It was twenty years ago that Houstonian KARLEEN KOEN’s fiction debut, Through a Glass Darkly, enjoyed a five-month stay on the New York Times best-seller list. The eighteenth-century historical novel eventually tallied about $2 million in sales, which makes commercial expectations for its follow-up (“long-awaited” seems inadequate), DARK ANGELS, plenty high. This prequel is a genteel piece that traces the romances and intrigues of twenty-year-old Alice Verney, a maid of honor to Queen Catherine in the court of King Charles II. Alice’s determined efforts to land an impressively titled husband are played out against a backdrop of ruthless political machinations, as Charles contemplates both war with the Dutch and a scandalous divorce from his queen, who has not provided him an heir. Dark Angels could sell every bit as well as its predecessor—to that audience who prefers affairs of the heart over affairs of state. Readers looking for a less-courtly fiction might find these 544 pages slight fare indeed.
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