Lady Helen Wrexhall has been practicing her curtsey over and over to ensure that she will not fall flat on her face during her presentation to the queen. Now that she is eighteen and ready to enter society, her aunt and uncle hope that she will make a good marriage and somehow overcome her late mother’s disgrace—whatever it was. Lady Helen, however, is feeling increasingly restless, particularly when she secretly holds her mother’s miniature in her palm and sees other people surrounded by a blue glow. Her distant cousin, Lord Carlston, seems to know far too much about Helen’s distress, but he is not to be trusted, since the rumor is that he is responsible for his wife’s death. Carlston has just returned from a few years on the continent, and everywhere he goes, strange and dangerous things happen.
Helen’s mother’s disgrace, it turns out, was her ability to fight demons—an ability which Lord Carlston believes Lady Helen has inherited. Her ladyship’s plans had not extended beyond her first London season and a successful proposal, but her life has become far too complicated. What is the proper attire for an exorcism, for example? Thank goodness for her excellent ladies’ maid. And what will she do about a respectable marriage now? Wicked Lord Carlston has irresistible charms, but if Helen does not accept the attentions of her brother’s friend, the Duke of Selburn, her uncle will quickly throw her out on her ear without a penny to her name. What’s a Regency debutante to do?
Alison Goodman’s fascinating novel starts off in Jane Austen territory, but quickly wanders far from that good lady’s realm of understanding. Lady Helen deals with dancing and demons, marriages and murder, parasols and pornography. Some scenes are not for young teens. The tension builds throughout the novel, as the reader cannot be sure of our heroine’s choice—of husband or profession. I found myself peeking ahead to the last few pages. As the bad boy, Lord Carlston sizzles, but the Duke of Selburn is a good man and would make a sensible choice, too. Lady Helen’s abilities continue to grow, and she encounters danger all over London, from the royal palace to the lowest back alleys. Goodman clearly reminds the reader of the narrow confines of women’s lives in the early nineteenth century, as well as the consequences that befell those who tried to reach beyond those limits.
So, so much fun, especially for older teens and adults who love Austen and Regency romances, but are not afraid of the genre-blending of light horror or fantasy. Goodman leaves us all set up for a sequel, and I can’t wait! Highly recommended.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of The Dark Days Club. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.