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Alice Verney is a young woman intent on achieving her dreams. Having left Restoration England in the midst of a messy scandal, she has been living in Louis XIV’s Baroque, mannered France for two years. Now she is returning home to England and anxious to re-establish herself quickly. First, she will regain her former position as a maid of honor to Charles II’s queen. Then she will marry the most celebrated duke of the Restoration, putting herself in a position to attain power she’s only dreamed of. As a duchess, ...
Alice Verney is a young woman intent on achieving her dreams. Having left Restoration England in the midst of a messy scandal, she has been living in Louis XIV’s Baroque, mannered France for two years. Now she is returning home to England and anxious to re-establish herself quickly. First, she will regain her former position as a maid of honor to Charles II’s queen. Then she will marry the most celebrated duke of the Restoration, putting herself in a position to attain power she’s only dreamed of. As a duchess, Alice will be able to make or break her friends and enemies at will.
But all is not as it seems in the rowdy, merry court of Charles II. Since the Restoration, old political alliances have frayed, and there are whispers that the king is moving to divorce his barren queen, who some wouldn’t mind seeing dead. But Alice, loyal only to a select few, is devoted to the queen, and so sets out to discover who might be making sinister plans, and if her own father is one of them. When a member of the royal family dies unexpectedly, and poison is suspected, the stakes are raised. Alice steps up her efforts to find out who is and isn’t true to the queen, learns of shocking betrayals throughout court, and meets a man that she may be falling in love with—and who will spoil all of her plans. With the suspected arrival of a known poison-maker, the atmosphere in the court electrifies, and suddenly the safety of the king himself seems uncertain. Secret plots are at play, and war is on the horizon—but will it be with the Dutch or the French? And has King Charles himself betrayed his country for greed?
The long-awaited prequel to Koen’s beloved Through a Glass Darkly, Dark Angels is a feast of a novel that sparkles with all the passion, extravagance, danger, and scandal of seventeenth-century England. Unforgettable in its dramatic force, here is a novel of love and politics, of romance and betrayal, of power and succession—and of a resourceful young woman who risks everything for pride and status in an era in which women were afforded little of either.
“I loved Dark Angels, I absolutely gobbled it up! Reading it is like stepping into a time machine that sweeps you back to all the drama and intrigue of the English Restoration. The characters are so vivid, the period detail incredible and the plot is completely riveting; a powerful blend of history, romance, adventure and mystery.” —Susan Carroll, author of The Courtesan
“Grand and sweeping in the tradition of Forever Amber, the author immerses the reader in history, romance, suspense and the deep, dark secrets of the human heart. Dark Angels is an engrossing novel of royal and racy Restoration England. A triumph!” —Karen Harper, USA Today bestselling author of The Last Boleyn
“A richly-textured novel that brings to life the extravagant, scandalous court of Charles II, Dark Angels sweeps the reader into a world in which ambition and betrayal are commonplace–but love is not. Fans of Dorothy Dunnett and Anya Seton will revel in this sumptuous page-turner!” —India Edgehill, author of Wisdom’s Daughter
Facing white cliffs in a strait of ocean separating two kingdoms, a fleet of ships lay at anchor. It was the fleet of the kingdom of England, sent to escort precious cargo: a princess of England and France, the most famous princess in Christendom, in fact. A yacht with a rakish bow slashed through the water toward the best and greatest of these anchored ships; the king on board liked fast yachts, fast horses, fast women. The princess was his sister, and he and those with him could not wait to see her.
"Monmouth's on the yacht!" said a young woman leaning over the side of the princess's ship. She had stepped atop a huge coil of rope for this view, and a sailor, eyeing her satins and the single strand of fat pearls at her neck, had warned her to be careful, but she'd sent him off with a withering comment to mind his own business. She wasn't one to suffer fools—or even those who weren't fools—telling her what to do. The sight of King Charles's yacht racing toward them was thrilling. She could see the crowd waiting on shore. The queen and her father and her best friend were among them. She was so glad to see England again, she wasn't certain she'd be able to keep herself from kneeling on the beach and kissing the sand of it when she landed.
