Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll

This was my first Susan Carroll and I really enjoyed reading a different type of historical romance. I have heard many readers complain on various boards about the lack of historical romances set anywhere but in Regency England and I agree with that assessment. While I love regency set novels, so many of them are predictable with the same old plot devices. I recently started one that featured regency spies and I couldn't finish it. Been there, done that, probably a hundred times. One of the reasons I checked this one out was the unusual time and setting.

The Dark Queen is set in Renaissance France in 1572 on the eve of 'Bloody Sunday', the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and is the first book of a trilogy. Ariane, Gabrielle, and Mirabelle de Cheney are three sisters of Faire Isle who are 'Daughters of the Earth' with special abilities in healing and white magic. The eldest, Ariane, is known as The Lady of Faire Isle and is considered a 'wise woman' by the people of the island. This is a very dangerous time for them as an evil witch hunter is terrorizing women with their special gifts and accusing them of witchcraft.

The comte de Renard is arrogantly determined to marry Ariane, but she wants nothing to do with him. She senses that he is hiding dark secrets. He blackmails her into wearing a magic ring that she can use to summon him. Little by little we learn of his past and his character growth was well done and I grew to like him immensely. Ariane seemed a bit timid at first but her serenity and quiet strength make her a good match for Renard.

When a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Island with evidence against the evil Queen of France, Catherine de Medici, Ariane must call upon Renard to protect her family. The Dark Queen essentially rules France through her weak son. She is rumored to be a witch and practices black magic to destroy her enemies to retain her power. I found her wickedness a little overdone but fascinating. The secondary plots with Gabrielle and Remy, as well as young Mirabelle and Simon were very fully developed and compelling .

The characters are very well drawn and though not deep, the plot was entertaining. Her prose flows smoothly and I finished it quickly considering it was over 500 pages :). The Dark Queen expertly meshes together romance, history, royal intrigue, religious persecution, magic and witchcraft into a very readable book I am looking forward to the next book, The Courtesan, Gabrielle's story. Mirabelle's story is titled The Silver Rose and will be released in March, 2006.

My Grade: B+

Side note: Here I go again about covers...the cover for The Dark Queen was absolutely beautiful combining dark red with a burnished gold dress which gave it a rich and decadent look and feel. Someone should probably nominate it for best cover when the 2005 contest comes around at AAR. Speaking of covers, the other two in the trilogy also have gorgeous covers.


Jay said...

How deep was the magic thread? It sounded interesting until I found out about the magic... And would you say its a historical romance or historical fiction?

ReneeW said...

Definitely historical romance. And the magic thread was very light really. I tend to dislike books with magic and witches. But this one never went past my comfort zone. Hope that helps.

Jay said...

Yes, very much so. I shall hunt it down soon! :)

Tara Marie said...


I'm heading to B&N today, and these are going to the top of my TBR!!

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