Victoria Alexander, . . Avon, $6.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-06-000144-5

The title neatly poses the main quandaries of Alexander's latest historical romance (after The Prince's Bride). Can a woman be both a dutiful princess and a devoted wife? And can a man be strong enough to be the mere husband of a powerful woman? Polished and delightful, this duel of words, wit and hearts between a princess on a quest and an aristocratic balloonist fallen on hard times sparkles with humor even as the romance sizzles. Tatiana, princess of Avalonia, believes that asking Lord Matthew Weston to assist her by posing as her husband so she can travel across the English countryside and look for her family's long-lost jewels will kill two birds with one stone. It allows her to search without arousing the attention of a murderous evil cousin who desires to rule Avalonia, and it's an excellent excuse to see Matthew, whom she met last year in Paris while in disguise, married and then abandoned after one week when she realized she had to discharge her royal duties before she could become his true wife. But Matthew isn't eager to play her game. He knows she's keeping secrets from him, and his heart has already been broken once by her and her deceptions. Alexander cleverly gives Matthew and Tatiana enough rope to make mistakes and enough personal courage to make the two worthy of each other. While the pair search for royal treasure, readers will realize that they've already found it in these pages. (Aug.)

Forecast:Rave reviews, positive word of mouth and print advertising in the Romantic Times and Redbook should help this book sail to the top of the charts. Cover praise from veteran romance author Stephanie Laurens won't hurt sales.