The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (Viking Books for Young Readers, Jan 26th, 2016)-In 1812 London, young ladies are presented to society in order to make a good match. It’s a time of excitement and fun, but also a time where there are strict rules and your background is thoroughly scrutinized by everyone during the matchmaking. It is in this atmosphere that the reader meets Lady Helen Wrexhall, living with her Aunt and Uncle and getting ready to be presented to the Queen. Unfortunately for her, her lineage is not nearly as spotless as her caretakers would prefer. Helen’s mother, who disappeared years ago, is widely seen as a traitor to the crown. No one seems to know exactly how or why, but the gossips in Regency London aren’t worried about a few details.
In the midst of all of this, Helen is getting more and more restless. When her distant cousin, Lord Carlston, returns from his apparent banishment and the Queen unexpectedly whispers a shocking secret in her ear, Helen finds herself getting caught up in the mystery of who – or what – her mother was and why she disappeared.
I am coming late to the Alison Goodman readership, having never read any of her books. The Dark Days Club caught my interest primarily through the time and place (Regency London) and the inclusion of the supernatural. Happily, the book lived up to my expectations. It’s less a re-imagining than it is a very solid historical fiction with a very plausible (as written) addition. It’s also the beginning of the of the “Lady Helen” trilogy.
As mentioned, the historical facts woven into the story are amazing, and truly give a sense of atmosphere. It is apparent that Goodman did her homework, but she makes it seem effortless – not once did I feel that the details were overwhelming or being shoved in my face. In fact, the setting was so strong as to seem like a character in its own right.
Speaking of characters – Lady Helen is awesome. She’s a strong heroine, particularly in a place and time when that was truly not valued in any capacity. And yet, she never comes across as out of place – she has the same struggles as any other young lady, and she faces some truly unusual issues. She also never comes across as a whiny twit or some sort of superhero who is above the fray. She is just a fairly average person thrown into some above-average situations. As for the rest of the characters, they all seem to fit the time and place – again, a testament to the excellent research done.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this novel, and it was a situation where I sort of regretted reading it – simply because it will now be quite a while before the next one comes out and I can immerse myself in the world again. The book ended as most in a series do, with a definite sense of completion, but with some obvious questions/dilemmas that will – I presume – present themselves again in the next title. A title that I will be most anxious to read.