Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen
"A bride at fifteen, widowed at the tender age of twenty, Barbara,
Countess Devane, embarks for colonial Virginia financially ruined
by the death of her husband in scandalous circumstances. Dressed in
mourning as is proper for a woman, she is patronizingly described
as a fragile black butterfly, but the fragility is deceiving. She
makes a place for herself in the new world, takes lovers and friends
across political divides, and questions the established traditions of
slavery. Facing enemies she never suspected, she must return to
England and deal face to face with the problems created by her
husband, who haunts her even in death. Back in London, she quickly
finds herself pulled into Jacobite plotting, and the treachery of
powerful men suddenly threatens her family, her friends, and a new love..."
Now Face to Face, unfortunately, turned out to be a very disappointing sequel to Through A Glass Darkly. To be honest, there was entirely too much backstory to slog through which kept the plot from moving forward. Barbara, the Countess Devane, travels to colonial Virginia (after the death of her husband and subsequent financial ruin) to oversee her grandmother's tobacco plantation. After being introduced to a cast a ho-hum characters in Virginia (the exception being Colonel Edward Perry - a very fine gentleman and true friend) and plodding through several hundred pages, Barbara again suffers a heartbreaking loss -- will there be no end to the tragedy in her life? Meanwhile, back in England, divisions run deep as to which of two men, rival cousins, has the right to wear the crown of England. Again, the reader is subjected to hundreds of pages of backstory which keeps the plot stalled. It isn't until page 512 (in 721 pages) that we get even a glimmer of what we experienced in Through A Glass Darkly.....Barbara's return to England to "face" (hence the title) the problems associated with the heavy fine on her husband's estate for his part in the South Sea investment fiasco, as well as to "face" the tangled web of events at court. Diana, Barbara's mother, is as despicable as ever, even as age and debauchery are catching up with her; the Duchess of Tamworth is still iron-willed as ever and fiercely devoted to her grandchildren, and we learn of Jane's fate, Barbara's dear childhood friend. But, alas, it is all not enough to make up for the fact that we just don't have a true sense of what life will hold for Barbara ; there are some clues, but you're not left with a sense of closure for her. The ending is disjointed, at best. Very disappointing -- if there is another book to continue the saga, I'm afraid I've invested enough time and not gotten enough in return.