Through a Glass Darkly

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Overview

Part Two Of Two Parts

Set in the upper-class families of 18th century England and France, THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY tells the story of Barbara Alderley, a beautiful and passionate heroine; the grandmother she adores; the mother she despises...and the man she loves.

At 15, Barbara finds herself betrothed to a man 27 years her senior. Marriage propels her into a glittering, cynical society: the casual adulteries and violent politics of the age of ...

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Through a Glass Darkly: A Novel

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Overview

Part Two Of Two Parts

Set in the upper-class families of 18th century England and France, THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY tells the story of Barbara Alderley, a beautiful and passionate heroine; the grandmother she adores; the mother she despises...and the man she loves.

At 15, Barbara finds herself betrothed to a man 27 years her senior. Marriage propels her into a glittering, cynical society: the casual adulteries and violent politics of the age of Richelieu, Pope and Swift; of buildings by Christopher Wren; of greed,elegance, excess and cruelty. Barbara navigates these dangers with great skill; her beauty takes on polish and sophistication.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
London caught up in the feverish excitement of the South Sea Bubble and Paris under the licentious influence of the Duc D'Orleans make a glittering background for Koen's first novel. Much of the plotyoung noblewoman in love with and married to charismatic older man enters society and is disillusionedand many of the characterswillful, innocent heroine; adored, autocratic grandmother; and loveable, reckless brotherare standard fare. Historic detail, though abundant and accurate, is often marred by didactic presentation. Still, there is action and intrigue enough to win a following who will demand this and further volumes in what is sure to become another sweeping saga. Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402200441
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 768
  • Sales rank: 530,439
  • Product dimensions: 8.94 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Karleen Koen is interested in history, particularly women's place in it. Love and hate, gender issues, and spiritual quests are themes she explores in her fiction. She lives in Houston and is also the author of Dark Angels and Now Face to Face. Her blog, called Writing Life, is at www.wordpress.karleenkoen.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Two voices, raised in anger, carried through the half-opened window of the library. Recognizing them, Barbara stopped and looked for a place to hide, a place where she might listen but not be seen. Seconds later, she was burrowing into the ancient ivy that crisscrossed the mellowed red-pink brick of the house. Entangled, dense, persistent, its vines as thick as her wrists in places, the ivy released the house reluctantly. Each spring it sent cunning, thin green fingers curling under the window frames and into the rooms, and each spring her grandmother calmly snipped the fingers to bits with a pair of sewing scissors and ordered the gardeners to trim it down to size. Now, in November, it clung to the house stubbornly. Already many of its glossy dark green leaves were dulled yellow-brown with cold.

"Fool! Impudent young fool!"
Her mother's voice carried clearly from the library.
"Did you imagine I would approve it? Were you going to come crawling like a whipped dog for my blessing? Blessing! I could kill you. Do you realize what you have almost done? Did you think-or has all feeling ceased, save for that hard prick between your legs?"

It was impossible to describe the effect of her mother's voice. Its usual tone was low and husky, but when anger and scorn were added, the result was numbing.

Harry muttered something, and Barbara tried to move closer to the window so that she could hear better, but the ivy was tenacious. It had been there first, being as old as the house, which had been built well over a hundred years ago in the time of Elizabeth I. The house sprawled over several stories, its once modern features now considered quaint and old-fashioned: twisted chimney stacks of brick, no two of them alike; sharp, pointed gables all across the roofline; windows with many small panes of blown glass; dark, cold rooms with uneven floors; and outside, arbors of wych elm, a bowling green, fish ponds, an old garden maze. Barbara loved it, for it was both her birthplace and her home. She knew every path and pond and orchard and creaky place on the stairs. She felt safe and beloved here...except when her mother visited, which was fortunately not often. It was Harry who must have brought her down from London, she thought. How could she have found out? She envisioned her mother's beautiful, white face and felt foreboding for her brother.

"You are such a fool," said her mother, and her voice paralyzed with its scorn. "The match is totally unsuitable. Now more than ever. John Ashford was appalled when I told him." Harry must have made some movement-she could picture him, crouched in a chair, his face as hard and cold as their mother's, his hands clenched with the effort to hold his temper-because her mother's voice changed.

