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Lessons After Dark

Lessons After Dark

3.5 9
by Isabel Cooper

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"Smartly mixes history, action, romance, and magic."—Publishers Weekly on No Proper Lady, a Best Book of the Year

A woman with an unspeakable past

Olivia Brightmore didn't know what to expect when she took a position to teach at Englefiend School, an academy for "gifted" children. But it wasn't having to rescue a


"Smartly mixes history, action, romance, and magic."—Publishers Weekly on No Proper Lady, a Best Book of the Year

A woman with an unspeakable past

Olivia Brightmore didn't know what to expect when she took a position to teach at Englefiend School, an academy for "gifted" children. But it wasn't having to rescue a young girl who levitated to the ceiling. Or battling a dark mystery in the surrounding woods. And nothing could have prepared her for Dr. Gareth St. John...

A man with exceptional talent

He knew all about her history and scrutinized her every move because of it. But there was more than suspicion lurking in those luscious green eyes. Even with all the strange occurrences at the school, the most unsettling of all is the attraction pulling Olivia and Gareth together with a force that cannot be denied.

"Sexy, edgy, and stunningly inventive."—Library Journal starred review on No Proper Lady, a Best book of the Year

Isabel Cooper lives in Boston with her boyfriend and a houseplant she's kept alive for over a year now. She maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager working in legal publishing. She only travels through time the normal way and has never fought a demon, but she can waltz. For more visit isabelcooper.wordpress.com.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Grenvilles, protagonists of 2011’s No Proper Lady, know magical war is coming, so they found a school to train young agents to fight against dark magic. Their first hire is Dr. Gareth St. John; the second is magic instructor Olivia Brightmore, who posed as a medium to make money after her husband’s death and was surprised to develop true talents. When standoffish, meticulously moral Gareth recognizes Olivia as a former charlatan, he isn’t inclined to let her forget—even when dark magic threatens the school and sizzling chemistry threatens Olivia and Gareth’s composure. Though the stakes are lower than in the first book, sexual tension propels the story forward, and Cooper’s demon-haunted Victorian England is enticing and well-built. Fans will be eager for more. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Seamlessly weaving the paranormal elements around the romance... Cooper's worldbuilding is solid and believable. 4 1/2 Stars and Top Pick of the Month" - RT Book Reviews

"The drama and tension worked into the story as the war begins between human and demon is well expressed by the author." - Long and Short Reviews

"Isabel Cooper writes a well crafted and imaginative story." - NetGalley Reader Review

"The excitement and danger in the story kept the pacing quick... This book is firmly on my Keeper shelf. " - The Romanceaholic

"Funny, sensual, and occasionally dark, this charmer is laced with both humor and danger; another magical romp that fans are sure to enjoy." - Library Journal

"The supernatural elements are perfectly intertwined and the excitement of the developing romance, combined with suspense, make this a real page-turner... Enticing and magical..." - Romancing the Darkside

"An interesting concept that made me draw a comparisons to X-men." - Booked Up

"FANTASTIC: Magic, seduction, and overcoming obstacles... what more does it need?" - Fresh Fiction

"A twist between Xmen and Harry Potter, with romance...and demons." - Literary Escapism

" Isabel Cooper is an author to watch! " - All About Romance

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

When Olivia Brightmore arrived at Englefield, there was nobody to meet her.

That wasn't absolutely true, she told herself as she stood staring at the house, bag weighing down one arm. There had been the carriage when she got off the train, and the elderly and taciturn coachman who was even now driving it back out of sight. Someone had sent him. Someone was expecting her, and it wasn't as though she could expect Mr. or Mrs. Grenville to come out and greet her. She was a new teacher, not a weekend guest. She'd just have to go inside, find someone appropriate, and give him the letter Mr. Grenville had sent when he'd hired her.

Very simple, really.

Olivia swallowed hard, smoothed her free hand down the side of her best skirt, and still couldn't make herself move for a minute or two.

