Life is hard in Victorian times if you are an orphan; it could be hard even if you were not an orphan — as Kitty knows only too well. When the death of her monstrous father leaves her all alone in the world, she decides to change her life. She becomes Velvet – but has to take work as a laundry maid to survive. Then her luck changes; Velvet finds herself moving in high society as the privileged companion of the beautiful Madame Savoya, the spiritualist medium. But can Madame really summon the spirits of the dead? As Velvet becomes more involved, she finds herself asking more questions, and this is dangerous.
This is a very accessible historical novel as one would expect from Mary Hooper. She delights in introducing her readers to unusual and interesting aspects of society — in this case that of the late Victorian and early Edwardian period. The text is rich in detail — how the laundry business worked, what the girls would have worn, attitudes to mourning, fashions, food and, of course, the craze for spiritualism; she even slips in the occasional ‘celebrity’ — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is one. However, it is rescued from becoming a history lesson through her characters — Velvet is lively, independent and attractive and her predicament ensures that the reader wants to turn the page while Madame Savoya and her partner, George, are colourful and very plausible; even the reader is almost fooled. For, not only is there the frisson of danger as Velvet finds out more about the trickery behind the acts put on by so-called mediums, but there is also the hint of romance. Will she fall for the gorgeous, helpful George? Or will she realise that it is Charlie who is the dependable one? Well written, but in an easy undemanding style that mixes dialogue and description to good effect, this, like other novels by this author, is ideal for the younger teen audience.