Series: Lady Helen #2
on January 1st 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Historical, Paranormal
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The second novel in the thrilling LADY HELEN series sees Helen following orders that could bring about betrayal and annihilation. Ages 12+
After the scandalous events at her presentation ball in London, Lady Helen has taken refuge at the fashionable seaside resort of Brighton, where she is training to be a Reclaimer with the covert Dark Days Club.
As she struggles to put aside her genteel upbringing and take up the weapons of a warrior, Helen realizes that her mentor, Lord Carlston, is fighting his own inner battle. Has the foul Deceiver energy poisoned his soul, or is something else driving him towards violent bouts of madness? Either way, Helen is desperate to help the man with whom she shares a deep but forbidden connection.
When Mr Pike, the hard bureaucratic heart of the Dark Days Club, arrives in Brighton, no one is prepared for the ordinary evil he brings in his wake. He has a secret task for Helen and Mr Hammond, and the authority of the Prince Regent. They have no choice but to do as he orders, knowing that the mission will betray everyone around them and possibly bring about Lord Carlston's annihilation.
I was really eager to continue off from where the previous book, The Dark Days Club left off, but it took a while for me to get absorbed in the storyline. The plot’s slow pace in the beginning and middle is quite reminiscent of the first book, leaving the fun, exciting action parts around the last third of the book. The only reason why I continued in the first couple hundred pages, actually, was just the fact that Goodman’s writing was so immersive and irresistible (that, plus Lady Helen’s character is pretty smart and enjoyable to read about). I expected a lot more action right off the bat, but the author gave us a good wait throughout.
In this sequel, Lady Helen is training to become a Reclaimer, part of a group of people with powers that can stem off the Deceiver, creatures who inhabit human bodies and pretty much suck their energy through lust, creativity, and other passions. We also hear of a Grand Deceiver who may or may not exist, and witness the corruption within the Dark Days Club, where Reclaimers work under the Crown. We get to delve more into the politics of this club as both friendly and unfriendly Reclaimers are introduced, as well as discover more bits and pieces of the club itself. However, with that also comes some societal prejudices that Lady Helen has to face as a woman. Many Reclaimers don’t trust her because of her gender, especially since she is fated, apparently, to ultimately see the demise of the Grand Deceiver (this is because she’s a direct inheritor Reclaimer). We even get to see her dress like a male throughout the book in order to be undercover.
I am sure you are most intelligent, but you are still a woman and therefore reliant upon emotion rather than logic, and subject to your sensibilities as are all your sex. You cannot be expected to have the same strength, strategic mind or logic competence as a man.
The first part of the book sees Lady Helen’s tension between Lord Carlston, who is not behaving like himself. He’s constantly moody and aggressive. In the first book, his mysterious and brooding character was quite charming, but now his surliness was a bit annoying, especially since Lady Helen spent a lot of time thinking about him. Her inner dialogue consisted of a lot of “I love him but it’s too dangerous but my body won’t cooperate.” I love a bit of angst, don’t get me wrong, but it was a bit tiresome to see her feelings and not a hint of reciprocation from Carlston in the first half. Interestingly enough, this moodiness is a rather large part of the plot, so the resolution of it towards the end was enough for me to forgive him. Add that the lack of action during training, though, and I wasn’t too big of a fan for the first couple hundred pages.
What were they doing? Had she not just railed against him and his order? Had he not just told her that this attraction was forbidden? It was as if he were the sun and she Icarus, ignoring the bright, hot danger ahead.
However, what did happen is Lady Helen becoming embroiled in more and more plots. She finds herself undercover for several people, while creating more and more secrets. The Dark Days Pact has a lot more corruption than she first though. Goodman did a great job in keeping these entanglements organized as Lady Helen weaves through friend and foe alike. Throughout it all, she keeps her inner courage and faith in what she believes is right. And that strength in character – as well as the amazing writing – was what ultimately kept me reading.
Like in the first book, the author displays immense research for the time period. The way the characters dress, the establishments they go to, and some people they interact with were all realistically played out (and seen from history). While the first half was a bit dull, slow, and full of oddly-placed angst, the second half was exhilarating and full of quick action. Suffice it to say, the revelations made during this time really bumped up the rating for me. Lady Helen continues to show quick-thinking (although sometimes too capricious at times) and courage despite the manipulation of the people around her.
Every moment of every day she was having to pick her way through lies and secrets to find a pathway over a deadly and muddied morality. And it was never going to end. This was her life now.
I guess there’s a little development of the romance front with Carlston. The biggest thing about it, however, is that it’s very, strictly forbidden. So that makes for a slower burn as both characters have to repress their feelings. Readers are quite unaware of Carlston’s thoughts, other than being extremely stoic, while Lady Helen has to hold back her own feelings. Add to that the fact that Carlston’s wife is still technically missing, and it seems like the couple has less of a chance than ever. But the moments where they are in one accord are more precious because of that. I’m still not fully on board, but the tension is definitely there.
We get to discover more about the Dark Days Club in The Dark Days Pact and the complex relationships that the Receivers and their aides are embroiled in. Some characters will make you want to scream with frustration, while others are so ambiguous, you don’t know what to think. One thing that stands, however, is Lady Helen’s will and motivation to find the Grand Deceiver and figure out what’s wrong with the man she loves, Carlston, despite the forbidden love going on between them. A quick-paced, action-packed latter half made up for the slower first half, making this a worthwhile sequel to read. I definitely will be sticking around for the next book in the series!
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you HarperCollins Australia for the review copy!