Genres: Dark Fantasy, Historical, Supernatural
Series: A Lady Helen Novel #1
Published by Penguin, Viking on January 26, 2016
Also by this author: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, Eona
In a mashup of Regency romance and dark fantasy, Lady Helen Wrexhall is eagerly anticipating her audience with Queen Charlotte and later her presentation into society. However, if rumors are to be believed, her father and mother died under treasonous circumstances, and Lady Helen is shadowed by her mother's reputation and suffers for it under the adopted care of her aunt and uncle. Still, she also has an adventurous spirit like her mother, and when Lady Helen finds out one of their housemaids has gone missing, she and her stalwart lady's maid try to investigate. When Lady Helen meets Lord Carlston through a variety of social events, he introduces her to her heritage--a world of demons, deceivers, and the mysterious Dark Days Club who stands against the horde.
I loved Alison Goodman’s Eon & Eona series, so I was anticipating picking up this book/series!
When you typically think of Regency romances you think of young ladies being presented into society, trying to find a good marriage, perhaps attempting to navigate social hierarchy and intrigue…usually a Jane Austen-type atmosphere that is very chaste and free of impropriety. (And I <3 Jane Austen!)
This is not your typical Regency romance. Not even for teens.
Instead it takes the typical Regency romance surface and exposes a dark, dangerous underbelly full of scandal, demons, deceivers, and graphic horrors–case in point, it describes the rape of a woman by a demon and how this is what gains the demons nourishment and allows them to continue their demonic line through the woman’s children. The almost virginal contrast of the Regency era and this vivid violence made this a very hard book to read, not because it wasn’t really good, but because of the expectation on our heroine Helen to be both innocent and demure and then having her turn around killing demons and witnessing sexual violence. It has a lot of shock value, both to Helen and the reader. In fact, the age range for this book is supposedly 8th and up; I would have trouble as a librarian recommending this to a middle schooler…
This book also moves slower than most YA, but is still engaging, especially once Helen starts finding out secrets about herself and her family (i.e. The Dark Days Club). I really enjoyed how thoughtful Ms. Goodman was with the level of detail in describing the demons and their history, their relationship to those who, because of bloodline, are in the Dark Days Club. She also pays particular attention to historical details that rings authentic. I really hope there’s more of Queen Charlotte and other big-wigs in society in the next book.
My favorite part about the book was our heroine Helen who, despite being confined by the typical Regency society/rules and having an overbearing uncle who naturally thinks women beneath his level of thinking and reasoning, an aunt who tries to moderate the uncle but still tars Helen with her sister’s supposed misdeeds, and a brother who is useless at protecting her and fairly self-concerned if not a bad guy. She really doesn’t have a voice among the people she should, and this is likely indicative of the time period, especially most women in society. Others reviewers have pointed this out as Helen not putting up a defense for her actions, which is sort of true, but also conventional rules don’t give her one.
In case you’re interested, here are a few online articles about the subject that will shed light on why, I believe, Helen does act according to society, at least until she has no choice through Mr. Carlston. For historical context (Beau Brummel), check out this post by Carolyn McDowell, “THE REGENCY IN ENGLAND – MISTRESSES, CONSORTS & CLEVER WOMEN“. To read more about women and marriage in the Georgian era, read the brief excerpt by author Charlotte Betts “Women and Marriage in the Georgian and Regency Period“. For more about young ladies and the importance of etiquette in the era, Maria Grace guest posts on author Kim Rendfeld’s blog on “The High Stakes of Etiquette for Young Ladies in the Regency.”
It isn’t until close to the end of the book that Helen gets to stand out a bit and make some decisions for herself, even if they come at a hefty cost. I almost forgot the romance! What exactly is going on with her and Carlston? What will she decide in regards to the Duke of Selburn, who by all accounts is an impeccable match? I’m not sure yet…I’ll have to read book 2!