A school for ‘gifted’, aka magical children, a fake medium, and a magical healing doctor, romance, mystery and magic, sounds like it could be interesting. It’s like a twist between Xmen and Harry Potter, with romance…and demons. That’s what I was feeling going into Lessons After Dark by Isabel Cooper.
For years, Gareth St. John put his supernatural talent for healing in service to the British Army. Now he’s the doctor at a very unusual new school that helps people with special “talents” learn how to hone their abilities.
Olivia Brightmore became a fake medium to support herself after her husband died, but she never expected to discover real magic as the school’s newest teacher. Olivia tries to keep the handsome doctor at arm’s length, but she can’t resist the urge to get under his skin.
The characters in Lessons After Dark, sadly, aren’t my favorite. Dr. Gareth St. John is a pompous ass who I really don’t like and cannot see as a romantic interest whatsoever. Olivia wasn’t terrible, but there wasn’t anything about her that drew me in or made me like her. St. John hates Olivia because he knows she was a fraud medium, and is rude and hateful toward her. Olivia knows St. John knows her past and reacts to his attitude with her own rude remarks. It makes for a very testy combo, and for me, makes absolutely no sense to have them suddenly get all romantic. It’s different than your typical romance novel where the characters ‘hate’ each other, because there’s at least flirtation or attraction and some sort of play between them that you can see as more than hate. This is downright hatred for one another. And then they kiss…and still hate each other…and do it again…and yet still hate each other? Then fall in love? It made zero sense to me. There was very little evidence of them softening toward each other for their romance to be possible, for me anyway. I didn’t believe the relationship at all.
The other characters were on and off stage so often I never got to ‘know’ them. It may be because I was reading two books at once, but I kept forgetting who was who, and their individual personalities. They were also sometimes called by first name and sometimes their last name, which may have added to my confusion. I also thought it strange that the adults, who also have magical powers, knew so little of the magical side of things, and yet they were able to fight off the demons and figure out what to do in dire situations.
I loved the plot, the idea of a school for magical children, with some romance and mystery. Come on! A boy who can control weather?! A girl who can talk to animals?! Something sinister in the woods that heightens their powers?! Sweet! But I found it a bit odd to go from a budding ‘romance’, to building a school, to the mystery in the woods and the magic in the land, back and forth – it made it a bit hard to follow as well as understand and connect to each situation. Maybe if it had been spread out more, maybe in separate books, I wouldn’t have felt so scattered. But this meant that whenever the mystery in the woods was in the spotlight, I was very disappointed when it switched focus and was anxious for it to go back. I was enthralled with what was happening, I wanted to hear more about the weird things being seen in the woods, and I really enjoyed the classroom scenes and wanted more of them. I do wish you learn more about the forest, nothing is really explained and it’s just left hanging there. I’m guessing you’ll learn more in the next book. (The romance, I was happy to skip over.)
Lessons After Dark has all the ingredients for a great story, from cleverness to intrigue and mystery but sadly, for me, it’s far from great. While I don’t hate this book, I don’t particularly like it. Someone somewhere will enjoy this story I am sure. I, however, did not.
No Proper Lady
Lessons After Dark