NOW FACE TO FACE by Karleen Koen


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 A disappointing follow-up to Koen's much hoopla'd debut, Through a Glass Darkly (1986). Here, the historical detail weighs down and muddles far more than it enriches. Beautiful Barbara Montgeoffry, otherwise known as widowed Countess Devane, is back, and this time she's taking America by storm. Set in the 1720s, this complicated blend of fact and fancy has Barbara, with longtime servants ThÇräse and Hyacinthe, land in colonial Virginia, where she's been sent to assess her grandmother's newly acquired tobacco plantation--and to escape unwanted suitors at home. Though still in mourning-black, the irrepressible countess wastes no time in lining up other admirers, including wise and elderly Colonel Perry and the dashing sea captain Klaus von Rothbach. While Barbara (now 20) is duly horrified by the rustic conditions of her temporary homeland, the evils of slavery, and the difficulty of running a working plantation, all is not well at home, where a Jacobite plot wreaks havoc on the House of Hanover and on the loved ones (and not so loved) she's left behind: her grandmother, the Duchess of Tamworth; a best friend and mother of three, Jane Cromwell; favorite cousin and former suitor Tony; and conniving mother Diana, who's started an affair with Charles, Barbara's own lover before she set sail for the New World. After much strife, Barbara finally returns to England, quickly becomes again the toast of the town (and of the king), then is forced to deal head-on with mixed loyalties and a potentially destructive affair with Laurence Slane, a spy for James III and a major player in the fight to put him on the throne. Koen's two storylines--Barbara's life in Virginia and the political upheaval in England--don't mesh well, while her heroine remains unconvincingly high-spirited throughout. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-394-56929-6
Page count: 784pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1995


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