The Huntress is the 4th book in the Dark Queen Series by Susan Carroll. In this installment we meet Catriona O’Hanlon, the fierce protector and friend of Ariane Cheney Deauville- the Lady of Faire Isle and enemy of the Dark Queen Catherine de Medici. Evil Queen Catherine is still obsessed with getting her hands on the Book of Shadows, a spell book full of dark magic and also wants to destroy the one they call the Silver Rose. The Silver Rose is Maegera “Meg” Wolfe daughter of the insane witch Cassandra Lacelles and of Martin le Loup, one time devotee of Miribelle Cheney, the youngest sister of Ariane. Concerned that Meg’s safety is threatened by Catherine’s obsession, Ariane sends Cat to England where Meg and Martin now reside to protect the girl. At first Martin mistakes her for a threat and knocks her cold but when she comes to and explains herself she is grudgingly welcomed. Cat and Martin often clash as they are both stubborn and proud but soon Cat gains Meg’s trust and Martin’s love. Soon the threat from the evil Medici witch becomes all too real as she sends her most trusted body guard Ambrose Gautier to secure the Book of Shadows and destroy Meg. Throughout the story, Martin is employed by Francis Walsingham, spymaster extraordinaire to Queen Elizabeth and is tasked with uncovering who is involved in the Babbington plot. Somehow Walsingham gets the wrong idea about the identity of the Silver Rose and Meg is forced to out herself to the Great Queen to save the wrongly accused.
I really liked the spirited Cat O’Hanlon in this book. I also like that in the author’s note Susan Carroll explains where she did not follow history and why. For example she states there was no comet in the sky when the whole story was going on but she put it in there to further the storyline. Often times authors don't explain historical inaccuracies and why they were placed in a story and I really appreciate that she did. I also liked that several times I took a stab at who could have been involved in reviving the coven of the Silver Rose (the crazy band of loons who want to kidnap Meg to help see her to her destiny-the throne of France) and I guess wrong every time. I was actually surprised when the villain in this story was outed because it was not someone I would have guessed. The only sticking points for me in this book were the (what I felt) unnecessary use of the words Fianna and gallow-glass (both meaning a type of Gaelic mercenary) to cement Cat’s “irishness”. Her fiery temper and fondness for whisky did that on its own. Also the two people being madly in love with each other but neither has any idea and tries to hide their affections from the other only to reach a breaking point and make made passionate love and confess their feelings seems to be a theme in all the Dark Queen books. I’ve never been a great fan of the romance/sex parts of my historicals anyway but I did notice a pattern here. I think this series is great to pick up if you want light fast reads. I also love the cover art on all the books.