cover image Notorious


Virginia Henley, . . Signet, $7.99 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-451-22105-6

Rife with political intrigue, this medieval historical romance never lacks for suspense, but overblown language, a too-easy wrapup and excessive melodrama undermine the reader's enjoyment. "I shouldn't... but I shall!" is noblewoman Brianna de Beauchamp's credo, and she applies it often throughout. Should she involve herself in the brewing battle between England's marcher barons and the degenerate King Edward II? And, perhaps more importantly, should she provoke the handsome and dangerous Wolf Mortimer? She shouldn't but she does, making herself an essential channel of communication between the barons and their ally, Queen Isabelle, as well as the object of Wolf's fantasies. Veteran author Henley (Infamous ) weaves a colorful tapestry full of notorious real-life noblemen and royals, proving that fact can be more fascinating than fiction. However, Henley would do better to heed the "less is more" doctrine; too often characters restate facts, and Henley compulsively inserts distracting exclamatories for added drama ("I foolishly forgave you once, but never again. I wouldn't lower myself to spit on you!"). Despite its flaws, this dynamic, heavily embellished history lesson manages to do what few can—illuminate and entertain. (May)