"Yes, I told him! With his daughter standing beside him to hear me. If she had not cried like the weak, mewling child she is, her father would have beaten her, something I would have done, at any rate. God, I wanted to strike her! As for you, your conduct is unforgivable. Any alliance we form now is crucial-as you should know better than anyone!"

Each word had the clear, harsh sound of finality. Barbara knew that Harry, always thoughtless about the future, must be stunned by their mother's sudden appearance from London, by her quick, sure, numbing action.

"Damn the family!" Harry said. "And damn you. I love her. What does it matter whom I marry? There is no scandal I could create to equal what you and my father have already begun-"

The crack of a palm against flesh sounded. Barbara's body jerked as if it were she, and not Harry, who had just been slapped.

"Do not say your father's name in my presence again."
What venom there was in those words.
"He is out of my life. As Jane is out of yours. She is to marry her cousin within a few months; already the Ashfords are packing her off to London to stay with a relative. And you are going away also, Harry. Tomorrow. A few months' stay in Italy, a visit to France, should add the polish and patience necessary to a youth of your...what? Impulsive? Yes. Impulsive nature. I prefer impulsive to stupid. Your face, Harry! I wish you could see it. The mention of Italy calms the ardent lover within you somewhat, does it not?" She laughed. "I thought it might."

It was always fatal to show emotion to their mother; she pounced on it and turned it against you. Her voice was fainter now, she must have moved from her position in the room. Barbara had to stand on tiptoe, straining, the ivy around her uncooperative, to hear.
"You will obey me in this. Meres will be with you until you sail, so there can be no final, romantic farewells between you and your little sweetheart. And no final surprises nine months from now, either! It is over. Accept that. It was calf love, a brief spark, the first of many, I trust. I leave you to your thoughts, my dear Harry. If you are capable of summoning any."

There was silence. Barbara wanted to go to her brother, but she knew better. He had been humiliated, quickly, ruthlessly, thoroughly, and he would not want her witnessing the aftermath. She wedged her foot on a thick ivy vine; she would climb up slightly, just enough so that she could look in the window and see him-
"Mistress Barbara!"

She jumped. Without a doubt, it was one of the serving girls calling to tell her that her mother was home. Well, with any luck, she could miss her mother's visit entirely. Or, at worst, see her for a few moments tomorrow before she returned to London. She backed off the ivy, still torn between her instinct to escape and Harry.
"Mistress Barbara!"

The voice of the serving girl was closer now. Escape won hands down. She ran across the wide flagstone steps of the library terrace. She ran past her grandmother's faded rose garden, the bushes now bare, ugly with their thorns and fat hip pods, the lush petals of summer all gone into her grandmother's potpourris and brandies and wines and remedies. She ran past the clipped yew hedges whose dense evergreen shapes would hide her. The woods bordered the yews; once there it would be easy to spend the afternoon in the warm kitchen of one of her grandmother's tenant farmers, sipping tea, eating blackberries or walnuts while the housewife baked a winter wild plum pie and talked of the corn and barley harvest, of recipes and children.
"Mistress Barbara!"

She doubled her speed, her cloak billowing out behind her like a dark sail. The woods loomed ahead. She ran toward them as if her grandfather's hunting dogs were at her heels. It did not matter that now no one could see her from the house. Her mother was home.

In the withdrawing chamber of the Duchess of Tamworth, Diana, Viscountess Alderley, sank into an armchair and lifted her feet to an old-fashioned, embroidered, silver-fringed stool with heavy, dark, twisted legs. She was a beautiful woman with dark hair and violet eyes, a white complexion and sweet, red lips, all of which she emphasized to the fullest with paint and powder and dye pot. Her looks were deceiving. She had the stamina (and sensitivity) of a horse. All that giving birth to eleven children had done was take away her waist, which her stays disguised, and make deeper a hard line on each side of her face from nose to mouth. A young girl fluttered beside her to arrange pillows behind her back, her gown into more graceful folds. Diana waved the girl away, taking no more notice of the maidservant than she would an annoying fly. She surveyed a dish of comfits, small, fat plums preserved in sugar, on the table beside the armchair, selected one, and bit into it slowly. Some of the sticky plum juice ran down the corners of her mouth and stained the bodice of her gown.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 608 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(210)

