Dark Angels, by Karleen Koen & Rosalyn Landor (Narrator)
In this prequel to Through a Glass Darkly we meet Alice Verney, a maid of honor in Charles II's court, who will become the Duchess of Tamworth in the later book. Alice returns from France, suspecting that Princess Henriette has been poisoned by the paid assassin Henry Ange. She immediately becomes immersed in the intrigue, politics, romance and glamour of the Restoration household of King Charles II and Queen Catherine. Fiercely loyal to the barren Queen, she suspects that the monarch's life may be in danger when she discovers that Henry Ange is now in London. One of her allies in the attempt to uncover a plot to murder the queen is the aged Duke of Balmoral, a man Alice is determined to marry. Bent on revenge after being rejected by the Duke's son, Alice hopes to become the Duchess of Balmoral, so that she can control the lives and fortunes of her friends and foes.
Alice doesn't sound like a very nice person, but despite her imperious, bossy, scheming, manipulative, conceited manner, she is a very likable character. Perhaps, it is because she behaves like an aggressive, bold, and clever statesman while remaining charmingly feminine and loyal to her friends. Karlene Koen has included rich detail and political insight in this romp through the Restoration court. Loyal defenders as well as poisoners and traitors slip in and out of salons, gardens, stables and courtyards, taking the listener along as they plot and scheme.
Rosalyn Landor is a formidable narrator. Her characters are distinct and convincing, whether French or English, male or female, highborn or peasant. There is a rhythm and melody to her voice that treats the listener to an opera of words without notes.
I loved this audio book, because it is an intriguing
story with memorable characters who bring a fascinating period
in history to life. Koen's details provide a great deal of
information, but they also inspire independent research. When
Alice "sat among the marsh mallows" I raced to a
dictionary (after an initial chuckle at what the image suggested).
This prequel to Koen's earlier books stand on its own as a
delightfully, suspenseful tale of political intrigue and romance.