Velvet by Mary Hooper

Homeless and starving, Velvet was fortunate to find a job at Ruffold’s Steam Laundry and a tiny room to call her own. In 1900 Victorian England, she fights for survival every day against the heat and backbreaking labour. When an opportunity arises for a higher position, Velvet works her fingers to the bone to keep her role as a personal laundress for the wealthy spiritual medium Madame Sayoya.

However, mistakes do happen and Velvet gets fired. By a stroke of luck she is welcomed into the home of her best client. Now a part of the spiritual community, Velvet follows the rules to a T to ensure every séance of Madame’s goes without issue. She falls in love with Madame’s handsome assistant George and plans her future of finery. As time passes, cracks form in her wonderful world and Velvet must face her past and confront dangerous secrets.

Velvet takes an age-old story of a struggling girl in London during a period when fortune-tellers, mediums and paying for spiritual consultants were a fashionable hobby. Mary Hooper takes it a step further by weaving other historical aspects that are less flattering about this time period. It’s an easy and engrossing read that will keep you turning pages to learn more about how mediums tricked innocent patrons and if Velvet can survive being stuck in a web of lies.

I’ve always had a fondness for historical fiction. Perhaps it began with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books. I was always fascinated by historical England just as much as what occurred in Narnia. I absolutely fell in love with the imagery and storytelling of Victorian England. It’s extra enjoyable when part of the setting is around the corner from where one presently lives. Hooper does her research and she does it well. The tone, the language and the events of story are engaging without being dry. The only criticism I have about the book is how weak at times Velvet appears, and although I understand it’s a period equation, that’s how women behaved back then. I can’t help but wish there was a bit more spunk to her character.  If this title is on your to-read list, get it read! It’s a great YA book that’s got some romance but has more depth by placing survival as the main focus.

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