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An Eye for Ghosts and a Nose for Mystery - an Editorial Review of "Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl"

Book Blurb:

She sees ghosts…but are they malevolent or friendly?

Poor little rich girl Violet Yorke has seen ghosts for as long as she can remember, but no one believes her.

Not stodgy Grandmother, who took charge of the heiress after her parents were killed in a failed robbery. Nor kind-hearted Aunt Nanette, or Uncle Bertie, a charming rogue. Not even the patient Hugo Hewitt, Violet’s godfather and trustee of her vast fortune.

Everyone dismissed the child’s insistence about ghosts as a harmless eccentricity—until the night her bedroom caught fire. Violet was promptly sent overseas, fueling her anger and resentment.

Two years later, a rebellious twelve-year-old Violet is on her way back to Manhattan on the doomed Titanic. As the ship sinks into the deep Atlantic Ocean, she’s put in a lifeboat by an apparition who rescued her from the clutches of a jewel thief. Presumed lost at sea, Violet shocks everyone by crashing her own funeral.

Following Violet’s recovery, Grandmother has grand high society designs for the girl, but Violet has other ideas. She’s determined to uncover the secret of what really happened to her parents. Then there’s the mystery of the moon-faced boy at gloomy Dunham Hall and his connection to the ghost on Titanic. Also hot on Violet’s trail is the jewel thief, the specter of her murdered governess, and a vengeful ghost lurking in Violet’s childhood home.

Being a poor little rich girl in 1912 Gotham isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in this delightfully dark and droll supernatural historical fantasy.

Author Bio:

PJ McIlvaine is a prolific and creative children’s author/screenwriter/writer/journalist.

PJ's debut middle-grade supernatural historical mystery adventure VIOLET YORKE, GILDED GIRL: GHOSTS IN THE CLOSET (Darkstroke Books, April 2022) is about a poor little rich girl in NYC 1912 who sees ghosts.

PJ’s debut picture book LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE (June 2019, Big Belly Book Co.), with illustrations by Leila Nabih, is about a determined little girl tired of eating with her annoying cousins at the kid’s table, only to discover that the big table isn’t much better. She has another picture book, DRAGON ROAR (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, October 2021) artwork by Logan Rogers, about a lonely, sick dragon who has lost his mighty roar, and the brave village girl who helps him find it again.

PJ is also a co-host and founding member of #PBPitch, the premiere Twitter pitch party for picture book creators.

PJ has been published in numerous outlets including The New York Times and Newsday, and is a regular contributor for The Children’s Book Insider newsletter (paid firewall), writing about the path to publication and interviews with established and debut kid lit authors.

PJ lives on Eastern Long Island with her family and furbaby Luna.

PJ’s social media links:

PJ’s website:

Twitter: @pjmcilvaine

Instagram: @pjmcilvaine

Editorial Review:

Violet Yorke is precocious, orphaned heiress surrounded by secrets and spirits. With an attunement and affinity for the no-longer living, she navigates a historic shipwreck from England to New York, and finds herself embroiled in several curious mysteries among her remaining family. Every aspect of Violet’s life is amazing individually and on the whole – but what else would you expect from a 12-year-old girl?

You can be a proper young lady and still have fun. There’s a time and place for everything.”

The time and place are 1912, Manhattan, New York. Young Violet has recently escaped a harrowing brush with death aboard the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic. Circumstances surrounding her rescue are as murky as the water the floated upon, but the young heiress survived her ordeal in time to return to her family – interrupting her own funeral in the process!

I hope you don’t expect me to pay for this funeral. I didn’t even get to be buried.”

As a young ward of her grandmother – and surrounded by adults – Violet is treated as the young lady she is; on the cusp of adulthood, but still in need of a watchful eye. A very interesting dichotomy for a young lady to be so excited for car rides and puppies, while displaying an adult-like insight and empathy for others. Violet considers herself more than adult enough to hear the mysterious tale of her parents’ demise and can’t abide the subterfuge she feels is being perpetrated around her. Enlisting the aid of cub reporter, she seeks to discover the secrets others refuse to share with her.

My godchild, if you haven’t already surmised, is rather headstrong. She requires a firm hand.”

Headstrong definitely describes young Violet. Firm in her convictions, she seeks out answers to questions she has. What really happened to my parents? Who was that rapscallion that accosted me aboard the ship? Who was the little boy in the window of the abandoned house up the street?

Uttering those words to Violet was like waving a red flag at a bull. She decided she’d have to find out more about Dunham Hall.

Another of your ghosts? Good God, Violet! I thought we’d decided to put that all in the past.”

Ghosts. As in, plural. Violet has always had a sensitivity for the spirits, and we hear it caused several concerns among her family. Little would anyone know that those spirits have watched, protected, and cared for her along the way. Whether finding the thieves set upon acquiring her fortune, or the Samaritans saving her bacon, the ghosts have always shared their stories with Violet, knowing she’d protect them well.

Bosh! The poor things are probably more afraid of us than we are of them. I don’t see why we can’t live together in harmony once we understand one another better.

Violet’s adventures are supervised by an intriguing cast of family and friends; Mr. Hewitt, trustee of her estate; Grandmother Olivia’s wards Nannette and Bertie, a young suffragette-wannabe, and her harmless rake brother; and even Great-Aunt Florence, the stodgy curmudgeon across the pond that Violet seeks her escape from. Each of these stalwarts has a hand in shaping Violet’s thoughts and actions. The author weaves in clue upon clue to Violet’s tale so seamlessly, the reader will be surprised at the ending. Certainly, we know in advance that Bertie’s gambling debts are the cause of missing funds. Of course, there will be mysterious gossip among the older and affluent friends of Grandmother, dropping nuggets and clues throughout. The story itself keeps the reader so engrossed that you don’t realize what you’ve been reading the whole time has set you up for an ending that you won’t see coming until it’s here.

Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl is a lovely period tale of a young miss in 1912. The settings, imagery, and even dialect all lend wonderful emotion to Violet’s story and add vibrance to the life she must lead. PJ McIlvaine does a wonderful job of drawing her readers into the world that Violet lives in and building strong kinship for a young girl who often is treated as older than her years. Such a simple nuance of a young lady receiving her first, chaste kiss from a boy reminds readers that although she seems older than her years, Violet is still a young lady seeking answers. The mystery of Violet’s parents is never fully satisfied yet enough of the questions asked are answered that you feel it was. An excellent set-up for a sequel.


“Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl” (Historical Young Adult) by P. J. McIlvaine receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


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