Friday, January 18, 2013

The House of Velvet and Glass

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe
borrowed from the public library
Description from Goodreads:
Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, returns with an entrancing historical novel set in Boston in 1915, where a young woman stands on the cusp of a new century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball.

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.

From the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown to the opulent salons of high society, from the back alleys of colonial Shanghai to the decks of the Titanic, The House of Velvet and Glass weaves together meticulous period detail, intoxicating romance, and a final shocking twist that will leave readers breathless.

My Take:
I really wanted to like this book. I loved Katherine Howe's first book, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and I hoped that this one would be even better. Unfortunately, this one just didn't have the same power. 

I loved the time period and the descriptions of the clothing, furniture, homes, and life in general were all well done and I enjoyed them very much. The problem for me was that I just didn't think there was enough . . . something. I'm not sure exactly what I found lacking. I didn't think the mysterious circumstances of Harley's leaving college were all that mysterious and the romance was slow and not really that interesting. I just couldn't make myself care that much. I did, however, like the interlude sections of the book that pertained to Sibyl's father, and his adventures as a young man.

I found it so frustrating, because there is so much potential in this story, but it just didn't grab me like I hoped it would. I liked it well enough, but it just didn't have the power and urgency of her first book.

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