Title: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club
Author: Alison Goodman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: 14th December 2015
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy!
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.
First off, disclaimer – I absolutely HATE the cover of this book. A girl in regency dress doesn’t really inspire the idea of ‘great new fantasy’! And I’m not thrilled about the title either – it sounds a bit juvenile and this book is anything but!!
However, despite my initial misgivings about the book, I did quite enjoy the content. I’m just very very lucky that I had people yelling at me to ignore the cover/title and just read the book! And now I do the same to other people! 😛
I’m not generally a fan of books set during the Regency. I associate the period with bad romance novels (another reason why the cover was so unappealing…..). Alison Goodman, in her Author’s Note, described how much she loves the period, and there was obviously a lot of research done. I especially loved seeing Byron at all the parties Lady Helen attended! Despite how impeccably it had been researched, I do think the fantasy element might have worked better in a slightly more modern time.
Although the main character is female, this is not a world where women enjoy much freedom. Helen’s uncle controls her finances, and he is a massive ass throughout the book. The rituals of courtship also highlight just how restrictive a woman’s life was. It was a bit irritating seeing this intelligent girl stuck doing so very little with her life. This restriction made Helen a bit too whiny for my tastes….
Of course, being YA, we get a mysterious, brooding young man, Lord Carlston. However, he is NOT (a love interest. In fact, he is a distant relation, but one of the embarrassing ones you don’t want to acknowledge in polite company. Apparently, Lord Carlston murdered his wife – the body was never found but it is common rumour that he did her in. He seems to know something about the weird changes Helen has been noticing….
Then Helen discovers that she has unusual powers, which give her the strength to fight demonic creatures. I quite liked the demons which Goodman came up with. They feed off different things – some off bloodlust, some off sexual urges, some off hedonism. There was, however, one incredibly disturbing sex scene in which a demon was feeding off a prostitute while fornicating with her. This involved a slightly too vivid description of what I can only describe as ‘light tentacle porn’. Luckily, it was only a few pages long, and the rest of the book made up for it (with less awkward demonic encounters).
While it definitely hasn’t made any favourites lists, this book is still worth reading, not least because it is just so much better than its cover and its blurb imply. I was very impressed with the demons Goodman created – they were so much more interesting than the traditional kind.
How often will you pick up a book on recommendation only, totally ignoring the cover and blurb?