mother, Celeste, a fraudulent spiritual medium, in tricking wealthy widowers and grieving mothers out of their gold and silver. Life in Victorian England for a former housemaid left expecting a child after an affair with her wealthy employer was not easy for Mary Morgan. After Violet’s birth, Mary adopted the pseudonym Celeste Willoughby, posing as a grieving widow with the ability to speak with the dead.

    One day the family was invited to rose field a beautiful country estate owned by the very wealthy and powerful lord jasper.Mrs.willoughby has always wanted to impress lord jasper in the way she wants to marry him so she would become wealthy and known by not just her beauty as she is already but in her ladyness. Mrs.willoughby, violet, and Collins the butler and a good friend of violets are going to perform there fake ‘’act’’ in the castle.

    Mr. Xavier is in love with violets beauty and is willing for his parents to meet her.
    Mr. Xavier is also in Mrs.willoughby interest for her daughter.but not every thing is what her mother thinks it is. The big day has come and her mother has also gotten another helper on there first scheme. The first scheme went well violets mother let a ghost take over her body and the ghost was a dancer. After the show her mother was tired and needed sometime to “recover’’ from the act so violet was alone for the rest of the day. In the morning violet went to the breakfast room were Mr. Xavier was also polite to her.that is were she met a girl named Elisabeth and they became quick friends.

    That afternoon there was a small party outside of the castle for the welcoming of the guests. Violet and Elisabeth talked about there favorite things.when violet met another lady named Tabitha who seemed nice at first but got upset real easily when one of her gentleman talked about a girl named Rowena.violet soon caught up on who Rowena was.Rowena was Tabatha twin sister but she drowned about two years ago.or did she. Elisabeth shows a picture of her and she then remembers the girl at the first performance of there act in the castle but with bruises.violet goes up to her room and there she stands Rowena but dead all of a sudden water is filling up the room she shuts the door but she can feel water swirling up her feet and water coming out from the walls and just like that everything was gone as if nothing had happened. Violet was scared not of the ghost entirely but of seeing them she did not want to become a medium like her mother she liked her life.

    Violet had spilled out every thing to Elisabeth so they both looked for a spirit talking bored and to there luck they did they both met up in violets room at night.they tried to contact the ghost world but it did not happen on there third try all the words on the spirit board started to move around in a circle it went faster and faster and the what was left was TR.the next day violet tried not to talk about the letters she and Elizabeth saw but it was hared.

    Violet and Elizabeth went to the pond were Rowena is said to have drowned in.violet saw Rowena in the water and not her reflection and the she slipped in and so did Elizabeth.Rowena and violet were alone Rowena tried to talk but nothing came out.violet assumed that she cant talk and she was wright and again just like that everything was gone and Tabitha stood in front of them wondering why the of daughter of a lady and lord and a daughter of a medium is doing in the pond but before she could i felt for something in the water and i found a ring Tabitha snatched it away from violet.she was shocked and threaten to send me home if i don’t mined my own business.

    Later on that week both me and Elizabeth talked to Rowena at the pond again but after that another ghost showed up and tried to go in my body but Collins saved me he was mad but he always is.violet finds out that Rowena had a secret admirer named Travis.violet accidentally bumps into him when bringing her food to her table and spilled it on Mr.Travis she try to help by rubbing the top of his jacket and talking a note from his pocket in the other she hides it in her dress and runs to her room. In her room she finds that Collins in there and they both read the note or letter. It is a love letter from Rowena.so Travis was in love with Rowena.

    Later that night when everyone was at the party Mr.Travis was looking for the love letter and i felt bad so i gave it back to him he also thinks that Rowena was killed but not drowned.he was so exited he kept on asking questions and his last one was is she her.no she wasn’t. They both went and enjoyed the party Mr. Xavier asked violet to dance and the brought her into the garden and told her that she will be meeting her after they leave from the castle. After Mr. Xavier left she over heard a couple of other people talking about Rowena.

    The big day came and it was time for there performance they have been practicing this for a long time. There was a last minute guest and he looked just like violet.this new guest made Mrs.Willoughby nerves.the performance was a total fail.violets mother made the whole family and even the new helper or maid come home to they left at night so no one would no.no one talked very much and not violets mother she did not eat or talk but one afternoon Mr. Xavier came to there home and left with no good news he was breaking up with her because of her mother.her mother was so mad she beat violet up finally Collins came and stopped her.that is were violet met a ghost dog he became violets pet. Violet went up to her bedroom to sleep for the night her mother came out at the same time as her.her ghost dog was growling at her mother violet was calming her dog down when her mother asked her who she was talking to violet did not want to tell her but it just came out.

    The next day her mother woke her up and got her dressed like everything that happened last night never happened. Violet soon new why her mother was being so kind to her her mother told everyone about her daughters powers to see and speak to ghosts.there living room was crowded with widows and people who want to talk to the loved dead ones.violet was scared but she got through about 3 people.her mother was sitting next to a lord and looks like they were flirting with each other.all of a sudden there was a lady above my mother and the lord i assumed that she was the lords wife and violet told him that his wife wants him to remember to wear a clean underwear every day he was upset and mother was to but it was the truth.

    violet was asked to go back to the castle because the word had gotten to lord jasper and violet thinks that lord jasper could see ghosts just like her.she did not want to leave Collins in the house alone but she had no other choice.she and Collins were made for each other she loves him and he loves her what more can you ask for the house maid always said to her self.

    When violet arrived at rose field she was welcome by lord jasper him self he was glade to teach her.violet asked him if he can see ghosts and his answer was along time ago.when violet saw Elizabeth she was nerves to go up to her she left her with out saying goodbye but she still did.Elizabeth was mad at her but how can she stay mad at her only friend.when she saw Rowena out side she was with Tabitha but only she could see her.violet told her about Rowena just now they were both determined to fined out what happened to her whether she got killed or drowned and they had to before the big party.they set up for how they were going to do find out who killed Rowena but they needed help so they talked to Mr.Travis and he said yes also they found Collins in violets room they were like a magnet and metal he said ok to.a couple of days pasted and it was the night of the party when a maid approached violet.the maid needed violet because Tabitha was in danger she would not eat sleep or talk to anyone and would only say violets name so violet Elizabeth and Travis came to the home of Tabitha.

    When they reached her room she was in the corner and she was crying.they soon found out that Tabatha’s uncle was behind the murder of Rowena.and out of no were Rowena shows up and violet scream out Rowena for no reason at all.Tabitha is happy that she is here now that Rowena is here she can help them.Tabatha’s uncle was coming upstairs to give Tabitha drugs.Travis was brave enough to take Tabatha uncle back down stairs they tried to go down from the window but it was no use.they heard his foot steps from down the hall they covered the door with furniture so he would not get in.they tied up clothing to make a lader to climb down but Tabatha uncle came in some how.it started to get cold in the room and violet told him that Rowena is here to scare him but he just faked it he had hurt Travis in his office he says there is blood allover his new carpet.it got even colder Rowena was really mad he took the maid by the hand and put a knife to her throat.he told them how he killed Rowena on the same date as today.she could not possibly go down the rope or fight in her dress so she took it of and she was in her underwear.

    Right then Rowena took over violets body and chased him all the way back to the castle were the party was being held.Rowena who was in side of violet she wanted every one to know who killed her and if he didn’t she would drown him. Tabitha and them came shortly after she gave her speech.every one was in shock but Tabatha uncle didn’t say a thing he kept on saying insults to violet or violets mother. All of a sudden water started to climb up his ankles he was starting to get scared but not that much because he was still going on and on about how bad violet is.Rowena shouted this will all go away if you just admit of killing me.silence in the room the he fell to his knees the water was not just cold but also it was up to his stomach.he started to whisper but no one could hear him.the water was up to his neck and it got higher and high my the minute.he finally blurted out that he killed Rowena and that she never drowned.Rowena left violets body the minute he said it and violet fell Collins rushed to help her.lord jasper had he kicked out and sent to jail.violet saved the day and found out who killed Rowena but in her underwear.

    Hte next day Everyone was going home and violet was saying goodbye to Elizabeth and some of the other guests when a letter arrived for violet it was from her mother the letter said
    Violet showed the letter to Collins and they both did not know were they were to stay and at that moment lord jasper shows up and tells them that they can stay at the castle because violet needs lot of training now that she has a third eye.Elisabeth was so happy so was violet but were will maria and Collins sleep or stay asked violet Collins can be a helper on the Fields they were at least happy that they are together and maria can help you around the castle.they were all happy that they had each other

    The end

  • Emily
    November 4, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    tell me if u like it

  • Jiya
    January 8, 2017 at 9:52 am

    That was amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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