Message From The Author
Long Live the Queen
Susan Carroll Takes No Prisoners with
her Hotly Anticipated The Dark Queen
By Colleen Cusick
The Queen has returned! After several years of peace and quiet, she's back in top form, ready to challenge boundaries and reward her loyal followers.
The Queen is, of course, Susan Carroll, author of the wildly popular Bride Finder trilogy. But she could also be Catherine de Medici, the subject of The Dark Queen, Carroll's fantastical romance out this month from Ballantine—and her latest since 2001's Midnight Bride. And what better subject for the queen of historical romance than a real-life historical queen?
The Dark Queen is set during Catherine's reign in France at the end of the turbulent 16th century. "This period in France was an odd juxtaposition," Carroll explains, describing the appeal of the era. "On the one hand you had a lot of learned women, going beyond what was normal, in the upper classes. But it was also one of the worst times for witch hunts in France. In some cases, almost entire villages were decimated of their female populations."
Carroll combined these powerful noblewomen, horrifying
witch hunts and her "knowledge of and fascination with the dark stories surrounding Catherine de Medici" to tell the story of the three orphaned Cheney sisters who rule the peaceful, women-
centric Faire Isle with the help of their mother's magic. The eldest, Ariane, is an accomplished healer who finds herself on
the wicked queen's bad side when she tries to prevent Catherine's slaughter of French Protestants.
In Carroll's story, Catherine de Medici is a master of dark
witchcraft, a poisoner and a serious threat to Ariane and her younger sisters, Gabrielle and Miribelle. Fortunately, the Cheneys have an ally in magician Justice Deauville, the Comte de Renard, who believes he is destined to marry the reluctant Ariane.
Many novels feature heroines that are adept at sorcery, but it is unusual to find a hero with similar magical abilities in a romance. Carroll, however, believes these powers were necessary: "I liked the idea of my hero having a better understanding of my heroine. Ultimately, despite being so ruthless, he is a man with deep respect for the power of women."
The real Catherine de Medici was certainly one of those women with power. Her murderous proclivities are well documented, but Carroll admits that in her novel, "more is coming from me than from history. I don't believe Catherine was a
practicing witch, and I don't want to leave someone with the impression that this is historical fact."
A careful blending of fact and fiction, of historical truth and fantasy, makes The Dark Queen more than just an ordinary paranormal or historical romance. "It has the fantasy that I love," Carroll elaborates, "but also enough reality that you don't feel disconnected."
Carroll mastered this balance between fantasy and realism years ago when, inspired by her love of the Grimms' and Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales, she wrote 1999's The Bride Finder. "I had never done a paranormal before," she recalls, "and the enthusiastic response surprised me. I didn't perceive The Bride Finder as any more magical than any of my other books. It was the response of the readers that inspired me to keep going."
Those enthusiastic and inspiring Bride Finder fans still clamoring for more tales of the St. Leger family can rest assured. "I want to write more about [them]," Carroll declares.
But first she will finish the Cheney sisters' trilogy. The Courtesan, about beautiful middle sister Gabrielle, is scheduled for a summer '05 release, and Carroll is currently writing youngest sister Miribelle's tale. If juggling all these projects sounds overwhelming, Carroll agrees: "I have so many stories to tell and not enough time."
Fortunately, readers will always take time to pay homage
to this queen.
Excerpt From THE DARK QUEEN
"I am sorry, my lord. But I told you I would not marry you."
Renard fetched a mock sigh. "I have a very poor memory. However, I do now realize my mistake in not coming to claim you myself."
"And so what now, milord? Do you propose to remedy your error by tossing me over your shoulder and carrying me off?"
Renard's green eyes glinted. "A tempting solution, ma chère. It would be the most direct way of getting what I want."
Ariane gasped when he stole his arm about her waist. "I realize it is the established custom for fathers to dispose of their daughters against their will, but the women of Faire Isle are not accustomed to being bartered off."
Renard's lips curled cynically. "Sooner or later, everyone
is bartered off."
"I don't see it happening to men."
"You'd be surprised." An odd look flashed in Renard's eyes, something akin to bitterness. "Alas, it would seem I have offended you. I beg you to allow me to make amends."
Renard reached for a purse knotted to his belt. He unfastened the drawstrings and withdrew an object.
It was a ring, an unpretentious circle of metal with
unusual markings on it.
Ariane shook her head. "My lord, I cannot accept—"
"Oh I realize it does not look like much, a mere trinket.
But its worth is invaluable. It is a magic ring, you see."
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