KISSED BY SHADOWS
Set during a period of political unrest and persecution, the final entry in Feather's 16th-century Kiss trilogy (following To Kiss a Spy) will hook readers at the outset, but it may not hold their attention throughout. When Lady Philippa Nielson meets Lionel Ashton, a close confidant of Queen Mary and King Philip II, she has the eerie sense that she's met the mysterious English lord before. Lionel denies the connection, but the more time she spends with him, the more convinced she becomes. As Pippa's friendship with Lionel grows, her relationship with her husband, Stuart, deteriorates. She suspects he's having an affair, but it isn't until she learns she's pregnant that she discovers the truth: both she and Stuart are pawns in a plot to secure Queen Mary's place on the throne, and Lionel, whom Pippa has come to trust and even love, may be one of the Queen's puppeteers. Feather skillfully draws out the intrigue and immerses readers in the time period with her descriptions of court costumes and customs. However, her tendency to overstuff the novel with details undermines the suspense. Though the pace plods at times and the secondary romance between Pippa's brother and Lionel's Spanish ward lacks depth, Feather's firm grasp of history and compelling plot will push readers past the slow spots. (Feb. 11)
Forecast:Readers accustomed to shelling out twenty dollars or more for Feather's hardcovers will welcome this moderately priced paperback original.