4 Star

(170)

3 Star

(104)

2 Star

(53)

1 Star

(71)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 609 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2011

    Wonderful novel but the Nook version has a lot of typographical errors

    I have read this book before in hardback and loved it therefore I wanted to have it on my Nook. However, the Nook version has so many errors that I found it an interference to reading the book. At the end of almost every chapter in this 700+ page book the sentences are messed up and make no sense at all, there are other errors as well. I can deal with a few minor errors but this was kind of ridiculous. I feel like they know about it and are selling it as is, anyway. Disappointing and this is the first complaint I have had about any of my Nook purchases. This novel, however, is great as well as its sequels.

    104 out of 109 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    Liking it, but annoyed with the Nook Book typos, too!

    I have the same issue as the last commenter. I am going to notify customer service. They really should fix it, or discount this book significantly.

    45 out of 50 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2012

    The story itself is very good. I will read the sequel. The Nook

    The story itself is very good. I will read the sequel. The Nook version is littered with typos and incomplete sentences.

    If you like victorian / historical romantic novels, this one is for you.

    32 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I RECCOMEND IT!

    I couldn't put it down! As busy as my life is I definitely made time for it! I read the prequel Dark Angels! That was really good as well. Cannot wait to read Face to Face.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Enthralled From The Start!

    After reading The White Queen and The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory, both brilliant reads, I was searching for something that would not disappoint. After reading and researching many book reviews by fellow readers, I found Through A Glass Darkly. I know by reading the first paragraph of a book whether or not I will enjoy the story and the style of writing. After reading the first paragraph of Through A Glass Darkly I felt as if I had stepped into a beautiful, exciting world filled with characters that although new, somehow seemed warm and familiar. I could not wait to find out what would happen to Barbara and her brother. As I read through the story I was continually enthralled and aghast at the winding and twisting turns Barbara's life would take. Karleen Koen has weaved an intricate story line full of rich and colorful characters whom are easily related to and beautifully developed. I have never read a story that kept me so surprised and captivated. I have downloaded Now Face To Face to my Nook and am eager to find how Barbara's new adventures unfold.

    14 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2008

    Wonderfully written novel!

    Wonderfully written novel, I read this book when I was younger and I did not finish it. I took the time to read it and it reinforced my love of historical fiction. All the characters are well developed and the plot flows perfectly. Each character in this novel makes you see their side and love and hate them at different times. Barbra matures from a lovesick teenager into to young woman. You see how the people that she loves affect her in every way.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2012

    If You Like the Kardashian Saga, You'll LOVE This...

    My title is NOT a positive recommendation for this book. Frankly, I can't understand the reason for the number of positive reviews. I enjoy a good bodice-ripper sometimes, but this book is poorly written. A book this length (FAR too long and very slow to get started, it would have benefited from a really good editor) can easily be read by me in 4-7 days, if well-written. It took me over 2 weeks, and I almost had to force myself-- I kept falling asleep while reading.

    The heroine is a whiny teenager and spends most of her time moping after her True Love, an older wealthy man who initially marries her only for her wealth. After she is disillusioned with her marriage, she embarks on what I thought would be a string of lovers-- sadly, only one, with two one-night stands thrown in (and one of them is barely even described, mentioned only in passing). The great majority of the characters are shallow, silly people, with the exception of one old lady-- the "wise" grandmother of the heroine, who rather than being truly wise was simply meddling, domineering, controlling, and just out-and-out irritating.

    The sex scenes read as if they're an afterthought-- as if the publisher advised the author that she'd better add a few "steamy" scenes. Sadly, they're some of the dullest I've ever read, and certainly nothing hot.

