Thursday, April 3, 2008

Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

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Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

Now Face to Face is the sequel to Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen.

Georgian England is a time of tumultuous upheaval. A powerful Jacobite conspiracy to usurp King George and enthrone the last Stuart claimant, Jamie, in place of King George, is at the centre of conflict in this tale.

In this second novel, newly widowed, Lady Barbara Devane is sent to Virginia in the New World as a reprieve from the South Sea Bubble, a scandal that caused financial devastation throughout all of London that involved her late husband. Barbara was forced to sell almost everything she owned in order to make restitution. As a reprieve from the devastation this wrought upon her life, her grandmother, the Duchess of Tamworth, sends her to the New World requiring her to run First Curle, her tobacco plantation.

Barbara is a high society noblewoman in the wilds of the new colony. Thrilled to have a member of the nobility in their midst, Barbara causes a stir with both the men and women of the colony. The women vie for a glimpse of her high fashioned clothing and cultured manners. The men wish to garner her good graces to further their political alliances. No one believes the “fragile black butterfly” possesses what it takes to successfully run a profitable plantation.

But they are wrong. Barbara is determined to make First Curle a top producing tobacco plantation. In so doing, she must come to terms with the realities and harshness of life in the colony - slavery, tobacco, and illegal smuggling. While she learns the ins and outs of growing tobacco and running a profitable business, subversion surrounds her. Unbeknownst to Barbara, her young African servant, Hyacinthe, accidently discovers a terrible secret. When tragedy strikes, it shatters Barbara’s illusion and dreams to build a new life. With great controversy, she frees her slaves, leaves a freed prisoner in charge of the plantation, and returns to England.

Turmoil awaits her in England. The after-effects of the South Sea Bubble that consisted of the financial speculations that caused financial devastation to numerous investors, and ruined Barbara's life, continue to plague her. Barbara soon learns that family and friends are entrenched in sedition. Worse still, she cannot help but be drawn into the treachery.

Through a Glass Darkly was a favourite book of mine, so it was with great enthusiasm that I read Now Face to Face. Once again, Karleen Koen does not disappoint. Koen’s prose is colourful and thorough as she brings the multi dimensional characters to life. The creation of suspense, the many various plot twists, and duplicitous characters engaged me to the last page.

Neatly encompassed in the multi-faceted plot are the issues of the time – rebellion, political unrest, slavery, and illegal smuggling. Murder and intrigue are also prominent in this richly complex tale.

In order to receive the full benefit and enjoyment of this story, I highly recommend readers read Through a Glass Darkly first. Now Face to Face is a continuation and it relies heavily upon the characters and circumstances of the first novel.

If you are looking for a book that will capture and hold you entranced from start to finish, then this is a must read. Treachery, betrayal, evil, disloyalty, and love are strong elements throughout. With every page, the characters changed, some for the better, some for the worse. It is a story of struggle and survival and the power of one woman to overcome. I highly recommend this novel to all historical fiction aficionados.

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