Series: ENGLEFIELD SERIES
Plot Type: Historical Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence--4; Sensuality--4; Humor--2
Publisher and Titles: Sourcebooks Casablanca
No Proper Lady (9/2011)
Lessons After Dark (4/2012)
Based on the cover art, I thought that this would be a typical regency romance with a few witches tossed in, but I was wrong—and glad that I was. The series focuses on a group of magical mages/wizards/witches/warlocks/shamans in late Victorian England. Cooper doesn't label them, so choose your own term—I'm going to call the good guys mages and the bad guys sorcerers. Although the first book involves some time travel (both physical and astral), the main plot is set is 1888. The primary characters are all part of London society, where the exaltation of the occult is the current fashionable trend. This makes it easy for the true magicals to practice their spells and use their magic to protect mortals from dark supernatural forces.
When a half-naked Joan pops into 1888 existence, she is inside a magical, glowing circle in the middle of a forest during a violent storm, faced by a handsome man named Simon Grenville. Simon is a practicing mage, so he has seen some magic in his time, but he's still shocked by Joan's appearance, especially by her nudity and by the flash gun that is plugged into a vein in her arm. (That gun draws in her powerful life force and expels it when she shoots it at the monsters.) Nevertheless, Simon pulls himself together enough to take her back to his country estate and listen to her story. As it turns out, Simon also wants to take down Alex Reynell. Alex and Simon were once the best of friends, but they became enemies when Simon wouldn't sanction Alex's use of the dark arts. In retaliation, Alex recently seduced Simon's younger sister (Eleanor) and possessed her with a demon. Simon was able to rescue Eleanor, but she has not yet recovered from her horrific experience. Now, Simon wants revenge, although he still believes that he can talk Alex into repudiating his demonic practices.
This is an inventive world, with well-developed characters and a compelling story. Joan is a fascinating heroine, with her rough talk, expert knife skills, and passionate nature. Simon, too, is interesting. He accepts Joan as an equal in their mutual revenge plan and doesn't patronize her at all. If you've been disappointed with historical paranormal fiction before, I think that this book will change your mind. With its fresh approach and well-written story line, No Proper Lady is definitely worth your reading time.
In a recent blog interview, Cooper said, "I really like post-apocalyptic weirdness, and I find both Victorian society and Victorian occultism fascinating. They’re both so intricate, with so many elaborate rules, that they become almost like games." In another blog interview, Cooper describes Isabel and Simon twitter-style, in 140 characters or less: "She’s an assassin from a future where demons rule Earth. He’s a Victorian occultist whose friend turned to a dark path. They fight crime!" Cooper says that each of the ENGLEFIELD books will share some characters, but they will basically be stand-alone novels.