Englefield was a pleasant country house, square and red brick and Georgian. She'd lived eighteen years in one much like it, before marriage and widowhood and London. There was nothing Gothic about it, but just for a minute it seemed to loom against the cloudy evening sky, full of unpleasant possibilities. If they hadn't sent for her at all and it had been some kind of horrible mistake—if she was too young or too soft looking now that she was here—if they'd changed their minds and that letter had reached her rooms too late—

She started forward with all the dignity of a rabbit bursting from cover. It took until the foot of the curved set of steps to bring her feet under some sort of control, and none of the meditation she'd learned managed to slow her heartbeat a jot. When she knocked, her hand looked very small, the gray leather of her good pair of gloves startlingly pale against the varnished wood of the doors.

You absolutely must get hold of yourself, my dear.

The voice was a memory: Lyddie, the woman who had taught Olivia most of what she knew, speaking before Olivia's first night performing on her own. Olivia's hands had been shaking so badly she'd spilled one glass of water already. Lyddie had gripped them in hers, her black eyes as calm and pitiless as a raven's. You're not asking them for anything they don't want to give you. Remember that.

Olivia sent silent thanks to Lyddie, wherever she was in the Silent Land or beyond, and managed to put a proper and distant smile on her face just as the door opened.

It helped that the maid on the other side looked rather flustered herself. She was young too, perhaps eighteen at the most, and she started talking as soon as she saw Olivia. "You're the new teacher, aren't you? The one from London?" Before Olivia could reply, the girl put a hand to her mouth. "Oh—I'm dreadfully sorry, ma'am!"

That phrase was certainly on the list of things Olivia hadn't wanted to hear. If she'd actually faced the icily composed butler or suspicious housekeeper she'd been expecting, she might have frozen again, but the maid's youth and confusion let her get the words past the sudden tightness in her throat. "Sorry?"

"Well, there's nobody at home, just about. Mr. Grenville's gone to see his sister off today, and he won't be back until nightfall at least. And that would've been fine, only Mrs. Grenville's just gone out to have a word with the builders, and Mrs. Edgar's...talking...with Cook."

"And the butler?" Olivia asked, surprising herself with the laughter in her voice.

"Quit a week ago, ma'am. Said no decent man would put up with—well, never mind." The girl seemed to abruptly become conscious of her place, or that Olivia was still on the doorstep. She stepped back. "Why don't you come in, then? We can take your bags—oh—well, we can put them somewhere until Mrs. Grenville and Mrs. Edgar can say which room you're to have."

She looked at Olivia's bag dubiously and didn't ask where the others were. Olivia knew she was blushing and smiled quickly to cover it up. "I try to travel lightly," she said.

Very lightly: two shirtwaists, a skirt, underthings, her other pair of gloves, two books, and a few magical tools. The rest of her clothes hadn't been worth seeing. In any case, the books lent some weight to the bag. Olivia thought the maid might have been truly shocked, otherwise, when she handed it over.

"What's your name?" Olivia asked once the girl had closed the door.

"Violet, ma'am."

"I'm Mrs. Brightmore."

Violet bobbed a curtsy, Olivia's bag tucked under one arm. "I—" She bit her lip and stopped. Olivia saw the question in her face and knew what it was. Even such a raw servant as Violet would know her place better than to ask, even of someone who'd been as informal with her as Olivia had. It was far too personal.

Besides, there really was no polite euphemism for witch, even for a woman who was coming to teach at a school of the occult.

It was to her and Violet's mutual relief when a door on one side of the room opened and a head of neatly cut auburn hair poked out of the doorway, a little less than six feet up. The gentleman behind the door glanced around the hall, frowning, and then frowned more when he saw Violet and Olivia.

Violet, on the other hand, broke out in a smile. "Oh, I'd forgotten the doctor! Dr. St. John, sir," she said with another curtsy in his direction, "this is Mrs. Brightmore, the new teacher. She's just come from London, and—"

"Simon isn't back yet, I suppose? Or Mrs. Grenville, from wherever she's gone?"

"Just down to the new building, sir, and I'll send someone for her directly." Violet looked from the new arrival back to Olivia. "I was just going to show you to the drawing room, ma'am."

With, to some credit, only a very faint sigh, Dr. St. John stepped fully out of the room. "I'll escort the lady."

