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.
I received a copy of Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is set during the Regency period in London and follows Lady Helen, a girl who has just been presented to the Queen and is expected to marry somebody of high standing. However, she quickly realises that she’s developing some strange abilities and discovers a secret world full of demons that she didn’t know existed.
My favourite aspect of this book was the setting and time period. I love historical fiction and the detail that was put into building the world was incredible. I had such a vivid image of what Regency London looked like, including the way people dressed and the customs and traditions that they followed. Everything seemed very authentic to the time period and it was clear that a lot of research had gone into creating a historically accurate world. Alison Goodman spends a good portion of the book really setting the scene and making sure that her readers are immersed in this Regency London scene. What I didn’t think was done as well was the building of the paranormal world. There’s very little information given and we’re learning about it as Lady Helen discovers more about it herself. We don’t find out a lot about the different kinds of demons and what ‘Reclaimers’ actually do. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the world in this book and I just needed a little bit more to really get into the series because I was left with a lot of questions.
However, what I did learn about the paranormal world, I really liked and was intrigued by. I thought it was interesting that there were different kinds of demons that feed on different things or aspects of a humanity, such as creativity, lust or violence. I did find the demons to be a little bit weird though… They’re tentacled creatures that grow more tentacles as they feed from humans. The whole process of the feeding was just weirdly sexual and I found it to be kind of creepy and disturbing. I was also intrigued by the work of the Reclaimers and how much alchemy is involved in the process of reclaiming a soul that’s been taken over by demon. Like I mentioned previously, there isn’t a lot of information given about the processes and a lot of what we were told was very complex. There are lots of things going on like transferring demonic energies to the earth, meditation and even drinking elixirs. I actually gagged a little when I read about the elixir because it sounded so disgusting!
I really enjoyed Lady Helen as a main character. She was intelligent and independent, without being reckless, and I really appreciated that she still continued to follow the rules of society. I enjoyed that she respected that women needed to behave in certain ways but that she also recognised that she could be more than who she was expected to be. She was just a wonderful balance of femininity and independence. I thought her character was complex and multifaceted, and it’s very difficult to not fall in love with her, as her friends would agree. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the friendships in this book. Lady Helen is fantastic with her fellow society ladies, but she’s also extremely kind to her maids. The relationship between Lady Helen and her maid, Darby, was my favourite in the novel and I’m just in love with these strong female characters and friendships.
I also appreciated that instead of focusing on the romance, this book was primarily about Lady Helen’s discovery of her identity as a demon hunter and her choice to become a demon hunter or stay as a society lady. There’s very little romance in this book, though there is a small love triangle and a hint of more to come in subsequent books. I enjoyed that there was no insta-love and that Lord Carlston acts as her mentor rather than her love interest (like I was led to believe from the blurb). It felt very refreshing and I appreciated that the very small hint of romance that we got to see was very sensible and mature. It’s definitely not a passionate and all-consuming romance.
Lastly, I wanted to talk briefly about the pace of the book. This book is incredibly slow. It definitely reads like a historical fiction novel, and if historical fiction isn’t really a genre that you like to read, you might not enjoy the pace of this one. Nothing much really happens during the first third of the book beyond setting the scene. However, there was lots of mystery at the beginning and it had me very intrigued and captivated, so I didn’t mind the slow pace too much. I did think that the book could have been quite a bit shorter though, since there’s only a small amount of action.
Overall, I thought this was a great first book to the series. It was a wonderful introduction to the world and hopefully we’ll learn more about the paranormal aspects in the next book.