Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review: Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen

From the Back Cover:

As opulent and passionate as the 18th century it celebrates, Through A Glass Darkly will sweep you away to the splendors of a lost era. From aristocrats to scoundrels, its rich, vivd characters create their own immortality. Here is the story of a great family ruled by a dowager of extraordinary power; of a young woman seeking love in a world of English luxury and French intrigue; and of a man haunted by a secret that could turn all their dreams to ashes...

My Thoughts:

The title comes from a Bible 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

And from this verse flows the essence of the story of Barbara: a young woman with an open heart full of dreams and desires, longing to please, to love and be loved with a child's innocence, who comes to know a woman's life and to be known as a woman, amidst the heartache and bitterness of failed expectations, personal tragedy and the duplicity and debauchery of the English and French courts.

England, 1715. Barbara is the sheltered granddaughter of the late Duke of Tamworth, one of England's most famous military heroes. With a traitorous father on the run and a scandalous, uninterested mother, Barbara and her siblings have been raised by their grandmother, the Duchess, an iron-willed woman who strikes fear in the hearts of those who oppose her, and will go to any lengths to aid those whom she loves.

Barbara is content to spend her days happy and carefree on her grandmother's secluded country estate until her money-scheming mother arrives and plants the idea in her head that she could marry her childhood idol, the dashing, worldly, and much older Roger Montgeoffrey. Barbara latches onto that idea and moves to London, spinning grand dreams of her future and enlisting her grandmother's help to see those dreams to fruition. Though Barbara is young and unknowing in many ways, she is aware from the beginning that Roger marries her out of respect for her grandfather and for the dowry she brings him, but she is determined to make a place for herself in his life and in his heart.

Roger, a rising investment star in the infamous South Sea Company, has plans for his life, and though Barbara is an unexpected and intriguing addition to that life, he's not planning on making any significant changes. As soon as they're married, he and Barbara are off to France, where Barbara makes her debut in society amidst a decadent and licentious French court. In this world of sex and scandal, Barbara is left to her own counsel and must choose how to conduct herself, all the while striving to hold her husband's attention, praying for him to return even a fraction of the love she feels for him. And just when it seems she's about to get everything she wants, tragedy strikes Barbara's family and Roger's hidden past sweeps into Paris. And as he succumbs to the temptations of his dark secrets, Barbara's life crumbles around her. Attempting to pick up the pieces, Barbara embarks on a journey of discovering who she is and who she wants to be.

This book is one of those slow burners that takes its time to draw the reader into a sensuous world of compelling characters. It is a beautifully written coming-of-age story, love story, and family saga rolled into one; a heart-wrenching portrayal of emotions, of the damage people can inflict upon each other; of human nature in every shade, where nothing is black and white. The outstanding cast of supporting characters adds dimension and layers to the story and the lushly depicted era of opulence, political unrest and financial instability of England and France weaves a rich historical texture throughout.

I loved every minute of this book and I cried my way through the last hundred pages. Then, after I got hold of myself, I went right out to the library and picked up the sequel. This is one of those books that kept me up late and then woke me in the middle of the night -- I could not stop thinking about it. Definite Keeper Shelf. Highly recommended to fans of emotionally charged, character-driven historical fiction.

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars


  1. A book that keeps you that enthralled has gotta be good. Just my type of book! Thanks for the catchy review..I'll be looking for this one for sure:)

  2. wow great review!

    This is really not my kind of book, but with such a praise its impossible to not take notice =)

  3. Although this isn't the kind of thing I would read, it was an amazing review! x

  4. I don't read much historical fiction but this one sounds extremely interesting! I love the title!

  5. I'm stopping by from Radiant Reviews. I enjoy reading about compelling characters. I also haven't read very much historical fiction either. The saga of this world and the dimensions of this book does make it sound interesting. Very informative! Great review!

  6. I love books that can make me cry!It means it has powerful compelling storyline and characters. It really sounds interesting!

    P/S: i'm from RR

  7. I've really enjoyed some Historical Fiction recently, this sounds interesting...the fact it kept you up at night says a lot and that's is very emotionally charged. Great review!

  8. Hi Lady Q! I used to read a lot of historical fiction but I haven't read much lately. This sounds like a great read and just the sort of book that could pull me back into reading this genre. Great review :)


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