"Thank you, sir," said Olivia as Violet nodded and sped off. "You're very kind."

Now that she could see him entirely, Dr. St. John proved to be on the thin side, perhaps more so than he should have been by nature. His features were strong but a touch drawn, and a fading tan didn't quite mask the faint shadows under his eyes. His eyes were a rather striking green, and while he was dressed for practicality rather than fashion, his clothing was neat and well cut. Handsome, in his way. Not that it particularly mattered, since this was a school and not a ballroom, but it was no bad thing to have an attractive man about the place.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Brightmore," he said, looking down at her as they headed through another of the doorways. "I'd apologize for the improper introduction, but I wouldn't wish to raise your expectations for the school."

"I had no impression this was a precisely regular establishment," Olivia said, trying a hint of a smile on him and getting no response. She glanced around the drawing room. "Although it's certainly looked unexceptionable so far."

It was a nice enough room: blue paper, dark wooden furniture with blue cushions, plenty of windows, and a small piano in one corner. It could have been a dozen others she'd seen. Olivia realized she was surprised, and inwardly shook her head.

"Doesn't look precisely like a school for magic, does it?" asked Dr. St. John, who probably couldn't read her thoughts.

Like witch, magic sounded more than faintly ridiculous. Olivia had never used the word in her previous profession. It put the customers in the wrong frame of mind. And Mr. Grenville's letter had thrown around lots of camouflage. "Talents of a certain nature" here, "a singular variety of human service" there: enough for any reasonable person to get the hint, but still never coming right out.

Still, there it was, and one could only dance around the subject for so long.

"No," she said and glanced over to find Dr. St. John studying her face almost as intently, if somewhat less subtly, she hoped, than she'd been regarding him earlier. Curiosity about a colleague was natural. Nevertheless, Olivia could have wished he'd been less curious, or she'd had time beforehand to freshen up from the journey. "But then," she said, "I suppose it wouldn't. Not the public rooms. One so rarely sees busts of Pallas in the best houses these days."

She hadn't known Dr. St. John nearly long enough to expect anything from him. Even now, it was something of a surprise when he grinned. He looked surprised too, and Olivia wasn't sure that was any compliment to her. "Quite right," he said, "and I suspect keeping eye of newt in the pantry would lead to a number of catastrophes."

"You might encounter—" Olivia was going to go on and talk about problems keeping servants but stopped as Dr. St. John suddenly turned back toward the door. It was a second or two before she heard footsteps running toward them, and only a little longer until a boy burst into the doorway.

He was perhaps fifteen or sixteen, dark haired and well dressed. He was also quite alarmed. At first, "Sir—" And then the words nearly burst out of his mouth. "Sir, Dr. St. John, you've got to come upstairs. It's Elizabeth. She's..." Only then did he seem to notice Olivia, and his face turned red even as he went on. "She's on the ceiling, sir, and she can't get down."

Meet the Author

Isabel Cooper lives in Boston with her boyfriend and a houseplant she's kept alive for over a year now. She maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager working in legal publishing. She only travels through time the normal way and has never fought a demon, but she can waltz. For more visit isabelcooper.wordpress.com.

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Lessons After Dark 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
bookladygran More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, but I had read No Proper Lady first, which I think does help quite a bit. Without the background on Simon and Joan, the plot line of this next book,Lessons After Dark, can seem a bit sketchy in places. Knowing the whole story history, I found this continuation that focuses on the school of magical defenses to be very intriguing. The relationship between the new couple of Olivia and Gareth, their own "special abilities" and how they handle them, certainly held my attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
#2 is a wonderful addition to a promising series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the book but it was slow in some spots. Still a good book.
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DaniC More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to love this book. I have started reading historical paranormal and the ones I have come across I love. When I first read the synopsis for Lessons After Dark I was excited. It sounded like a fun, romantic read. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that. For me the story dragged. It dragged so much that I was not eager to pick this back up when I had to set it down. I was hoping this would be a fun, light hearted, romantic read and it wasn’t. The characters were ok and I like the premise a lot but not enough to ever reread it.