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Now Face to Face    by Karleen Koen order for
Now Face to Face
by Karleen Koen
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2008 (1996)
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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Now Face to Face is the sequel to Through a Glass Darkly, in which Barbara Montgeoffry was married at fifteen (to become Countess Devane) and widowed at twenty. Having lost her fortune - as well as her husband and brother - to the South Sea Bubble, the lovely but iron-willed young aristocrat travels to colonial Virginia, where her beloved grandmother owns a tobacco plantation, which Barbara works hard to understand and improve.

Though I must admit to a prejudice against all too perfect heroines with heart-shaped faces and the ability to mesmerize any red-blooded male in the vicinity, it was still hard not to like Barbara. I appreciated her reaction to slavery - which she eventually abolishes on her own plantation, just as she frees her own beloved small slave Hyacinthe - and to the Virginia wilderness, samples of which she takes back with her to London. There the King gives her a position at Court, attending on his two granddaughters and she discovers that a high minister exploited her husband's death to his own profit.

In parallel with Barbara's adventures overseas and back home in England (where she still faces crippling debts), readers meet actor Laurence Slane, all the rage with the ladies. Slane is really a Jacobite agent, acting on behalf of King James III, to coordinate invasion plans with the Bishop of Rochester, himself an undiscovered Jacobite and well placed to act as the leader's movement in England. However, as we well know from history, the best laid plans often go awry, and in this case the plot is discovered and many are arrested as traitors, including those close to Countess Devane.

Barbara takes action that makes for an exciting finale, though a sad one too, as the author avoids a trite happily ever after ending for all her characters. This entertaining tale left several intriguing threads hanging, a guarantee that Karleen Koen will write further adventures for her delightful heroine.

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