Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in an elegant town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl flees for solace to the parlor of a table-turning medium.
But when her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange young woman, Sibyl turns for help to psychology professor Benton Derby, despite the unspoken tensions of their shared past. As Benton and Sibyl work together to solve a harrowing mystery, their long-simmering spark flares to life, and they realize that there may be something even more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass."
I had high expectations for The House of Velvet and Glass. Katherine Howe wowed me with The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane so I was expecting more of the same.
That'll teach me! This second book of hers is pretty much nothing like her first. It was slow in development- more than halfway into it, I was wondering if there'd be any element of the supernatural. There is, but it's not crucial to the plot. The plot is basically a drama with a stiff, unconvincing romance thrown in for good measure.
The things I liked:
- Touching on the helplessness of grief, and the way it changes people
- A female protagonist who is so Type A it's painful
- Plot nods to prominent social issues of the nineteen-teens, like women's suffrage, opium addiction, the changing face of lunacy, and the Great War
The things I disliked:
- Suuuuper slow plot
- Wandering messages (is this about Fate? Grace? Or just an excuse to write about the time period?)
- Loose ends too neatly tied up
So you can see, if I went into it assuming it was an historic drama, I would have been pleasantly surprised and perhaps enjoyed it more. I recommend it for fans of nineteen-teens historic fiction, Boston history, and multiple POV & timelines, and those who don't mind loose plot threads, shallow characters, and molasses-in-winter plots.
Labels: american history, book review, fate, historical fiction, katherine howe, supernatural, the house of velvet and glass, titanic, WWI