"And who else is there?" asked the friend with her, like her a maid of honor to the princess, and like her, excited to be witnesses to this, King Charles and his sister meeting again after so many years—ten if it was a day. Flags were flying from all the topmasts, whipping smartly in the breeze. The day was bright and clear. Everyone was dressed in their finest, felt high-spirited, mettlesome as horses, stirred and thrilled by this reunion.
"Climb up here and see for yourself!" Alice said.
"Don't tease, Alice, and don't fall—" Her friend, Louise Renee, grabbed Alice's gown, for by now Alice was leaning over the edge at a dangerous angle, the feet in her dainty satin shoes on tiptoe.
"The Duke of York is with His Majesty and Prince Rupert—oh, they're close enough to hear me—Rupert! Prince Rupert! Monmouth!" Shrieking the names, Alice waved a gauzy scarf back and forth with wild abandon and was rewarded with a hearty wave from the king's cousin, a smile from the king's son, and a startled glance and then a grin from King Charles himself. Loud cheers had come up from hundreds of throats, the throats of the sailors manning the ships, the throats of the crowd on shore. They, too, were waving and clapping, cheering the king. Gulls, who'd idly settled among the rigging, rose like winged blessings into the sky.
"He hasn't changed a whit," Alice said.
"The king. I wonder who he'll be flirting with by midnight—"
"Mademoiselle Verney, get down from there at once! Mademoiselle de Keroualle! You will join the other maids immediately! The king is boarding—"
It was the keeper of the maids, Madame Dragon, Alice called her.
Alice and Renee ran across the deck to join the elite circle of young women around the princess, all in satin gowns, in dainty shoes with stiff gauze bows, their hair coaxed by servants into curling orderly disorder, fat strands of pearls around their slender necks, drops at their delectable ears. As young women, unmarried, their very youth was beautiful. As part of the household of the foremost princess in France, they were everything that was fashionable. There wasn't a woman on shore who wouldn't be biting her lip with vexation and determining to buy new gowns once theirs were seen. They couldn't wait.
Princesse Henriette—her formal title at the French court was Madame—glanced toward Alice and Renee as they slipped in among the other women, a slight arch in her brow, both questioning and condemning.
"Pretty behavior," sneered a lithe young man to Alice, one of a group of restless and handsome noblemen, but then the orchestra that had been sent to accompany the princess struck up a lively tune, and all about them another cheer began from sailors in the rigging, from those standing in order on the deck as the sardonic face of the king of England, Charles, the second of that name, appeared just above the brass of the ship's railing. In another moment he had leaped to the deck.
"Minette." He held out his arms, his face made handsome by joy, and his sister ran to him, and he hugged her close and then swung her around, her skirt swelling out like a bell. Men had followed him over the side, appearing one after the other, dressed almost as sumptuously as any woman, laces, blue ribbons, diamond pins, long, curling hair, false, a wig but magnificent nonetheless. The princess was immediately surrounded by them. Her other brother, the Duke of York, hugged and kissed her, and their cousin Prince Rupert elbowed York out of the way unceremoniously and said, "Little beauty. I thought we'd never pry you from the Frenchies' grasp." Unfortunately, he spoke in French and loudly, so everyone near heard him.
The Duke of Monmouth, King Charles's son, insisted on his hug, and the princess danced from one male relative to another, kissing their faces and wiping at tears running down her face.
"She's ruining her rouge." It was the same young man who spoke before, with the same sneering, spiteful tone.
"We're in England now, d'Effiat. You'd best watch your tongue," Alice told him.
"Oh, I am afraid," he mocked her, and the others with him laughed maliciously, even Beuvron, who was her friend.
Alice turned her back on the group of them. The day was too happy to spoil with quarreling. There had been enough of that in France. This was adventure, huge adventure, and she was home at long last, about to see her best friend in the world, and the queen she so loved, and her father, and there was nothing d'Effiat or Beuvron or any of them could say to ruin a single moment.
Her eyes met Prince Rupert's, and he winked, then made her a bow.
Renee pointed to the king's son Monmouth. "He's handsome." She wasn't the only woman who'd noticed Monmouth.
"Yes, and he knows it, so beware."
Protocol, dear to French hearts, was being ignored. Everything was becoming very confused. The maids of honor had broken rank in spite of the Dragon's frowns, lured by Monmouth's smiles, by Rupert's twinkling boisterousness, by King Charles's laughter, by the sense of froth and frivolity that seemed to have climbed right on board with him.
