Not quite so enthralling the second time around…
NFTF continues the story of Barbara Devane begun in Through a Glass Darkly. Widowed and saddled with her husband’s huge debts, Barbara’s grandmother convinces her to inspect the Virginia plantation she now owns and she’s soon sailing westward, although much to the chagrin of her mother Diana and Cousin Tony (who loves her and would marry her despite her crippling debts).
Our plucky heroine sets the plantation to rights, runs off the black hearted smugglers, frees the slaves and jumps tall buildings……. Oh not quite that but you get the idea – although there is one tragic event that breaks Barbara’s heart and she’s soon ready to head for home and Grandmama. Once there, she charms King George and the Prince of Wales still lusts after her, as does a now married Tony and her former lover Charles (married to Tony’s sister). Barbara meets a mysterious actor and soon finds herself mixed up in intrigues, plots and treachery as the Jacobites plan to invade and put James III on the throne.
As much as I loved loved loved Through a Glass Darkly and I actually adored this one the first time I read it, I now confess to being bored to tears at times and found myself skimming quite a bit. The bits in Virginia were especially dull, and I wished Koen had begun the story upon Barbara’s return to London and then recounted the back-story in flashbacks. As for the London story – also a bit disjointed and things jumped around too much and the storyline just did not flow.
I did enjoy seeing Barbara mature into a strong woman and a force to be reckoned with, along with her close friend Jane. Like other reviewers, I felt the romance with Slane came out of nowhere and like magic its true love forever. As for Tony? Ah, be still my breaking heart, he deserved a lot better in life and I was sorry to see how his heartbreak changed him into such a stranger. It was fun watching more of Diana’s antics and her lovers, adored Aunt Shrew (must re-read Dark Angels and revisit her as a young girl), hated Philippe (grrrr) and as always adored Grandmama Alice as well as the continual hints on what caused Richard’s final illness. Ms. Koen, please write that book soon.
As for the ending? That was plain mean to end it so abruptly, especially for an author who doesn’t pump out a book every year. I enjoyed it, but as I know Koen can do better it was ultimately disappointing. Three stars.