Monday, February 8, 2016
Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Author: Alison Goodman
Series: Lady Helen, Book One
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Publication Date: 14 December 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
London, April 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her debut at the court of Queen Charlotte and officially step into polite Regency society and the marriage mart. Little does Helen know that step will take her from the opulent drawing rooms of Mayfair and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of missing housemaids and demonic conspiracies.
Standing between those two worlds is Lord Carlston, a man of ruined reputation and brusque manners. He believes Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred and secret duty. Helen is not so sure, especially when she discovers that nothing around her is quite as it seems, including the enigmatic Lord Carlston.
Against a backdrop of whispered secrets in St James's Palace, soirees with Lord Byron and morning calls from Beau Brummell, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is a delightfully dangerous adventure of self-discovery and dark choices that must be made ... whatever the consequences. (summary from Goodreads)
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is everything I love about fiction set within Regency London with a supernatural twist!
There's a lot about Regency fiction that appeals to me. The fashion, the balls and Society, that hierarchy, the rules of propriety, Royalty. I grew up reading a lot of Regency romances, so I freely admit it has all been super glamorised for me. Reading Regency YA has given me another side - that of the oppression women faced and I find these stories truly affecting. Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club encompasses all of the things I love in one, plus a little extra, and I am so hooked. My only real disappointment is that I have to wait for the next book! Goodman has crafted a novel that is charming, thrilling and historically interesting. The amount of research she put into her work astounds me. I adored reading this and knowing that so many events actually happened and having actual historical figures, like Lord Byron, Caro Lamb, Beau Brummel and Prinny, part of the story delighted me. It gave Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club this layer of wonder. Though I admit, I didn't recognise all of these characters as real people until after I read Goodman's note about her research and the novel's accuracy. The tone of Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club fits the story so well. It's formal and sophisticated, somewhat tense. Anyone new to historical fiction or not a big fan, may find it a little slow going. The world building is a priority here, and so where I had hoped for more action I got more story build up. It keeps the pace, especially towards the end, a little slower that expected, but it is by no means boring. The supernatural elements see to that! I really liked this. The Deceivers, entities that possess human bodies and feed off the life force of others are suitably creepy. The Reclaimers, humans with certain gifts able to fight Deceivers, are...well, honestly, also creepy in some cases. We've yet to truly delve deeply into the world of the Reclaimers and the consequences of their work, but Goodman has set it up to be captivating. I enjoyed the way the supernatural was linked to alchemy and natural philosophy of the time period, as it gave it an original and more authentic feel. I could almost believe there's more to this story that was real than the era and some of its characters!
Speaking of characters, I've got some serious love here! And hate. But it's purposeful hate - pretty sure these characters deserve all my ire. But first - Helen! I liked Helen a lot and I have a feeling it may evolve into sheer adoration. I hope so, at least. Helen is intelligent, witty, spirited, determined, powerful in a way she hasn't even begun to comprehend - it sounds like adoration already, huh? I love that Helen doesn't blindly follow, she questions and pushes and trusts her instincts. Most of the time. But she is a young lady in an oppressive time and society, so at time she was unable to - or simply wouldn't, out of fear - push as much as I'd have liked. But the story has only just begun and I can't wait to read more of Helen's adventures! There's a slight love triangle element to Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, and yes, I can't help but roll my eyes a little. I should just be used to it! Thankfully it wasn't too much a focus of the story, though it is up there. Helen's duty after all, is to marry, so it's to be expected. In one corner we have Selburn, long time friend of Helen's older brother, officially courting her. He's 'nice and amiable'. But I think there's more to Selburn's story, so we'll see. In the other corner we have Carlston. Reclaimer, drawing Helen into a dark but exciting world, and apparently, a wife murderer. Hmmm. At times Helen's being drawn to Carlston despite the murder business and other negatives I won't get into, had me scoffing. Just a tad. Which is entirely hypocritical of me as I'm all for Carlston! Having spent my teenage years reading swoony Regency romances, Carlston is pretty much the epitome of my kind of guy, so. It's not my fault. I shouldn't blame Helen either, I guess. Moving on! There's definitely more to Carlston's story too, obviously, and for the first time in a long while, I might actually be looking forward to the love triangle clash. As with her plot, Goodman surely has so much more to come in terms of her characters. The fates of Helen's parents and Carlston's wife are especially of interest to me, so bring on book two! Plus more of Darby, Helen's maid, is essential. I love, love, love Darby. She is loyal and determined too, and I really enjoyed reading of her friendship with Helen that still sits on the boundary of Mistress/Maid, despite everything. I'd say I could do with less of Andrew, Helen's brother, and her Uncle, but I'm eager to see them get their comeuppance. I have hope Andrew will come around to be a less annoyingly judgmental character, but I know there's none for her Uncle. He is a perfect illustration of the unfair and terrible oppression placed on women of this time and he is sure to disgust any who read Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club. It's another great instance of Goodman thoroughly painting a vivid picture of Regency life.
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is a wonderful read and I am counting down the days until the release of the next book in this series!