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496 pages, Hardcover
First published January 31, 2017
Actual rating: 4.5 stars
How do you tell a sequel was good?
It is seen in the way a person can’t contain their joy after finishing the book; a restless energy that needs to be shared with a fellow bookworm ; a startling realization, How am I going to survive till the next installment?! Desire to give a book the highest rating and praise it; to convince more friends to read it (pff, 496 pages is nothing when the plot holds you in its grip).
I am sitting in my room, staring at the wall, feeling all of the above and trying to compose my thoughts into something resembling coherence. It is a pity I can’t post any quotes until the release day, or I’d swarm you with mind-blowing lines (there were a couple of them, especially tempting).
It is how one writes a sequel. Bravo Ms. Goodman!
If you read my review of The Dark Days Club, you probably know that I really liked the book, but it was too slow-paced and not yet developed to the extent to make me wait for the next part with little patience and lots of fangirling. Yet, there were hints that promised something GRAND (if you read the book, you know what other meaning the word grand has *winks*). It was either hit or miss: would the author carry out her plan and make readers finally fall in love with her characters (Lord Carlston, no need to worry, you are already loved by me) or admire intricacies of the plot? Yes, yes, yes. Alison Goodman not only managed to developed her story further, raising the stakes in the process, she also managed to weave such a devious labyrinth of a story, I think I might not survive the waiting for the conclusion (if it’s a trilogy).
The story continues in a few weeks after the fateful events of book one. Lady Helen stays in Brighton with friends and learns how to be a true Reclaimer. Needless to say, it is the hardest task a young lady of genteel upbringing can be faced with. I highly appreciated the way author shows the heroine’s struggle. She is not like one of those heroines, who learns everything in a few weeks and aces martial arts or their supernatural powers. Helen’s struggle was real: blood, sweat and ache from the physical and emotional strain.
Then there was a question of disguise. Helen is a lady, and she can’t run about in a dress and fight Deceivers. It’s physically impossible to fight in a corset, unlike some of the Regency or Victorian era heroines, who claim they can. Ha, suck it, girls, it’s impossible! The author simply shows it through quite a detailed description of a lady’s wardrobe in the 19th century. Turns out men’s clothes were no less deviously made, and a gentleman could not dress himself without his valet's help! And here we were laughing at men who couldn’t dress themselves back then. Turns out we laughed prematurely, and the struggle was real. So, for Lady Helen to be a man is another obstacle on her way of performing her duty. Poor girl, I really sympathized with her, and, at the same time, I admired how head-strong she was and never complaint about her fate.
But if you think that by abandoning some rules in order to become a new person, Helen can freed from societies’ expectations – you’d be wrong. She still has a reputation to uphold, and she is a woman, let’s not forget, women depended on their fathers, husbands or brothers financially back then, and Helen is no exception. She has to act like a lady she is on public and care about her image. Another aspect author expertly handled in the story. I mentioned previously that I admire author’s love for detail, and her diligence in researching historical facts. In this one, again, I couldn’t contain my delight. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never encountered a bathing machine before. Granted, I am a sucker when it comes to history, and many of you might’ve read or saw the thing, but for me it was something I’ve never heard about till this book. Such historical accuracies made the story authentic. I am sure many of you will find something informative in the story.
The romance part was not as absent as it was in book one, though there we had a very slow-burning romance that started taking shape only in the end of the book. In The Dark Days Pact, we still have a slow-burning romance but the key-word is burning. It was hard not to burn my heart, following Lord Carlston and Helen’s relationship. They respect each other, doubt each other, burn (I really can’t find a more suiting word to describe the thing between them) for each other. One particular scene in the bawdy house (yes, yes, what is it about Regency or Victorian heroines and brothels? They always visit one in historical fiction, I kid you not.) made me giddy with exhilaration – best brothel scene I’ve read so far.
The only thing that dimmed my happiness a little is love-triangle or better say -- a seeming love-triangle. It wasn’t so obvious as to consider it a solid full-on love-triangle, but it still was a little bit irrational for me, but, maybe, it’s only me, because I am a well-known triangles hater.
The first book did not reveal who The Grand Deceiver was, and this book continues its predecessor’s tradition and tortures us with the unknown. Weather the answer will be given or not, you’ll have to read the book to figure it out..
The Dark Days Pact is full of twists and turns I didn’t predict, and every following page gave me more material to mull over. I swear, Ms. Goodman has a devious mind, because every time I thought I got it, more stuff happened and I was dumbstruck again. I have no idea how the author will untangle the web she’d woven, but I sure am can’t wait to find out.