four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
26-Jan-Feb-2007
By: 
Karleen Koen
user_rating: 
0

A-Dark AngelsAlice Verney, last seen as an elderly matriarch in Karleen Koen’s Through a Glass Darkly (1986), is front and center as a 20-year-old lady-in-waiting in this tale of courts and courtships. When Princess Henriette, the sister of King Charles II and wife of Louis XIV of France, dies in a mysterious and terrible fashion, her maid Anne returns to England and tries to uncover a possible plot to murder Queen Catherine. All the while, Alice stays on top of fashion trends and balances a love triangle involving a rich, elderly duke and a poor, handsome soldier.
Crown. 544 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0307339912

Dallas Morning News 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Ms. Koen possesses many gifts as a writer, chiefly her apparent devotion to meticulous research, her always-accessible and zingy dialogue and the narrative’s easy flow, despite zillions of characters and new plots emerging on every page." Joy Tipping

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"[A] delectable prequel. … Koen’s most intriguing character is Charles II, whose persona as the Merry Monarch is presented as a protective façade." Deirdre Donahue

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The chief strength of Koen’s novel is her thorough understanding of the era and its people, and her skill in briefly explaining complex historical circumstances while telling a good story. … Koen’s prose here is pedestrian, but it gets the job done." Diana Gabaldon

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Ms. Koen is hardly one to neglect affairs of the heart. … Dark Angels is marbled with rich period detail and, at more than 500 pages, gives good weight to fans of the genre." Joanne Kaufman

Texas Monthly 3 of 5 Stars
"This prequel is a genteel piece. … Readers looking for a less-courtly fiction might find these 544 pages slight fare indeed." Mike Shea

Critical Summary

Karleen Koen has been largely absent from the literary scene for 20 years, and critics who enjoyed Through a Glass Darkly herald her return. Reviewers agree that Koen’s deep knowledge of world politics and daily life during the Restoration contributes to the strength of her writing, which appears undiminished by her time off. Her handling of romance is delicate, with passion confined to a few kisses and clearly peripheral to the plot. The real focus is scandalous intrigue, much of it based on historical fact. The novel’s length bothered some, but all agreed that Dark Angeles is a richly imagined historical romance.

Also by the Author

Through a Glass Darkly (1986): Fifteen-year-old Barbara Alderley is married off to 46-year-old Roger Montgeoffrey. She loves him, he doesn’t love her, and he harbors a great secret (which astute readers may guess long before it is revealed). Set amid the intrigues of the French and English courts in the early 18th century, the novel offers plenty of passages describing food, fashion, and scenery.