Those who accompanied the princess from France, a duc here, a vicomte there, a priest or two, the captain of her household guard, tried to push past the clustered maids of honor, past the princess's tall brother and cousin, to introduce themselves over the noise of the orchestra and the bellows of that cousin, who seemed to be ordering something from above in the rigging.
He was. A great willow basket was being lowered from a pulley. Squeals from the maids of honor added to the growing melee as they rushed here and there to be out of its way. Once the basket was on deck, Prince Rupert patted it fondly, fell on one knee before his princess cousin, and made a motion for her to climb in, using his knee as step.
"I'm not to go overboard in this?" Princesse Henriette cried, delighted and horrified. She spoke in French because she'd lived in France all her life, and her English was small. "I haven't introduced—"
King Charles swept her up in his arms. "Introductions aren't necessary. We'll do what's proper on shore. But for now, I claim my sister as a prize of the sea. She's in English waters, and she's mine." With that, he placed her into the basket, giving one and all a glimpse of her stockings—vivid green—the princess laughing so hard, she couldn't speak.
"This is highly irregular—" began the French ambassador.
"Pay me a formal call to complain," said King Charles. His eyes, a rogue's eyes, swept over the maids of honor. "One beautiful woman isn't enough. My sister must have escort."
Young women everywhere held their breath, dropped into giggling, graceful curtsies as his eyes touched, considered, and admired each of them. The captain of the household guard cleared his throat. The Dragon hovered, fluttering, not certain what to do. No one knew at this point.
King Charles's eyes found Louise Renee de Keroualle, the most beautiful among them.
"Why am I not surprised?" Rupert said to his cousin York.
In a heartbeat, Renee stepped up on Rupert's knee and over into the basket. For a moment, her stockings showed, and they were the same green as the princess's. It was shocking and exciting.
King Charles's eyes found Alice. She had dropped as gracefully as a flower drooping. A gliding, natural grace of movement was one of her beauties. He walked over and stood before her, looking down at her bent head, the riot of curls there.
"My dear Verney."
"Her Majesty has missed you dreadfully."
"And I her." Her heart was beating very fast. He was her liege, her lord, her king. She'd known him since she was a child and he a penniless, beggar sovereign without a kingdom. This was a great and powerful moment.
"Did you behave yourself in France?"
"No, sir. And I am happy to say I have acquired the most beautiful gowns in the world."
"The better to finally find a husband with?"
A child of court, her skills polished to high gloss by going to France, she met his eyes. "That was my plan, sir."
"Lord Colefax was a fool. I do believe we've missed you." He held out his hand to help her rise, a signal honor. Enormously proud, Alice walked to the basket, cutting her eyes in a deliberate, provocative challenge to the group of sneering, fashionable young Frenchmen, impressed in spite of themselves. She stepped up onto Rupert's knee.
"Are your stockings green, also?" asked Prince Rupert.
It was all she could do not to kiss him on the cheek and add to the complete breakdown of decorum. She could see how shocked the French around her were. She bunched her skirts to climb into the basket, and the answer was evident. Sailors began to cheer, but whether it was for the glimpse of stocking or the jerking rise of the basket was unclear. There was an immediate bustle as the king, his brother, his cousin, and his son climbed over the side of the ship and down the rope ladder to the yacht, as nimble, as quick as any man in the rigging.
People from the French court ran to the ship's side. Everything was happening so fast! No one had been properly introduced! Nothing was going as planned! Other boats, yachts, wherries, rowboats, bobbed like corks some distance away—clearly those boats would bring them to shore, but they'd thought to have a reception on board, a long dinner. Speeches were planned!
Suspended over the water, Alice felt her heart rise like a lark. The sun was high and bright, the wind strong. The crowd on shore waved hats and large handkerchiefs, calling, hurrahing. The sea near the shore sent in wave after wave of little white frills, as if hundreds of serving maids had dropped caps in the water to celebrate this day. At the top of the sheer cliffs, the huge fortress of Dover Castle awaited them. She could see people standing on the parapets. Flags flapped at the corner turrets. The basket lurched toward one side. Princesse Henriette and Renee screamed. Alice took her scarf, held it over the side, where the wind clutched at it. The scarf was long, gauzy, made of spiderweb and forbidden Dutch lace by nimble nuns' fingers. Good-bye to quarreling, good-bye to meanness, and here's to my good fortune in England, she thought, and she let it go and screamed herself as the basket lurched straight downward, to the sound of a high, shrill trill of laughter from the princess.
On board the yacht, the king's Life Guards settled the basket, and one of them stepped forward to help the women out. Alice had the sensation of falling as she met his eyes.
"I know you," she said in English. "You're Robin Saylor, aren't you?"
"Richard, Lieutenant Richard Saylor, at your service."
He signaled for the basket to rise, led Princesse Henriette to a bench covered with cushions as the rest of royal family stepped one by one from the ladder. Another Life Guard quickly pulled up the anchor, the Duke of York took the tiller, Monmouth unfurled the sails, and the yacht was moving away from the ship.
"Mission performed admirably," said King Charles. "I didn't have to listen to a single speech. Rupert, you owe me twenty guineas." He smiled upon his sister. "As you can see, we are not as formal as King Louis."
Princesse Henriette leaned back against cushions, raised her face to the sun. "I don't know when I've laughed so much." She still spoke in French, but half the English court knew the language. So many had lived abroad during England's civil war.
"Are all your ladies wearing green stockings?"
"Only the pretty ones." Roses and lilies, mint and balm, lay on the floor of the deck like a carpet. She picked up a rose. "Is all this for me?"
"Everything is for you. By the by, Buckingham has tried to fast himself into the shape you last saw him wearing, but in truth, he resembles nothing so much as a pregnant sheep these days, doesn't he, Lieutenant Saylor? Tell her."
The Life Guard King Charles addressed smiled but was silent.
"Lieutenant Saylor has the gift of diplomacy."
The yacht had come in very fast to the shore, but it was large enough that it had to stop yards out. There was a harbor built, but it was dangerously silted with sand and shingle from the cliffs.
"I see my father. I'm certain of it," Alice said to Renee. She pointed to the group standing under a canopy with the queen. Alice felt as if her heart were going to fly out of her chest. "And there's Barbara." She stood to wave her arms. "Barbara!"
Efficiently, expertly, the Life Guards dropped the sails and the anchor, and the yacht stopped as obediently as a docile mare. The water was choppy and deep. Other young officers from the king's Life Guards standing on the shore walked into the water, then swam to the yacht. A rowboat was clumsily maneuvered close to its side.
"Your carriage awaits," said King Charles to his sister. "The harbor is silted up. This is the only way I can land you without wetting you."
Posted August 10, 2011
This book is the prequel to Through A Glass Darkly (in my top ten must reads) and it's sequel, Now Face To Face. It tells the story of Barbara's grandmother Alice and how she met and eventually married her grandfather, Richard. Like it's predecessors, it's a long read almost reaching five hundred pages. In the fist hundred pages or so the Koen introduces scores of characters which are never fully developed. It was a difficult book to get into but I stuck with it simply because I'd read the others. Alice was not at all like her character in the previous books and I found it difficult to believe she would transform into the character I knew from the shallow girl in these pages. The visual descriptions were often times too heavy and I found myself skimming through them to get to the "meat" of the story. Although the last few chapters were interesting some of the scenes were shocking graphic and definitely grotesque. The relationship between Alice and Richard was not at all the romantic tale I expected and a bit disappointing. I felt the story was slow to start, gained speed then crashed into an almost accidental ending. I was hoping to find out more about the life of Alice and Richard after they were married and having children. Perhaps another book? If another is written, I will probably read it to help put the story to bed in my mind. Through A Glass Darkly I consider Koen's masterpiece. Dark Angels, not so much.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2012
My favorites to read are historical fiction. This is a good historical fiction novel. I will read books by this author.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 17, 2011
What can I say... but I loved this book! I just picked it off the shelf as something to read and I have been head over heals over all of Karleen Koen's books. This book is so complex and detailed it is like stepping back into the court of King Charles II - you can see the rich detail, feel the fabric, taste the food. You find out why Charles was the merry king. There is never ending intrigue, plotting, mystery and murder. Alice it the main character and she is a real spitfire. She has a few friends, but her hands in everything. Karleen Koen is the best historical fiction writer out there and this book proves it. There are so may layers of history within this book. There is so much detail, but it is not confusing or boring. It really is a masterpiece to keep this much information and history so organized, and put into an engrossing and riveting page turner that begs for a sequel!
