For those who have waited ten long years for the sequel to her impressive debut novel, Through a Glass Darkly, Karleen Koen's new tale is a bit of a disappointment; less a romance than a ponderous, tangled historical novel.

The headstrong Barbara, now a 20-year-old widow, leaves her homeland behind for the new world to manage the family's newly acquired Virginia plantation.

Though she might have wished to leave a few suitors behind, Barbara meets several interesting men in America: Captain Klaus von Rothbach, a roguish seaman, elderly Colonel Perry and others. However, Barbara is shocked by the seemingly primitive conditions in the colonies and the rugged life and hard work needed to manage her new home astounds her.

Meanwhile, England is caught in the throes of political upheaval catching the Duchess, Barbara's friend Jane Cromwell and her mother (whose cunning rivals that of the best villianesses) in its wake.

Returning home, Barbara finds herself once more trapped in the whirlwind of the court as she collides with torn loyalties, an old lover's schemes and even the king.

Karleen Koen has not lost her gift for creating a vibrant world and allowing 20th-century readers to view the colorful, turbulent 18th century through the eyes of a wonderful heroine. The irrepressible Barbara is back, but the weighty plot line weighs her story down and instead of being a lively tale of triumph, NOW FACE TO FACE is a good, but heavy read. SENSUAL (Apr., 784 pp., $27.50)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin