Having read Fallen Grace and enjoyed it thoroughly, I leapt at the chance to review Velvet. Velvet works hard as a laundress in awful conditions. She is given a chance to better herself by working with important and rich clients at the laundry, and soon finds herself pulled into the strange world of medium Madame Savoya. Working as a lady’s maid at the deliciously gothic named Darkling Villa, Velvet is an innocent in a complex and duplicitous world.
I have read widely around the subject of Victorian medium hoaxes and found the level of historical accuracy and research in this book very satisfying – I find myself ‘pulled out’ of stories where the research is low par, and this could never be said of Mary Hooper’s books. Particularly interesting is the description of the way ‘ectoplasm’ was generated by fake mediums.
Hooper does not shy away from difficult topics, and the insight into baby farming she gives is heartbreaking, because it really happened. Her descriptions are never mawkish or over-sentimental, but touch her readers and stay with them.
As always, Mary Hooper’s characters are fleshed out and full; you care about what happens to them. Velvet faces difficult decisions and the tension is well handled. The plot moves along at an engaging pace and carries the reader with it.