Review By Kayleigh

Sarah Penner weaves a tangled web of secrets, murder and the search for the truth.

Favourite Quote:

Even if it meant learning the sinister subtleties of an art in which she was not sure she believed.

Besides, perhaps tonight that would change.

Perhaps tonight she would see her first ghost.

Goodreads Synopsis:

1873. At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike.

Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. But as the women team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery, they begin to suspect that they are not merely out to solve a crime, but perhaps entangled in one themselves…

The London Seance Society is a spooky book with a delicious setting. Set in the 1870’s it explores Victorian England’s obsessions with seances and ghosts. Are they real? Are they cons? Lenna Wickes, one of the main characters, is obsessed with learning about the art of calling up the dead to avenge her sister’s death. Her sister, Evie, dies mysteriously on All Hallows’ Eve after becoming obsessed with seances and learning from the famed Vaudeline D’Allaire. 

Lenna sets out to learn from Vaudeline and to discover if seances are real, and if they are, if she can call up her sister to avenge her death. However, Evie had secrets, and as Lenna tries to make amends she uncovers more than she bargains for. I loved this read: it flips between Leena’s point of view, written in third person, and the first person perspective of Mr. Morley, a gentleman and vice-president of the London Seance Society. Penner writes a tight book filled with deep historical details, a gothic atmosphere and a lot of suspense. It’s hard to talk about the plot without giving away any spoilers, but let me tell you, it’s good!

There’s so many connections you make as you read through the book. Between that and the pacing and the switching POVs, it was hard to put this story down. I devoured it. The characters are all interesting and full – they feel so human; filled with flaws and longing. Lenna comes to terms with her sister’s death, her role in life, and who she is attracted to. There is a side romance that is soft and sweet and adds a fabulous layer to the book.

Penner shines as a historical fiction writer – her descriptions are so evocative and detailed that I felt like I could walk right through her scenes and touch them. This is a book to read with your book club – I just wouldn’t try to call up a ghost afterwards. Who knows what could happen?

All in all, this is an excellent gothic story about the Victorian era’s obsession with seances and talking with the dead. 

Thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing for the ARC in return for an honest review.