Title: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)
Author: Alison Goodman
Rating: 4 Stars
I adored The Dark Days Club. While Goodman’s previous duology, the famed Eon/Eona pairing that pitched fantasy with East Asian folklore, is still, by far, my favorite of Goodman’s work, The Dark Days Club has been well worth the wait.
Lady Helen is a young woman who has been raised by her aunt and uncle, a childless couple who have struggled to maintain the highest order of propriety ever since Helen’s mother and father, supposed traitors to the crown, drowned at sea. Thus, Helen has gone her whole life knowing that she must never succumb to the madness that took her mother. But strange things have been happening to Helen lately…her senses are more acute than ever, her speed and agility have grown exponentially, and her strength has nearly tripled. The only person who has answers is Lord Carslton, a distant cousin of her uncle who is rumored to have murdered his wife and escaped to the Continent. Now that he is back, Helen simply cannot keep away and must have her answers, no matter the cost to her propriety or the danger…to her life, even.
Lady Helen is a vivacious, formidable heroine. I connected to her voice from the first page itself, my heart going out to her as she worried about pleasing her aunt and uncle, all while fighting to understand who her mother really was. Helen is plunged into a dark and different world from the London she has grown up knowing but she never backs down and faces ever challenge headfirst. I love that she is both ashamed of sneaking away to read and study subjects only men are permitted to know about yet she is proud of her intelligence and refuses to dumb herself down for anyone or any society. Her relationship with Darby, her maidservant, is a charming friendship and a highlight among her strained relations with her aunt, uncle, and older brother.
Lord Carlston, the enigmatic and sly earl who introduces Lady Helen to the Dark Days Club, a society of special individuals who fight demons, shares a story arc much like—dare I say it?—Mr. Darcy. Carlston is aloof and uncanny at first but as we begin to peel back his layers it is impossible not to fall in love with the strong, capable man he truly is. Moreover, he appreciates Helen just the way she is and enjoys her wit and character, which is more than a match for him. Their romance is a slow burn, I will warn, but it’s oh-so-good and I look forward to their continued arc in the next two novels.
The plot of The Dark Days Club is simple enough but its richness lies in Helen, her interactions with those around her and her struggle to find herself in the two worlds she has been thrust into. In order to please her aunt and uncle she must find a suitable man to marry but in following the life outlined by Lord Carlston she can pursue the same path that her mother before her chose as well. It’s not a particularly page-turning arc but I never grew bored or tired of Helen’s voice and I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter. Goodman is such a stellar writer, her historical fantasy just as good as I expected it to be. If you’re a fan of Goodman’s work or simply a lover of good historical fantasy then this is not to be missed.
A quick note : I just want to throw in a quick note that there are extremely minimal hints of a love triangle but there is no love triangle in this book. Essentially, Helen is pushed towards a kind and gracious suitor in order to please her aunt and uncle but although she enjoys the company of this suitor immensely, she does not wish to marry him. Her feelings develop only for Lord Carlston and I didn’t find the presence of Helen’s suitor to be a hindrance to the novel in any way. If anything, it nicely added to the tension of Helen’s choice between the two worlds she has been offered and absolutely did not hint at or follow any typical love triangle tropes. I also think that this will not become a full-blown love triangle in the sequels. A gentle, but reassuring warning, I hope, to my love triangle averse friends.