The discovery of a new-to-you series is a thing of beauty and means all is well with the world.
As you probably know by now, A Reader's Respite is afflicted with what is commonly known as Series Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. No matter how "stand-alone" a book in a series is, A Reader's Respite will always (and we do mean always) have to start from the beginning of the series and read forward. We can't help it. It's a sickness.
So it was when we discovered Susan Carroll's The Dark Queen Series. Featuring the infamous Queen of France, Catherine d'Medici (we had a bit to say about Cate here, if you'll recall), Carroll doesn't try to present serious historical fact here, she just takes a stance for pure fictional fun and runs with it.
Now normally we don't go in for all that magic stuff in our historical fiction. Magic has it's proper place (in a Harry Potter book) and we generally don't care for it attached to a Queen of France. But we feel it's safe to classify Carroll's series in the fantasy genre and once we had that all straightened out in our head, we were just fine with the whole thing.
Shall we give you the Reader's Respite version of a guided tour of the series?
Originally published in 2004, The Dark Queen introduces us to protagonist Ariane Cheney (really? did Carroll have to choose that particular name?), mystical healer and The Lady of the Isle. Ariane has the misfortune to royally piss off the ol' French dowager Queen Cate d'Medici who is deliciously evil in Carroll's version of events. Of course romantic tension is here too, appearing in the form of the sexy Comte Renard. Ooh la la.
The second installment in the series, The Courtesan, appeared in 2005 and this time gave us the story of another Cheney (we still can't quite get over that name) sister, Gabrielle. This sister, too, incurs the wrath of ol' Cate d'Medici as the mistress of Henry, King of Navarre. Gabrielle and Cate battle it out while Gabrielle struggles with her love of the dashing Captain Nicolas Remy.
Moving right along, 2006 brought us the tale of the third Cheney (grrrr...) sister, Miri, who finds herself searching for The Silver Rose, a particularly nasty witch who is challenging ol' Cate d'Medici for power in France. Don't despair for a romantic interest here, he is present in the form of one Simon Aristide, the witch hunter hired by Cate to track down the mysterious Silver Rose. Intrigue, witchcraft, and romance are everywhere.
Now originally, this series was planned to be only a trilogy: one book for each of the Cheney (!) sisters. But the books were popular enough to convince Carroll to keep writing and give us The Huntress. Having run out of sisters, in 2007 the reader was presented with Cat O'Hanlon, a protege of the original protagonist, Ariane. The diabolical Silver Rose is resurrected and still trying to take down ol' Cate d'Medici and it falls to Cat to thwart their plans, no matter how pissy the dowager Queen Cate is.
Which brings us to this year's newest release from Carroll, the latest installment of the series entitled Twilight of a Queen. Ol' Cate is getting up there in years by this time but her dark powers and downright meanness are greater than ever. It's up to Ariane, the original protagonist, to battle it out with Cate who has enlisted the help of Louis Xavier, the rogue-ish pirate.
Okay, so these books aren't even remotely meant to be serious historical fiction, folks. They are simply fun, fast reads and a nice break from more serious fiction. No need to analyze character motivations, just sit back, smile and enjoy the read.