The Leopard Unleashed

Elizabeth Chadwick, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-09323-5

In this nicely crafted historical romance, a follow-up to The Wild Hunt and The Running Vixen , Chadwick continues her tale of Ravenstow, a medieval Welsh estate. Renard, the well-meaning and dashing, but often restless, heir to the realm, returns from the Crusader kingdom of Antioch with a mistress, the beautiful, crafty dancing girl Olwen. Renard has come home to deal with his father's impending death and local tensions caused by the dispute over the succession to England's throne, both of which mandate the immediate celebration of his arranged marriage to the heiress of a neighboring estate. He is soon embroiled in a fierce rivalry with temperamental, power-hungry Ranulf de Gernons, Earl of Chester, who will do anything to get Renard's land, including raiding, pillaging and even kidnapping his enemy's bride. Though preoccupied with political battles, Renard is pleasantly surprised by his new wife and soon disenchanted with the malevolent Olwen, whose scheming poses grave danger to his estate and his marriage. As before, realistic characters and finely drawn details of 12th-century life distinguish Chadwick's work. ( May )