Blog Tour: Velvet by Mary Hooper + Giveaway!

Today I’m excited to introduce Mary Hooper on our stop of her UK Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of Velvet (if you haven’t read my review already you can here)





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ILLEGITIMATE BABIES – Then and Now

 


Babies often feature in my novels, because babies, especially if they‘re born to underage mothers, make good, involving, dramatic stories. This was true twelve years ago when I wrote the MEGAN books, and is still true now.

Many of my historical novels have babies in them (Grace, the baby lowered out of a window in a basket in AT THE SIGN OF THE SUGARED PLUM; the two new-born babies exchanged at the beginning of THE REMARKABLE LIFE AND TIMES OF ELIZA ROSE, poor Grace’s baby in FALLEN GRACE and now, in VELVET, a baby stolen to order. In my books, which are concerned with social history rather than crime or magic or science fiction, babies are a catalyst. They bring drama, love, conflict, shame and (usually) abject poverty into a story.
           
An underage, single girl having a baby these days does not have an easy time of it. Contrary to what some of the newspapers say, she will probably not get her own flat as a matter of course. She will be broke, she will have to decide between a packet of disposable nappies for the baby or a pair of tights for herself. She’ll be left behind when her friends go clubbing, go on holiday or even just to the shopping mall (they‘re not going to hang around while the baby is fed, changed, sick down itself and changed again). And what about the huge gap in the unmarried mum’s education? What about all those exciting things she was going to do?

Go back a hundred years, however, and the situation was very much worse. An unmarried mother was regarded as the lowest of the low. There was no welfare state, no health service – and most hospitals would only allow you through the doors to deliver your baby if you were married. If, later, your child was ill and you couldn’t afford to call in the doctor, then that was just too bad. And where would you live? Rooms were available, but how could you afford one when you had no money coming in?  How would you feed and clothe your infant? If you lied about the baby and managed to get a job, who was going to look after it while you worked? There were no registered child-minders and no properly run nurseries. If your mother didn‘t live nearby (and hadn‘t already disowned you for having brought shame on the family) then the only way you could get your baby looked after was to take him to a baby farm…






Win!


One lucky winner has the chance of winning a copy of Velvet plus Mary Hooper’s backlist including.. At the Sign of the Sugared PlumPetals in the AshesThe Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza RoseAt the House of the MagicianBy Royal CommandThe Betrayal and Fallen Grace! (I’m so jealous…I’ve read Fallen Grace too but would love to read the others!! 




All you need to do to enter is fill in the form below. Closes 21st September. UK Only  Winner will be notified by email.





Goodluck!

Book Review: Velvet by Mary Hooper

Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet’s very life is in danger …A romantic and thrillingly exciting new novel from an acclaimed and much loved historical writer for teens (from Amazon.co.uk)
I came across Mary Hooper last year when I was sent Fallen Grace for review and enjoyed it immensely. I love historical fiction, particularly set in the Victorian era, and Hooper’s evocative style, sympathetic characters and accessible writing won me over immediately. I investigated the author’s other novels and was excited to learn the plot of her new book was set against the back drop of the Victorian spiritualist industry, something I have a read other books on and found fascinating.
I’m glad to say Velvet was just as good as Fallen Grace and I enjoyed every single page. After a couple of weeks of the dreaded reading slump, it’s gripping story line and fascinating characters were welcome relief and I couldn’t put the book down. Often historical fiction can come across as heavy going but this certainly isn’t the case with Velvet at all. It’s engaging and exciting yet remains very much in its time, throwing up many fascinating snippets of historical detail along the way.
Told in the first person from Velvet, I felt drawn to this character straight away. Despite having been abused and orphaned as a child and now working tirelessly in a laundry to scrimp her way through life, she remains ambitious and determined to stand on her own two feet. This seems to be a common trait in Hooper’s female lead characters and I enjoy the strength she portrays, especially in an age where women weren’t expected to want more. Sometimes I felt her ambition and desire to better herself made her a little too naïve at times, particularly where her new employer was concerned, although I think had I been in her position I too may have easily been so overawed at the life being offered to me to question it much.
I thought the character of spiritualist medium, Madame Savoya was incredibly well created. The reader is encouraged to build distrust of her by frequent passages involving clients away from Velvet’s eyes, in an almost conspiratorial way from the author. I liked how these sections gave shock factor and a sense of ‘behind the scenes’ rather than just Velvet’s biased and bedazzled view. Despite these insights, there where several twists along the way I didn’t see coming. There’s also a little bit of romance, although this never really takes of into a passionate love affair and remains very much in the background of the story.
At the end of the book Mary Hooper shares her inspiration for Velvet as well as some information on some of the people and places that appear in the book, which was very interesting. I’ve never come across Baby Farming before for instance and the fact this shockingly cruel practise took place little over 100 years ago stunned me. Clearly, Hooper puts a lot of research into her books and it’s this detailing along with her beautifully engaging writing style that makes Velvet a success. A truly intriguing and genuinely fascinating book, which I promise will pique the interest of all who read.

