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Through a Glass Darkly: A Novel Paperback – May 1, 2003

228 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

London caught up in the feverish excitement of the South Sea Bubble and Paris under the licentious influence of the Duc D'Orleans make a glittering background for Koen's first novel. Much of the plotyoung noblewoman in love with and married to charismatic older man enters society and is disillusionedand many of the characterswillful, innocent heroine; adored, autocratic grandmother; and loveable, reckless brotherare standard fare. Historic detail, though abundant and accurate, is often marred by didactic presentation. Still, there is action and intrigue enough to win a following who will demand this and further volumes in what is sure to become another sweeping saga. Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"A brilliant historical novel, a lovelyromance, a gripping character study ...there's something for everyone inThrough A Glass Darkly!" -- --Richmond Times-Dispatch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402200447
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402200441
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My childhood was filled with glorious books, Little Women, Lad A Dog, Black Beauty, Little House on the Prairie, Caddie Woodlawn. They were as real to me as the life around me, a lower middle class one in a small oil refinery town in Texas. My grandfather, an invalid, was a huge fan of the writers Frank Slaughter, Frank Yerby, and Zane Grey. By the time I learned to read, I was sneaking his square, cheap (a dime, I think) paperbacks off and reading them. Pirates. Passion. History. It has never occurred to me to write anything but historicals, a kind of time travel into other minds, other lands, other eras, other cultures, other worlds. That's what I wish for my readers, that my books take them far away into another place and time and that they enjoy themselves there and maybe even learn an interesting fact or two.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Lilly Flora VINE VOICE on October 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
The strange, obscure sounding title of "Through A Glass Darkly" refers to the lenses through which people see things, the expectations and emotions that color all our reactions and feelings relating to the people around us. The book is full of disappointing things happening to people because they saw "through a glass darkly" instead of seeing things for what they really are.

The books' main character is fifteen year old Barbra Alderly, who is sold in marriage at the beginning of the book to forty six year old Roger Devane, who wants to develop the massive and well placed land given to her as a dowry. This isn't a problem for Barbra whose been in love with Roger ever since she can remember and thinks she can make him love her, but Roger has no thoughts at all for his young bride, and he has a skeleton in the closet that will threaten all of their happiness.

Set against the lush backdrop of early eighteenth century England and France this book is a visual feast. Ms. Koen is so adept at describing scenery, food and fabrics it's hard to remember that you're even reading a book. Her way of allowing the characters thoughts to roam across the page as real thoughts do is most impressive, I'd never seen train of thought used more effectively in a novel. But still, the book has its faults.

All the characters, from young, rash and beautiful Barbra to her domineering and grouchy loveable grandmother see, a little too typical at first. They seem to be cast from molds when we first meet them, and only gradually through the book do they become non-stereotypes. Roger is probably the best example of this.
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72 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Jo Manning on June 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback is a terrific love story, really a bunch of love stories, all poignant. The relationship between Barbara and her grandmother is beautiful, the relationship between Barbara and her husband, DeVane, is tragic. Someone else called this the story of a dysfunctional family---that was an understatement! Set against the intrigues of the French court in the early 1700's and the South Sea Bubble venture, this is the story of a headstrong young woman who's determined to marry a man clearly not right for her, a man whose romantic and sexual past will come back to haunt the girl he marries. Koen pulls no punches. People die, children become ill, fortunes disappear, lives are ruined, love affairs turn out badly, but the wonderful Barbara will get through it all and emerge a stronger, better woman. Get out your handkerchiefs! The biggest problem I have with Karleen Koen's great big terrific historical novels is that she writes so few of them. She can give the more prolific Diana Gabaldon a good run for her money!
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 7, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
On the surface, Karleen Koen's books may appear to be nothing more than historical romance fluff. You know, the typical muscle-clad hero meets independent but distressed damsel; the two parry and thrust (if you will excuse the phrase) and then, finally, succumb to the throes of passion. Natuarally, this all occurs in some exotic, historical loacle. Koen's books have the fluffy exterior but the interior is much,much meatier than any historical romance I have ever read.
"Through a Glass Darkly" is set in 18th century England and France. The main character, or heroine, is a young girl in love with an older, fatherly type gentleman. As is the case with most young , headstrong girls, the heroine's passions rule her actions and cloud her judgement. After marrying the man of her dreams, she learns the shocking and devestating truth about his character. Because I hold this book in such I high esteem, and because I would like you to enjoy it as heartily as I did, I will not divulge any more of the plot. I will say that there are more turns and twists in this novel, and the sequel "Now Face To Face," than the most harrowing and breathtaking of rollercoaster rides! As trite as it may sound, expect the unexpected in these books. The hero and heroine's are not nearly as pretty, the locales not nearly as exotic. Nevertheless, there is more substance to this book than any fluffy Harelequin.
If you love history, and Koen loads her books with fascinating historical anecdotes and trivia, then you will love these books. However, if you are looking for the formulaic boy meets girl and lives happily ever after in fairyland, don't even consider these books. The characters are colorful, diabolical, interesting, and admirable...far from formulaic.
Happy Reading. Let me know what you think
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89 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Madeline Silver on July 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Having debated long on it, I decided to rate this book purely by its story and not by the author's research (which is extensive and I salute her for it - but I could get that from history books.)

I cannot recall ever coming away from a book with a worse feeling in the pit of my stomach and with so much rage at the author. Not because of the tragedies heaped on the characters. I did not expect a fluffy ending tied with a pink bow. What I expected was a modicum of respect for me as a reader.

My main reason for hating it so much is this: All the set-ups were empty promises! The author had no idea how wrap things up. I felt she was terrified of confrontations. Because nothing gets resolved. All the fantastic threads of Part A become a tangled mess in Part B and the end was another big set-up that screamed of "Go buy the sequel!"

I know it is hard to believe my critique after so many reviewers raved about this book. The thing is, I totally understand why - the book is wonderfully written but it should come with a big warning tag that says: MAJOR FRUSTRATION AHEAD!

Here are the things that killed the book for me:

1. The big problem with the main characters - never resolved (and the author went to great length to do that, like making the husband so sick he could not talk and explain. And of course in his letter he said, "This is not something to be discussed in a letter." Arggg...)
2. The long list of sub-characters with their endless thoughts - not important in the end. You can skip them - trust me! Especially that boring Jane character.
3. The counter-hero the author developed throughout the book - gets nothing. Goes to waste. So why did the author tell us about him anyway?
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