    Thankfully, this was a freebie from Barnes and Noble, and I have NO interest in reading the sequel. My conclusion? Unless you're a fan of the Kardashians and want to imagine what they'd have been like 3 centuries ago, don't waste your time.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2004

    My new favorite book

    I absolutely loved this book. I have read it twice and it only gets better. I love reading historical fiction and Karleen Koen makes you feel like you are a part of that era. Barbara is unforgettable and I was so moved by how strongly she loved and hurt by how much she was disappointed. This book is a must read!

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2007

    As powerful as its Title

    The title snared me first - who can resist a book called THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY? Each character is like a friend or neighbor, somebody you want to see everyday, someone you want to be a part of your life. Even after I set the book down, I couldn't get the people or the scenes out of my head. Its one of those books where you can picture everything that's happening, a book you want to desperately know more about. Its the perfect novel for a history/romance/adventure fix.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    Dont bother.

    So not worth the time. This book is 726 pages long and horrible all the way through. I actually finished it because I hate to quit a book part of the way in, and I kept hoping it would improve. It never did.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012

    Did Not Finish

    Please understand, I did not finish the book. Life is too short to waste on bad books. I was 77 pages into it, and I didn't care about any of the characters. They were all simpering fools. Perhaps if you last longer they improve, but I went on to better books.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Why do people like this book?

    I usually love the historical fiction/romance genre, but this book was a big fat disappointment. I'm glad I didn't pay for it or I would've been really disappointed. The editing errors are annoying, and for that alone I wouldn't recommend buying the Nook version, but I wouldn't recommend buying this book in any format.

    The author puts too much history into this book. Yes it's historical fiction, but there seems to be more history then there is "fiction" and it makes this book boorish and long-winded. She spends way too much time describing houses, clothing, landscapes, the life and times of poet John Donne and the political scene that aren't necessary to the overall story. She also adds in explicit sexual encounters that don't matter to the story at all, it's like they are just there to be there. This story could've easily been cut in half, there was that much filler.

    About ninety-five percent of the characters are horrible, awful people and I really didn't care about them at all. Everyone is selfish and spoiled and they all lack any moral conviction or a conscious that I only kept reading because I was hoping they'd all get what they deserve. I should've stopped after about 200 pages, because I really wasn't feeling this book, but I trudged on and instead lost several days I could've been reading a good book wasting my time with this one.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    Life is pain

    Once there was a girl named Bab. Everyone she loved died and everything she cared about is taken from her. There, I have just saved you 700 pages of misery.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2012

    So-so

    I will admit, I love a good historical romance. This one, however, is quite a trial. Not enough depth into the main characters, too much drama that is drawn out until it is cumbersome. It feels like a soap opera...you know how you can miss a few days and watch again and know exactly what's going on because not all that much has happened? Same feeling here. I kept skipping ahead thinking I would finally read something that would add to the story, but didn't really find it. Read the last chapter and got the whole book in a nutshell.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Story seemed to be good

    I was anxious to read the book after reading reviews, however there are some major issues with the ebook. Chapters suddenly cut off not allowing you to coninue reading the chapter. very dissapointed

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2012

    Slow reading

    This was a story that I was able to put down often. I usually read right through a novel but this one seemed to lag. It was interesting to read about the depravity, customs, and self indulgence of the pre French Revolution. Nobility was ego driven and self righteous. It was a free book and I was glad of that fact. This is one I will erase from my Nook to save space..do not expect to want to read it again!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    this is a classic

    This novel will go down as a classic in historical romantic lit- and is a must read!!

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2012

    Long, evil, adultous book, with no worth

    Horrid, Horrid, Horrid, Smut.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2010

    Wonderful Read

    I loved this book. The characters were so developed and interesting. I ran out and bought the prequel and sequel. It would make a wonderful movie if cast correctly.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    All the makings of a great read any time.

    This book was a page turner and you will never put it down. I was so caught up in how resolute and innocent Barbara was. The turn of her character after her husband's betrayal make for real period drama. The rich description of the characters and the places of the period helps the reader feel as if they were there, in person, dressed in the finery of the times and watching Barbara in the intricate social masquerade that ultimately brings her to her knees.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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