Twilight of a Queen

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-07-21
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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Susan Carroll's Dark Queen series comes to a stunning conclusion in this mesmerizing historical novel of passion, power, and revenge Set during the Renaissance in 1588, this sweeping historical novel takes readers back to the home of Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, who must choose a successor to her throne. While the Faire Isle is beset by warring factions that have sprung up around the three rivals for the throne, her arch enemy Catherine de Medici is working desperately to retain her power in France. When Ariane names Lady Jane Danvers as the successor to her throne she instantly becomes the enemy of the Dark Queen herself, Catherine de Medici. The tables are turned on the Dark Queen, however, when the one man she believes can help her retain her powers in France, Louis Xavier, falls in love with Jane. The once peaceful Faire Isle must prepare itself for The Dark Queen's fury and her search for revenge. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Author Biography

SUSAN CARROLL is an award-winning romance author whose Dark Queen series books include The Huntress, The Silver Rose, The Courtesan, and The Dark Queen. She lives in Rock Island, Illinois.


Chapter One

Paris, Autumn, 1587   

THE FOG ROLLED THROUGH THE STREETS OF THE CITY, turning day into twilight. Even by mid- afternoon, the haze remained so thick that two companions strolling side by side could have lost each other in the mist. 

Shops closed up early, citizens retreating behind locked shutters and doors. Nerves were stretched taut in a city that already seemed on the brink of revolution. The more superstitious declared that the fog was an omen of an impending disaster, the herald of some great approaching storm. 

Others far bolder muttered that the fog was a sign of only one thing, that the witch they had tolerated in their midst for too long was practicing her foul sorcery again. That Italian sorceress, that devil’s daughter, that Dark Queen . . . Catherine de Medici, Dowager Queen of France, peered down from the heights of her astrological tower affixed to her private residence, the Hôtel de la Reine. The cold damp weather had settled deep into her aching muscles and joints, making her feel every one of her sixty- eight years. She dabbed her handkerchief, wiping a drop of moisture from her rheumy eyes. For once the obscurity of her vision could not be set down to her fading eyesight. 

The fog blanketed everything. She could not see even into her own courtyard let alone the streets beyond her gates. But she found the heavy fog a mercy, a brief respite protecting her from all those sullen faces, those hate- filled eyes that followed her every time she left the Hôtel de La Reine to travel through the city to the Louvre. 

It should not have bothered her, she thought. She ought to be accustomed to being hated and reviled. She had certainly experienced enough of loathing during her lifetime. She had only been eight years old the first time a mob had cried out for her blood, an orphaned heiress in Florence, a city seething with rebellion. 

Catherine closed her eyes, and felt her mind slipping back across the years, as the old vision resurfaced, part memory, part nightmare. 

Caterina’s small hands clutched at the rough stones of the palazzo walls. Her heart thudded with fear as she peeked down into the courtyard, the angry mob painted in hellish hues of fire and shadow in the flickering torchlight. “Give us the girl,” coarse voices roared. “Surrender the young witch. We want no more Medicis lording over us.
 We’ll hang her from the city walls.” 

Past and present merged in Catherine’s mind, her imagination transposing Florentines with Parisians. If Paris ever rose against her, she had no difficulty picturing who the leader would be. 

Her longtime enemy, the duc de Guise, handsome, arrogant, a warrior’s scar bisecting his cheek. François de Guise was the darling of Paris, their great Catholic hero. Catherine could envision so clearly how his aristocratic features would look etched in the firelight of the mob’s torches. A thick rope of a noose coiled in his elegant hands, she could see his smile, almost hear his silken threat. 

“Soon, Your Grace. Soon . . .” 

Catherine clutched at her throat and opened her eyes. She was behaving more and more like some foolish old woman, she thought. Brooding over the past or worrying about a future that might never come to pass. 

De Guise and his army were camped far from Paris. Even the ambitious duke would not dare invade the city and strike openly against the king, no matter how weak and ineffectual her son Henry had become. No, de G

Excerpted from Twilight of a Queen: A Novel by Susan Carroll
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