Published by Bloomsbury 5th September 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Come back on 12th September 2011 for my stop on the Mary Hooper Blog Tour and a chance to win an amazing prize!

Waiting On Wednesday: Velvet by Mary Hooper

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking The Spine
Velvet by Mary Hooper

Rose is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Rose is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Rose is noticed by Madame X, a famed medium, who asks Rose to come to work for her. Rose is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Rose realises that Madame X is not all that she says she is, and Rose’s very life is in danger …A romantic and thrillingly exciting new novel from an acclaimed and much-loved historical writer for teens. 

Published in the UK by Bloomsbury 5th September 2011

I really enjoyed Mary hoopers previous novel, Fallen Grace. I also just read and loved Alyxandra Harvey’s new book, Haunting Violet, which is also set in the world of the Victorian Medium,, so am looking forward to reading more about this fascinating time.

Book Review: Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant’s body in a rich lady’s coffin. Following the advice of a kindly midwife, this is the only way that Grace can think of to give something at least to the little baby who died at birth, and to avoid the ignominy of a pauper’s grave. Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound affect upon Grace’s life. But Grace doesn’t know that yet. For now, she has to suppress her grief and get on with the business of living: scraping together enough pennies selling watercress for rent and food; looking after her older sister, who is incapable of caring for herself; thwarting the manipulative and conscience-free Unwin family, who are as capable of running a lucrative funeral business as they are of defrauding a young woman of her fortune. A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister. (From Goodreads.com)

I love a good historical fiction now and then, in particular from the Victorian era, and so was extremely excited about reading this book. I wasn’t disappointed. Fallen Grace is a rags to riches tale of the very best kind and filled with the characters that make this kind of book so compelling. There’s tragic Grace, poverty stricken and badly treat yet hard working, kind and fiercely loyal; the detestable Unwin family, rich, cruel and conniving and the handsome young solicitor Mr James Solent, champion of the underdog. It reminds me a little of those saga’s I would steal from my Mum’s bookshelves years ago. I did love reading those books but often found them too long, spanning such a lengthy time period I would get bored or frustrated at yet another tragedy for the poor heroine. Covering just a year in Fifteen year old Grace’s life, Mary Hooper’s latest book doesn’t suffer this problem. It has everything needed for a deliciously juicy saga, but the story is contained and my attention was captured throughout the 300 pages.

I loved our heroine, Grace. She is tragic enough to gain sympathy but strong enough not to become pitying. Orphaned young and left to take care of her disabled older sister, despite the awful situation she finds herself in she remains loyal and loving. Her sister Lily is adorable. A young child in the body of a young woman, her simplistic naivety at the world is touching; although of course in the surrounding London slums, dangerous and extremely trying too. The other characters in the book are also extremely vivid, no matter how small their part and all of them were brought to life in my mind. I could almost see the book playing out as one of those fabulous Sunday evening TV drama adaptations as I read.

The setting of the book is described with such detail that while reading I felt transported to 19th century England. With a backdrop of the highly prosperous and opulent Victorian funeral industry the story is deliciously sinister and macabre, without being overly gruesome. While I knew that Queen Victoria took her mourning of Prince Albert extremely seriously, never again wearing anything but black, I didn’t know just how many rituals and rules of etiquette there were surrounding mourning dress. It was fascinating! As well, there are all the extravagant trimmings to ensure you give your loved one the most fashionable of send off’s, disguised as being ‘respectful and proper’ although largely made up by the Funeral industry itself to further enhance their wealth. It’s ironic that such fortunes were spent to bury the wealthy and aristocratic deceased, while the living poor suffered so terribly, having nothing to eat, no where to sleep and often working hours without shoes or warm clothes for a pittance. The contrast between the two is shocking. The amount of research Mary Hooper must have undertook to write this book is clear, and it pays off as the book is extremely interesting as well as being a fantastic read.

I thoroughly enjoyed Fallen Grace. The historical detail and the bizarre Funeral industry setting make it an original, interesting and sinister read. With character’s leaping from the pages and descriptions that will take you right to the heart of Victorian London, it’s a book to curl up cosy with and savour every last bit. There are some difficult themes such as rape and abuse, although neither in graphic detail (it happens before the book begins and so is mentioned but not described) and I think this book would appeal to fans of historical fiction of any age from age 12+ or for anyone with an interest in this period of history. This is the first book by Mary Hooper I have read, but I’m certain it won’t be the last.

Released on the 7th June 2010, thanks to the publishers (Bloomsbury) for sending me this copy for review.