June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers. However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.
Here’s what I think Alison Goodman knows a lot about: she knows how to mix fact and fiction. She knows how to take her readers back in time. She knows how to end a story well. And she sure knows how to break your heart.
In trilogies, middle books tend to get the most pressure especially when its predecessor was pretty awesome. I’ve seen a lot of series that started out remarkably good only to get painfully boring in the second installment. Well, thank heavens that such wasn’t the case with this series! This is worth devouring! It’s a long book with nearly 500 pages. Normally it would take me three days to finish but with this one it only took me a day. I immensely enjoyed this despite a few minor issues.
Frankly, this book was a bit slow for the first half of it. There were narratives that I find unnecessary. But the gripping scenes on the second half makes up for it. You can expect more action in this book than The Dark Days Club. But you’re not going to see it until the second half of the book. There were revelations too —both sad and heart-breaking —that answers some curios questions from the first book. Goodman’s rich and vibrant descriptions on things —the places, the society, and propriety —didn’t fade and it only shows how much research she put into this book. It was like the woman time-travelled just to show us what 1812 Brighton was like.
This part of the series brings bigger challenges for Lady Helen and a lot of pain for Lord Carlston. Helen is faced in a more dangerous battle than balls, gowns, and gossips in this book. While she’s gaining strength and learning skills from her trainings, Carlston is having a hard time suppressing the darkness that is taking over him fast.
As an official member of The Dark Days Club, Helen had sworn an oath that requires her obedience to the Club’s rules, not expecting that such oath can be used to force her to lie and keep secrets from her friends and Carlston. It puts her on a secret mission of finding a journal that contains valuable information about both Deceivers and Reclaimers. A journal that Carlston also need to obtain if he wishes to know what the cure for his fast trip to madness is. Now Helen faces a dilemma. Should she hand the journal to the Club representative and leave Carlston to battle the madness? Or should she break her oath, use the journal to help Carlston, and be charged with treason?
I love seeing how Helen grows into a stronger character here. She’s not one who immediately knows what to do but in the end she always makes a decision. She’s not all head nor all heart while weighing her options and I love that. She didn’t let her feelings for Carlston or the weight of her oath cloud her judgments. Part of Helen’s training is to disguise as a gentleman so we see her agree (though with sadness) to cutting her hair and leaving her gowns in exchange for men’s clothes which aren’t easy decisions for a woman to make in that period of time. Not to mention that the purpose of the guise is so she will be able to go to places that a noble woman couldn’t. Like ale houses and bawdy house!
Lady Margaret, Mr. Hammond, Quinnn, and Darby are back in action and this time Alison Goodman is letting us know them more deeply. All without losing the mysteriousness that wraps around each character. I liked them in the first book but I didn’t feel like I really knew them. Here they’re given bigger roles than before especially Mr. Hammond so we get to see a little of his past and know his secrets. Delia was dragged into the spotlight too being a new addition to the Club. But right now I don’t see the purpose or the usefulness of her character to the plot. Spat was way more useful! I can remove all of Delia’s scenes and see no change to the story line. Unless, she is what I suspect she is —a spy maintaining a very low profile. I guess we’ll find out in the next installment.
The romance in The Dark Days Club was pretty slow-burn but in this book it plays a larger role. It isn’t the center of the plot. Even so I feel so drawn into it. Okay, the enjoyability of the romance might depend on how much you like Carlston in this book because he wasn’t all charm and crushing wit in there. It is a love triangle although it’s pretty clear who, between Carlston and Selburn, wins Helens heart. Still, it gives the readers a choice on who cheer for. Are you voting for this dark, dangerous, inscrutable Earl of Carlston or are you choosing this nice, respectable, presentable Duke of Selburn? Don’t ask me. I’m for Carlston sane or not.
There wasn’t still a clue as to who the Grand Deceiver is. Personally I was expecting it was Selburn since book one. I’m beginning to doubt now. And what good is a book if it doesn’t make you doubt the things you thought you already knew, right?
Overall this is one delightful read. One that took me back into an age when women were seen as less important than men. Goodman created an atmospheric view on everything. Put a bit of angst, some danger, some gripping action, and a dash of romance into it and we get a beast of a book. The battle against Deceivers is still on but there was already a sense of accomplishment by the end of the story. Goodman is one to end a book with a cliff-hanger, and so we sort of get one. And it will leave you with your heart dripping blood.
So, do I recommend this book? That would be a big yes. Especially if you’re one for a good fact and fiction mash-up.
See my review on The Dark Days Club HERE.