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485 pages, Hardcover
First published December 14, 2015
In 1812, Prinny had been regent for one year. Britain was on the brink of war with America, and in its tenth year of almost continuous war with France and its emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. None of these countries, however, knew there was another, even older war being waged.
London, late April 1812: a month that had seen violent civil unrest, savage battles on the Continent, and the rumblings of aggression from the new American nation. It was also the month in which Queen Charlotte—after a two-year hiatus—returned to the practice of holding drawing rooms for the presentation of young ladies into high society. A battleground of a different kind.My goodness, this book was delightful!
“But look, at least twenty-five frogs on the bodice alone. Is it too much to ask for a dress that won’t scare the horse?”There is a wonderful friendship between Helen and her maid. The actions between Helen's secret investigation and her normal life as Lady Helen felt natural, as are her natural doubts and fears between choosing between the life she was born to, and the life she could choose. And again, contrary to what the book blurb says, the romance is barely there.
Aunt Leonore gave her loud cackle—the one that had earned her the title Lady Laugh amongst her friends and Lady Hee-Haw amongst her enemies. “Not this Season, my dear. It is all military flimflam.”
“Bonaparte has a lot to answer for,” Helen said. “First Europe, and now our fashion.” She flipped the magazine closed and rested it on her lap.
“You really do have your mother’s grim sense of humor.”
“No, you are not an angel, Lady Helen. You are a Reclaimer.”
“Sometimes there is no good choice.”
“You have far more courage than you think you do.”
Actual rating: 3.5
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It is Alison Goodman at the Jane Austen Festival. She is a great fan of Regency era and while writing her book she did not only researched the era but had an experience living in the Regency era. Quote:"I checked the historical weather reports, read military and crime accounts in The Times, made notes on the phases of the moon, perused the fashion plates in La Belle Assemblée, studied numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century museum exhibits, consulted Regency experts, walked along Rotten Row and the streets of Mayfair, watched countless documentaries and Jane Austen–inspired films and miniseries, collected and wore a wardrobe of Regency gowns and stays, learned how to dance in the Regency style, tried Regency recipes for food and drink, and read, read, read everything I could get my hands on about the era. I am now, officially, a Regency bore." So you see how much effort was put into writing this book. The real question is: Did all the work paid off?
The Dark Days Club is a story of an eighteen-year old Lady Helen. She lives an ordinary life of an ordinary 19th century girl: her days are full of Court presentations, dress fittings, guest lists drafting for the next ball, meetings with famous people as Lord Byron (yes, that Lord Byron) and the most important of all them is finding a proper husband. As you can see, no place for extracurricular time. But, of course, faith has other plans in store for our young heroine, and she'll soon find herself in the center of an ancient war between our world and a demon world.
The plot and settings for this book are unique. I don't think I've ever read a book with such historical accuracy mixed with paranormal aspect. It makes the story fascinating in many ways. To imagine a girl of Regency era fighting demons is not an easy task, especially if you are well aware of the position young ladies were in at the time. If you are not a connoisseur of 19th century English history, don't worry, the author will help you to adjust with her vivid descriptions of that historical period. First half of the book is mostly an introduction to the world of aristocracy and its customs, and I not once caught myself wandering how could the demon part fit into all this? But it did and rather brilliantly has settled between balls and pursuits for a husband.
Lady Helen is an intelligent - too intelligent - girl who does not believe in superstitions and prefers to rely on facts and science. Of course, it is not welcomed in society where the essential three for the success of a lady are beauty, high connections and fortune:
Promise me you will have some proper conversation ready for your dance partners. And make your little quips less political. It does not do for a girl your age to be so aware.”
But Helen wasn't whining or complaining about her fortune like some of the YA heroines do. No, she was ready to accept what is in store for her, but a little bit of independence wouldn't be unwanted. In heart, of course, Lady Helen dreams of independence that is given to men not women. Again, we have an excellent example of lack of freedom and possibilities for a woman of genteel upbringing. Though, Helen will have a choice in the other matter: whether to accept her unique powers for fighting demons or to reject them. Helen was a very likable character, and I easily sympathize with her and was ready to accept whatever she'd choose for herself in the end. The darker side of the world, filled with strange demonic creatures and unknown devices, frightens Helen, and I liked that she did not rush to accept something beyond her comprehension because she was told to. I respected her doubts and her fears - it made her more real and human to me:
“I am no warrior, sir, nor do I aspire to be. I have been taught to sew and sing and dance, and my duty is to marry, not fight demons. Look at me: I am an Earl’s daughter, not a man versed in swords and fisticuffs.”
The supernatural aspect presented to us brilliantly: no abrupt plunging into it, but step by step the mystery unravels, and it was a unique presentation of a well known demon mythology. I'd say that it was a fresh view on a well known mythology and at times a rather terrifying one, giving the story a more believable angle.
Of course, what historical book goes without romance. We have a slow-burning romance, not much of it, but the pieces that present are very reassuring and promise us much more in the next book. *says in a cryptic voice* I am sure there's no girl who will be able to resist Lord Carlston and his... um, charms. And that scene in the end *swoons* I may say that this book was worth reading if only for that moment.
The only problem I had with this book is pacing: it was so slow I sometimes wanted to finish off the book in the most brutal way possible. I am quite a patient person and can endure slow tempo when it's appropriate, but this book, sometimes, was bordering on boring and I was waiting for something to happen for so long, it seemed like the real action will never come. I hope I'll not have such problems with the next book.
To read or not to read? My advice to read. Especially if you are a lover of a historical fiction or even a historical romance genre. Also, if you read and liked another wonderful book from the recent releases - These Shallow Graves, The Dark Days Club has all chances to be your thing, because it has some similarity with the aforementioned book. Only I must warn you that don't expect a lot of similarities between books - they are mostly different but share an amazing atmosphere of the eras they take place in. As for me, I am ready for the next amazing historical fiction book to come and knock me off my feet.
“Promise me you won’t make such deplorable jests at Almack’s,” her aunt continued.
“No jests,” Helen promised dutifully, but could not help adding, “Perhaps I should not speak again until I am married.”
“Promise me you will have some proper conversation ready for your dance partners. And make your little quips less political. It does not do for a girl your age to be so aware.”
“Your father’s will has placed you in my care until you are twenty-five, or until another man is willing to take on the burden of your well-being. If you are to become a wife, you must learn that obedience is the cornerstone of femininity.”
The love interest, Lord Carlston seems like a really deep character, but we’ve barely scratched his surface in this book. From the description of the romance in the blurb, I was expecting to be swooning over him and fanning myself with a Vernis Martin fan, but in reality the romance is almost non-existent. Also, there is a teeny-tiny love triangle.
The oppression of the women of this era fills me with so much fury. They had absolutely no freedom at all; their lives were full of parties, promenades, dress fittings and balls, everything centered on finding the perfect husband.
‘Delia had none of the essential three- beauty, high connections or fortune- and, at twenty years of age, knew she was coming to the end of her opportunities. She had even confided in Helen and Millicent that all she could see ahead was spinsterhood and its associated humiliations.’