Format: Hardcover, 482 pages
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?
The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman, is the first installment in the Lady Helen trilogy. The series takes place during the Regency era of England (1812). The series features 18-year old Lady Helen Wrexhall who is about to discover a whole new world outside of meeting with Queen Charlotte, or her expected social events, or finding a suitable husband chosen by her misogynistic Uncle. She will soon discover some really interesting secrets about her long deceased mother who has been labeled as a traitor to the crown, and perhaps, find her own destiny as a demon hunter.
Goodman does a fairly impressive job of intermingling fictitious characters with historical ones. Queen Charlotte was in fact real, as was Lord Byron who makes an appearance. Charlotte was married to then King George III who had his hands full with Napoleon Bonaparte on one front, and another war with the "colonies" on the other. One of the more fascinating aspects of this story, was that Charlotte knew Lady Caroline intimately. She even tells Helen "sometimes there are no good choices" which puts Helen in a pickle because her every action, and reaction is being scrutinized by her Uncle.
The same Uncle who believes Helen is more like her mother than he likes to believe. The same Uncle who controls her inheritance until she turns Twenty-Five or gets married. And, the same Uncle who demands that she be betrothed and wed before the end of the year. So, what does Helen do? She becomes involved with the Earl of Carlston who guilty or not, is accused of killing his wife and then fleeing for the Continent. Helen discovers that there are those among the Regency who are not what they appear. They are called Deceivers.
There is a whole lot to be said about Helen. On the one hand, she knows that he is prohibited from crossing the street without her aunt or uncle's permission, let alone believe that she is destined to become a Reclaimer aka Demon Hunter like her mother was. Helen is expected to be nearly perfect in every way imaginable. From her dress, to her appearance, to the way she curtsies. While one might consider Helen to be a bit on the meek side at first, one should read the entirety of the book before making that presumption wholly. In a world where women have no rights at all, Helen tries to travel her own path, and make her own decisions, even if that means pissing on her Uncles corn flakes and telling him to bugger off.
Lord Carlson is the most intriguing characters outside of Helen. He has some major baggage on his shoulders, especially the fact that nearly everyone believes he killed his wife. Carlson, like Helen, is a Reclaimer. He has been around the block for as long as Helen's mother, and is trying to enlighten Helen about what being a Reclaimer really means. You see my good folks, lady Reclaimers are a rarity. So rare, in fact, that some want to mandate that they shut their pie holes, do what they are told, and look pretty while doing so.
One could say that there is a puzzling romantic twist involving Helen and Carlson, or, one could say that they connect on another level that her main romantic interest, Duke Selburn. Whatever the path that Goodman takes in regards to Helen's eventual romantic interludes, one can only hope that it doesn't hang over the trilogy like annoying Presidential Candidates who just won't go away. There really isn't a bad choice between either candidates. It is just a matter of whether or not one is more onboard with Helen's destiny or not.
Even though this book is rather long at nearly 500 pages, I wouldn't have any reservation in recommending this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of historical, a bit of romance, and a bit of paranormal all mixed together.