The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman

The Blurb On The Back:

Bath, December 1812.

Lady Helen Wrexhall is finalising the preparations for her wedding, but her focus is on the Dark Days Club.  Time is running out to find the vital answers needed to defeat their unknown foe, the Grand Deceiver.

Lady Helen and Lord Carlston are also struggling to control their new dyad bond, and their illicit feelings for one another. As Helen tries desperately to juggle the demands of her double life, an old enemy arrives in Bath, bringing death and deceit. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s December 1812, 5 months after the events in THE DARK DAYS PACT.

19-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall and Lord Carlston are the Grand Reclaimer, having formed a bond between them that has increased their powers and given Helen new abilities.  But they have yet to figure out how to harness and control those new abilities, while Helen, having also absorbed the Ligatus, is finding that its foul memories are difficult to contain.

The members of the Dark Days Club are in Bath, trying to find the Bath Deceiver, who they believe can help them to identify and defeat the Grand Deceiver.  Helen’s participation in the search is hampered, however, by the fact that she is due to marry the Duke of Selburn on New Year’s Day and must devote some of her time to her wedding preparations and although Selburn is aware of the importance of her work as a Reclaimer, his enmity with Lord Carlston is such that it’s becoming difficult for Helen to spend the time with him that she needs … and wants …

The conclusion to Alison Goodman’s New Adult/YA LADY HELEN TRILOGY is a satisfying historical fantasy read with an excellent feel for the period and which further develops the worldbuilding and fantasy elements.  However, it’s overwritten and overly complicated at times and some of the twists were very obvious earlier in the trilogy.  The obligatory happy ending leaves room for a sequel series though, which I would definitely check out.

The main thing to praise in this trilogy is Goodman’s attention to the period and how she incorporates her research on Regency England and the lives of the women who lived in it with the fantasy elements. This is particularly shown through the social dilemmas that Helen repeatedly faces, most notably in how she has to juggle the expectations placed on her as a woman of some importance within society and her coming role as a wife and mother with her participation in and duties expected from her by the Dark Days Club.  Goodman does a good job at showing the restrictive view placed on women and their capabilities and how Helen and her loyal Terrene Darby are conscious of how far they are breaking the norms with their activities.  I especially believed in how torn Helen feels between her duties as a Reclaimer and her relationship with Selburn and there are a number of good scenes between the two that highlight his frustrations with her activities when he needs her to bear him an heir and look after his household.

If you’re into romance, then you will enjoy the continued love triangle between Helen, Carlston and Selburn here and how it is resolved.  I’ve got to say that for me it was the weakest part of the book – not least because the resolution has been so heavily signposted from THE DARK DAYS CLUB – but that is a staple of the genre so fans will not be disappointed.  I did enjoy how Goodman incorporates the bond that now exists between Carlton and Helen in their capacity as a Grand Reclaimer and how Helen is cautious about what this means for her feelings for him and whether those emotions are just a by-blow of the bond.  However I feel that the shadow of Carlton’s ex-wife Lady Elise, and the is-she-isn’t-she conundrum surrounding whether she is dead or has merely fled to France was a bit of a needless impediment that served only to manufacture an obstacle to the romance while also slowing down the plot.  Similarly, the return of Philip, the Deceiver footman from THE DARK DAYS CLUB has a bit of a filler feel – the misdirection too obvious and clunky so that it slows pace and tension rather than builds it.

That brings me to the Grand Deceiver storyline. The idea of having a duo as Grand Deceiver is a neat mirror of Helen and Carlston’s Grand Reclaimer but the trilogy has been hampered by the fact that the identity of one half of the Grand Deceiver has been very obvious from the start so when that reveal finally comes there was zero surprise from me.  However Goodman is more successful with concealing the entity of the second Deceiver (which did come as a surprise) and she uses the Grand Deceiver to expand on the fantasy worldbuilding, which I’m not sure is entirely successful because it involves putting a new spin on how Deceivers transmit to new hosts and it does feel a little like a cheat to make the plot twist work (and the same can be said for the method the Grand Deceivers use to avoid detection).  However, the expansion in the mythology does develop the worldbuilding and given the potential for a sequel series, I’d be interested in seeing how this gets developed further.  I should say though that I did like how Goodman expands on the Reclaimer abilities, especially how that impacts on the relationship between Helen, Carlston and Darby through their Grand Reclaimer bond.

Ultimately and notwithstanding my criticisms, I did think that this was a well put together trilogy and it neatly combines both the historical and fantasy elements in a way that doesn’t come across as anachronistic.  The book does end with the potential for a new series and now that the love triangle is done and dusted, I would definitely want to check out any sequel.

THE DARK DAYS DECEIT was released in the United Kingdom on 15th November 2018.  Thanks to Walker Books for the review copy of this book.

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