The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll
May's Review: On the one side is our beautiful heroine, Ariane, one of the famous Cheney sisters who are renowned for their mystical skills. On the other side, there is our hero, Comte de Renard, a passionate but mysterious nobleman who has fallen madly in love with Ariane and demands that she marries him. Will Ariane continue to resist Renard's overtures or will she finally call upon his assistance when she is in the gravest of dangers from the treacherous Catherine de Medici, the dark queen of France?
Contrary to some readers' opinion, I consider this book to be more of a romance instead of a work of historical fiction or fantasy. Too many of the basic romantic elements are here: a strong and fair maiden with a compassionate heart; a dashing and incredibly strong "knight in shining armour"; both an evil and menacing villain and villainess who will stop at nothing to get what they want; magical ability to transport you to a different time and place; and of course, some pretty "steamy" romantic scenes.
For me, this was an enjoyable and riveted read from start to finish. Obviously I enjoyed the romance but I have to applaud the author for setting up many of the future romances which are covered in the rest of her Dark Queen's Saga series. While some readers maybe upset that Catherine de Medici is so maligned in this book, I have no issue with it. In fact, I don't think Caroll had much of a choice as I don't think there is a more controversial queen in all of France's history than Catherine except for perhaps Marie Antoinette. I also appreciate the fact that the magical elements are kept to a minimum so that they don't overwhelm the story and veer this romance into all-consuming fantasy. Hence, I wholly recommend this book to those who love historical romance and need a change of pace from the usual Regency, time-traveling Viking or all-too masculine Scottish laird books.
For those wishing to check out the the other books in the Dark Queen's Saga series, here are the remaining titles:
* The Courtesan
* The Silver Rose
* The Huntress
* Twilight of a Queen
I recently read Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, and I would describe it as a great read-alike to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. Magic mingles with affairs of the heart in this tale of the Waverly sisters, who live in the family home, and care for the mysterious apple tree outside. Legend has it that if you eat one of the apples you will see the happiest moment of your life, but this vision can be a blessing or a curse. The story follows older sister Claire as she tries not to fall in love, and younger sister Sydney as she tries to hide from an abusive husband.