Uncanny Chronicles, Book 1
Coleen Kwan had me at the first paragraph.
I was intrigued as soon as I read the blurb for her new novel, Darke London. Julilan Darke, abandoned at birth and left on the doorstep of a gentleman doctor, is convinced Sir Thaddeus Ormond knows something about his heritage. He shadows Sir Ormond one night and to his horror, witnesses a woman thrown from his carriage into the arms of a thug. Julian manages to save the woman’s life, but not her face and hands from terribly injury.
Nellie Barchester is naturally in shock about her situation and the disfigured stranger staring back at her in the mirror. While Nellie attempts to come to terms with her altered looks, she also has to face the very real possibility that her husband may have plotted her death.
Together, Julian and Nellie venture into London’s dark underbelly to uncover the truth. Their pursuit draws them closer together in ways neither of them expected and takes them to the edge of passion. But will their feelings be enough to withstand a ruthless enemy intent on their destruction?
Coleen’s expert prose was the first thing that grabbed me. She throws the reader into a London of a different time, both effortlessly and ruthlessly. I was seriously impressed with her grasp of history and the conventions of the time. It means the reader is in Julian and Nellie’s world from page one and once you’re immersed, you don’t want to emerge back into the real world.
The characters as well as the mystery hold the reader fast. Julian is dark and handsome, but with a tenderness and contrasting impetuousness that make him immediately likeable. Nellie is vulnerable, but she’s also feisty – it’s this combination that Julian finds himself admiring and against his better judgement, falling for.
While you watch Julian and Nellie battle over their feelings for one another – Nellie is still technically a married woman, after all – the greater mystery over Julian’s parentage and Nellie’s husband’s intentions for her loom large and make for a compelling reason to keep turning the pages.
I’m always on the lookout for Australian authors and I’m pleased to say that Coleen Kwan doesn’t disappoint. At only 50,000 words, Darke London is short and sweet, but it far exceeded my expectations. It was an original read, infused with mystery, suspense, romance and passion – it was a ride I was loathe to get off once I reached the end.
The only way to save her life is to resurrect the dead…
Julian Darke was only a newborn when he was abandoned on the doorstep of a gentleman doctor. Though raised with love, he is driven to discover his true origins.
Convinced Sir Thaddeus Ormond knows something, Julian shadows him one night—and is shocked to see a young woman thrown from Ormond’s carriage and accosted by a thug. Julian manages to save her life, but not her face and hands from horrific injuries.
Nellie Barchester doesn’t recognize the scarred, disfigured stranger in the mirror. Though the gifted doctor and engineer has done his best to repair the damage, scars ravage her body, and chill her soul with the realization that her own husband may have plotted her death.
Julian’s tenderness is a balm to her soul, and Nellie is drawn to the edge of passion by a man not repelled by her deformities. But as their pursuit of the truth draws them into London’s underbelly, they cross the path of a ruthless enemy who will stop at nothing to fulfill his schemes.
Warning: Can a brilliant but troubled doctor find happiness with a woman scarred both inside and out? A hint of the supernatural plus a night of passion spice up this Uncanny Chronicle.
Darke London (Excerpt)
Julian nodded grimly. He had seen her face earlier on and, after a cursory examination, had instinctively hidden it with her cloak.
“Well?” Julian asked.
His father grunted. “See for yourself.”
For some reason, instead of staring rudely at her exposed face, he found himself reaching for the hood of the cloak and smoothing it back from the woman’s head. A handful of brown curls tumbled out, incongruously bright and clean and fresh against the oozing mess staining everything else. The tang of spilt blood hit the back of his throat, like the taste of pennies. He swallowed hard, aware of his roiling innards. Why was the smell of blood unmanning him like this? Since he was old enough to walk, he’d assisted his father. He had lanced boils, drained suppurating wounds, stitched up gaping cuts, all with nary a wince. And he was a qualified doctor too. He’d dissected corpses, amputated arms and legs, trepanned a number of patients. In all these years he’d never suffered a queasy turn, and yet now his stomach threatened to unman him. Why now? Why did this woman affect him so?
She was a stranger to him; he’d never laid eyes on her before this evening. It must simply be his body protesting, sapped of energy after the tribulations he’d faced tonight. He willed his nerves to steady as he took a proper look at the woman.
Under the harsh, hissing light, the white of her face was crisscrossed with deep gashes, like a peach haphazardly sliced open. Mercifully both eyes appeared intact and unharmed. Congealing blood spattered the front of her dress, the pattern of the faded cotton submerged beneath the sticky mess. A swelling contusion on her right temple indicated the heavy blow which had rendered her insensate.
Elijah lifted up one of the woman’s hands. “What happened here?” His voice was rough with disbelief.
Julian could only shake his head at the bloodied stumps, all that was left of the middle and ring fingers. He had bound his handkerchief as best he could around the hand, but there had been considerable loss of blood, and the fingers had been crudely removed, leaving behind a messy lump of flesh.
“Can we save her hand?” he asked.
“We shall do our best.”
Using a sharp pair of scissors, Elijah began to cut off the woman’s dress in order to complete his examination. As the shears tore through the thin material, the woman moaned. It was no more than a murmur, but it seemed the most blood-curdling sound Julian had ever heard. She squirmed, her flailing arms almost knocking the scissors from Elijah’s hand.
“Hold her down, son,” Elijah barked.
Julian obeyed, but the instant he pressed down on the woman’s shoulders, her eyelids flew open. Two green eyes stared up at him, frozen in a moment of sheer terror. With the glaring lights overhead, he must appear like a dark silhouette looming over her, Julian surmised. And then every thought fled from him as she started to shriek and thrash her limbs, struggling with all her might to free herself.
Elijah exclaimed as the scissors were knocked flying from his grasp.
“Hush now, hush. You’re safe—” Julian tried to comfort the woman, but she only fought harder, her strength surprising him.
She thinks I am her attacker, that monster assaulting her with his knife. The realisation was enough to make him lift his hands away from her. She tried to sit up, but before she could move Elijah darted in and covered her nose and mouth with his chloroform pad. Her muffled screams continued, her eyes above the pad bulging with horror, but moments later her eyelids drooped, and she collapsed back on the table.
Copyright © 2013 Coleen Kwan