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Through a Glass Darkly: A Novel

Through a Glass Darkly: A Novel

4.2 433
by Karleen Koen

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"Lives up to every expectation. It's magnificent!"

- Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sourcebooks Landmark proudly reintroduces this classic historical novel.

Karleen Koen's sweeping saga contains unforgettable characters consumed with passion: the extraordinarily beautiful fifteen-year-old


"Lives up to every expectation. It's magnificent!"

- Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sourcebooks Landmark proudly reintroduces this classic historical novel.

Karleen Koen's sweeping saga contains unforgettable characters consumed with passion: the extraordinarily beautiful fifteen-year-old noblewoman, Barbara Alderley; the man she adores, the wickedly handsome Roger MontGeoffry; her grandmother, the duchess, who rules the family with cunning and wit; and her mother, the ineffably cruel, self-centered and licentious Diana. Like no other work, Through a Glass Darkly is infused with intrigue, sweetened by romance and awash in the black ink of betrayal.

* Sold 130,000 hardcover and 600,000 mass paperback

* New York Times bestseller for five consecutive months

* A former Book of the Month Club Main Selection


"A completely involving story...power, greed, family conflict, burning ambition and passion kindle the plot. Readers will be captivated!"

- Publishers Weekly

"Fast-paced and fun to read!"

- Glamour

"Engaging, elegant, chock full of sex and gossip."

- Philadelphia Inquirer

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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Sourcebooks, Incorporated
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Answer Book Series
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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.

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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Through a Glass Darkly 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 433 reviews.
Shebuggs More than 1 year ago
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.
soullight More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
EVKendall More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
vandy More than 1 year ago
This book sets the bar for all other books I read. The writing style is so original with its sing-sonly flashbacks to Barbara's memories. The story line is also very original, with surprising twists that make the story memorable. Wonderful, wonderful read.
SableT More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book. Too much death, affairs, just plain depressing. The story line never got better, just more death and sleeping with others not your mate. Would have been better at 300 pages vs 700 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
too long - too much detailed description - no one was ever happy
avidreaderEB More than 1 year ago
This novel will go down as a classic in historical romantic lit- and is a must read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
LesliePR More than 1 year ago
This book is in my top FIVE!!!! Fab fab book and awesome that it's a Free Nook Book on Fridays...it's a must read AND all of her books are just as good. YAY!
HistoricalFictionFan More than 1 year ago
I went to the bookstore searching the shelves for something in the historical fiction genre. I came across this book and the cover caught my eye. I bought the book and loved the entire thing so much that I went out and bought "Now Face to Face", the sequel to this book. So far, I love that book too. I strongly recommend both of these books!
Angel-Maria More than 1 year ago
I've never been one to re-read novels, but this one is one of the few! It is the definition of a page turner and plays out in ways that will have you on the edge of your seat! It's very raw and beautifully written. If you have any interest in smart, historical novels that deal with love and human relationships- this is a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. While I was reading it I felt like I was there while everything was happening. It almost felt like I was Barbara. This is a must-read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
First of all this is a really long book! It is still a good book, however in my opinion it took almost half way through for it to get good. I do understand some of why it takes so long inorder for it to pick up speed. You get the feeling of her age, innocense and the resrticitions of an unmarried woman in the first half and then her life changes dramatically once she is married. Be aware that this book is packed full of tragedy, disappointment and is in no way close to a typical love story with happy endings. The ending was good but I felt like I should have been given more for reading such a book that was so sad. Barbara is a very strong character and the others are unforgettable. The arthur put a lot of information in this book and it could have gone in so many directions if she wished to branch off wiht other characters. She could still make a second book with the rest of Barbara's life if she wanted and it would probably make a great book. She may have already (haven't checked on that).
Over65pageturner More than 1 year ago
Little character development. Spoiled teenager cries all the time. That's about it.
k_adele More than 1 year ago
I was frustrated, excited and in love with this book all at the same time. I have not been so involved with a set of characters in a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! filled with intrigue,incest and lots of romance.
Masala99 More than 1 year ago
The Nook edition is riddled witherrors. I would not recommend actually paying for this it. Without a doubt this is the shoddiest editorial work I have EVER seen. Sentences are cut off midohrase (and I am not just talking one or two occurrences, more like 5 to 7 per chapter!), frequent typos, it is very annoying and distracting. That being said, I think it was probably a fine book befor being put in electronic form. The author should pay more attention and trust her publisher and/or editor less...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will probably go down as one the best written historical romance novels...the authors words put you right there during this time period...touches on love on all levels especially love that is sometimes forbidden to us...I picked up this book on hardcover many years ago and never finished it...was glad I was able to purchase it on my Nook. Well worth the read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a captivating storyline, but the author became way too wordy with descriptions. Found myself skipping over many boring paragraphs. Loved the main character, but was saddened by all of the death, seemed there was far too much death for a romance novel. Had the same issues other users had with typos, random characters, and incomplete sentences. Feel as though the nook version was rushed for release without editing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I quit reading when it turned into a homosexual love story. Awful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
About 400 pages too long. The story is too tortured and drawn out.