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Posted October 15, 2012
I was excited to read this after becomming attached to Alice in TAGD and NFTF. I loved learning Alice and Richards story, i just wished there was more to it, the booked ended to quickly. But i loved the details of these books as always.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2012
As prequels go, I am generally NOT a fan... however, this one has been an excellent read and I am very happy with it. If youve read Through a Glass Darkly and loved it as much as I did, and if historical fiction is your 'thing', you are in for a treat once again with this book. Well rounded characters, colorful historical description, intrigue, and love are all encompassed in this wonderful read. I highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 11, 2012
Posted June 1, 2012
Posted December 10, 2009
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I can't speak to the accuracy of the court portrayed herein, but I felt like I was a courtier-on-the-wall, feeling the pain and sorrow of the great Queen Catherine and her maids of honor. We meet Alice Verney, almost-duchess, betrayed by Colefax, the heir to the Duke of Balmoral. She is not-quite beautiful, but all at once bright, charming, elegant, wealthy and spoiled, bent on vengeance by snaring the old Duke himself.
It took about 200 pages for me to get really roped in to this story. The characters all have Christian names as well as titles, which are used interchangeably. Once a reader gets used to this, you develop a relationship with these people. If you're looking for social commentary, don't look here. What is here are court intrigues, murder, suicide, lust and love.
This is an addictive book, much like people get addicted to soap operas. While the writing style and characters keep you up reading late into the night, the historic details make it more interesting than simple fluff. The strong heroine will appeal to most women. Highly entertaining, but not a literary masterpiece. That said, I would not hesitate to recommend it in the category of a great "light-read" novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 25, 2008
Posted September 24, 2008
Dark Angels is an amazing tale of intrigue and romance that captures you from the second you open the book. Full of detail it brings Alice Verney back to life. Every emotion is played out here.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 1, 2008
Posted November 24, 2007
I absolutely love this book! Its story and characters keep you trapped in the plot until the very end, and leave you begging for more. Plus, there are so many twists and turns, this book keeps you awake all night to see what happens next. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2007
This book has all the qualities of good historical fiction excellent background research, dramatic storytelling, compelling characters. If you like stories from this time period, (Restoration 17th century)you will love this book.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2007
This book was a great read. I bought it in the BWI airport as I was departing for Europe for a 17 day whirlwind trip. I couldnt have picked a better fitting book! I was at Versailles, The Tower of London, etc, all at the same time the book was revealing them, it was fabulous. It was very easy to get into since I was where this lovely yet dark novel was based. I'd definately buy a sequel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 14, 2007
One of the best books I've ever read. Everything Alice feels you feel, envy, happiness, pride, and saddness. The one time she cries I did too. You must read this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 14, 2007
Dark Angels is a sumptuous novel of life in Charles II's court. And what a life it is - filled with parties, fine gowns and jewels, along with constant jockeying for favor and endless intrigue. Malice, spite, and casual cruelty are everyday occurences. The story plunges right in, starting with the arrival from France of the charming Henriette, beloved sister of King Charles. Among her ladies-in-waiting are several close friends whose life-long ties will be put to the test over the next two years. Broken hearts, poisonings, betrayals, and unleashed passions ensue, with the reader guaranteed a fantastic read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2007
Those words perfectly describe the courts--both English and French--in which Karleen Koen sets her latest novel. As glorious as it seems, the courtier's life is always hangs in the balance between duty and desire. One is never quite sure who to trust or when one will fall out of favor. Alice Verney is a woman caught up in the intrigue. She's a flawed heroine, one who makes many mistakes along the path to love, luxury, and power--but that makes her all the more likeable. I found myself totally immersed in the world of the novel. A wonderful read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 26, 2006
A very special treat for lovers of historical fiction as was her first novel. The worst moment was reading the last few pages knowing there was no more or as one of the dark angels survived perhaps and hopefully a sequel. Brilliantly written with great imagination and the special knowledge how to make you believe you are there by the wonderful descriptions of background, the seasons, the noises, smells and the very life of the characters in the novel. Praise to you and congratulations on a wonderful novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2011
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