THE RIVAL QUEENS: A Novel of Artifice, Gunpowder and Murder in Eighteenth-Century London

Fidelis Morgan, Author . Morrow $23.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-688-17684-6

In her second bawdy, madcap adventure (after 2001's Unnatural Fire), the incomparable Anastasia, Lady Ashby de la Zouche, Countess of Clapham, Baroness Penge (and former mistress to Charles II), aided by her faithful maid, Alpiew, faces "a brace of murders, an illicit marriage ceremony, an escape of a prisoner from the Tower, bribery, corruption at the highest level, a burglary and an abduction." When she doesn't run fast enough, bailiffs temporarily deposit the Countess in a "sponging house" for debtors. At other times such blackguards as Lord Giles Rakewell and his hooligans, the Tityre-tus gang, harass her. Morgan, a British actress and expert on Restoration comedy, brings 1700 London intensely to life, from the filth-ridden Thames to teeming Covent Garden, home to pickpockets, actors and writers. The Countess and Alpiew eke out a livelihood writing gossip for the London Trumpet, as well as planting "puff," or publicity. A lot of the fun derives from walk-ons by real people, such as the actor and playwright Colley Cibber, famous in his day for "improving upon the work of a barbarous Elizabethan third-rater named Shakespeare." Living nearby is an incorrigible old lecher who gives the Countess his memoirs. She figures it may prop a table—surely no one will ever read Samuel Pepys. Restoration England will never be the same after this romp. (Sept. 10)

Forecast:Traveling to New York via the QE2 , Morgan will be making a 25-city train tour. Media appearances by an author who's perhaps as eccentric and amusing as her heroine should stoke sales.

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 351 pages - 978-1-934609-75-0
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-06-052206-3
Hardcover - 340 pages - 978-0-00-711635-5
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