Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Perfect 10: TWILIGHT OF A QUEEN by Susan Carroll

A Perfect 10
The Dark Queen Series, Book 5
ISBN: 978-0-449-22109-9
August 2009
Historical Fiction

Fair Isle; Paris, France – 1588

Known as the Dark Queen, Catherine de Medici’s days are dwindling, and no one knows that better than Catherine herself. No longer a young woman in the first bloom of her youth, the Dowager Queen’s powers have diminished as well, but she’ll do anything to bolster them and maintain control over her son, the king of France. If only she can get her hands on the Silver Rose, Megaera, who is said to have memorized the Book of Shadows and all its secrets and spells. Surely, Meg can cast a spell that will revitalize the Queen’s youth and vigor, thereby preserving the power she’s boasted. Although Catherine may not be able to see the soul of a man through his eyes as she was once able, she has a few tricks up her sleeve and can grease enough palms to carry out her dastardly plans.

Louis Xavier Cheney becomes an unwitting pawn in Catherine’s schemes. His only goal right now is to be as far away from France and the evil queen as possible, but she lays all of her hopes on him to bring the Silver Rose back to Paris. A privateer, Xavier only sets out to do what he wants if it will gain him enough coin, but fate steps in and makes his decision for him. After his ship, the Miribelle, capsizes, Xavier’s life is spared by the women of Fair Isle. Fate definitely has a nasty sense of humor. It’s not only here that he finds the mysterious Meg, but it also happens to be the home of his half sister, Ariane Deauville, the Lady of Fair Isle.

Ariane must choose her future successor as is tradition. Right now there are three potential candidates: Margaret Wolfe, formerly known as Megaera; Seraphine Remy, Ariane’s own niece; and Lady Jane Danvers, an exiled English woman who has made Fair Isle her new home. When the routine of the isle is disrupted by an unexpected visitor, Ariane finally has something else to focus on...healing her brother, Xavier Cheney. With the help of the inhabitants of Fair Isle, Xavier is not only safely revived, his broken arm is mended, and he is on the way back to good health. Aiding in his recovery is the appealing Lady Jane Danvers, formerly of England courtesy of her exile by Queen Elizabeth. It’s not long before Xavier starts thinking of more than just himself, but also for the woman who has gained his trust…and his heart, Jane.

Aptly titled, TWILIGHT OF A QUEEN is the page-turning final installment in Susan Carroll’s Dark Queen series. Originally supposed to only be a trilogy focusing on the Cheney sisters, Ms. Carroll found a way to add more verve and substance to the series by adding two more books. TWILIGHT OF A QUEEN gives us a satisfying conclusion to a family that has become dear to my heart. I seriously pulled for this series when I first heard about it, and I was fortunate enough to have reviewed each book for RRT. As always, the characterization and detail are on point, rich and so full of life, it’s hard not to become fully immersed within the pages. Catherine de Medici has such an omnipresence throughout the entire series, it’s almost impossible not to feel her lurking around the corner even when she’s “off stage,” as it were.

While this book features Xavier and Jane and their love story, other life-altering moments in time are going on for several other characters as well. We must not forget Meg and her bid to carve her own niche in Fair Isle, all the while still outrunning Catherine. And even as Ariane is about to make a decision that weighs heavily on her mind, she also has her own life, and it has been disrupted by a new family member, Xavier himself. It’s a gifted storyteller who can keep all those balls in the air and still round out the book with passion, romance, and a vitality that is hard to match. Susan Carroll does all that and more in TWILIGHT OF A QUEEN, and it’s for that reason that I give it RRT’s Perfect 10 rating

Yeah, I’m sad to see this series end, but I sincerely hope that it’s not the last we’ve seen of Susan Carroll and her magical talent for spinning a tale. In the meantime, if you’ve not had the pleasure of this series, then by all means start at the beginning with THE DARK QUEEN and go from there. You won't be sorry!

Amy Cunningham

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