Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

From the Back Cover:

One of the most beloved novels of our time, Through A Glass Darkly was an international bestseller and it established Karleen Koen as a uniquely intelligent and gifted writer, an enchanting storyteller with the power to create the magic of another time and characters readers never forget. Like Through A Glass Darkly, Now Face to Face is breathtaking in its scope and richness of detail, sweeping readers away into the suspense, intrigue, and grandeur of a lost era - and into the sensuous and sophisticated lives of a vast and vivid cast of characters. At the center of Now Face to Face is a woman who is devastated by loss, yet is nevertheless determined to create a new way of living with dignity, adventure and love.

Beautiful, headstrong Barbara Devane is a widow at twenty, emotionally devastated and financially ruined by the death of her husband in scandalous circumstances. In colonial Virginia, she struggles to develop a family tobacco plantation, and she finds, in this surprising society, betrayal and evil, and also her own strength and a new kind of purpose and bond. Returning to London, Barbara sets in motion an unorthodox plan to reestablish herself as a woman of property, confronting her enemies and regaining power and place. As the society around her erupts in political turmoil, she meets a mysterious, charismatic man and embarks on a deeply satisfying yet dangerous clandestine love.

My Thoughts:

As with Through A Glass Darkly, this novel takes its title and its themes from this verse:

     When I was a child, I spake as a child. I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
     For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
     And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
                                                                  I Corinthians 13:11-13

I absolutely loved Through A Glass Darkly, (read my review), and I was pleased to find that the sequel begins right where we last left Barbara: on her way to the colony of Virginia, looking ahead to a new life as a new woman, escaping the heartache and scandal of London. Though the author does provide a bit of background, this really is not a stand alone book, and to truly appreciate what happens in the sequel, you need to read Through A Glass Darkly first.

     Change is an easy thing to decide and a difficult thing to do. It is the day-to-day struggle of it that defeats people.

Barbara carries these wise words from her beloved grandmother with her as she navigates through the trials and temptations of turning her life around. The narrative moves back and forth between Barbara in Virginia, the loved ones she left behind in London, and a newcomer to London. He is Laurence Slane, a dedicated Jacobite, posing as an actor while spying on the King's court for the Old Pretender, King James III, and increasingly curious to know the woman all of London is still talking about.

All of the characters I loved in the first book are back in this one: Barbara's cousin Tony and her former lover Charles, still pining for Barbara but moving on with their lives; old Aunt Shrew in rare form and up to her ears in intrigue; Barbara's delectable, scandalous mother, Diana, in a surprisingly melancholy mood; Barbara's old friends Therese and Jane and Gussy, and of course, her grandmother, the formidable Duchess of Tamworth.

Barbara's time in Virginia strengthens her and when she receives news of startling developments back home, she sets out to face them head on, arriving in London at just the right time to take control of her own life while throwing everyone else's into chaos. Barbara soon finds herself conspiring with former enemies against former friends, winds up in the middle of a Jacobite plot to overthrow King George I, and discovers the courage to stand on her own and risk her heart to love again.

It's not as gut-wrenching as Through A Glass Darkly, as this novel has more of a plot, with more action and excitement and less exposition of human nature. This sequel did not get to me as much as the original did, but I really enjoyed it and thought it was one of the better sequels I've read. Two things keep me from giving it a higher rating: First, a story line in Virginia involving Barbara's suitor that seemed to fizzle out and disappear without any satisfaction when I thought it was going to play a larger part, and Second, I didn't like the way the conclusion of the story was presented. I won't spoil it, but I will state that I hate when authors leave important things up to my imagination! I stuck with the book for this long, I deserve to read about said things firsthand! But overall, this book is a good read, a satisfying continuation of a great story.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

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