cover image The Beloved Scoundrel

The Beloved Scoundrel

Iris Johansen. Bantam, $7.99 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-553-29945-8

In 1809, after seeing her mother raped and killed in the Balkans, Marianna Sanders and her little brother, Alex, are taken in by Jordan Draken and return with him and his faithful servant, Gregor Damek, to his English estate. Draken is part of the ruling family of Kazan. Sanders is the granddaughter of a master stained-glass craftswoman who created the ``Window to Heaven,'' containing a panel known as the ``Jedalar,'' which reveals the layout of a tunnel running under the city of Moscow. As Napoleon is on the march, many--including Draken--covet the window. Much in the plot remains fuzzy until far into the book--for instance, the very pursuit of the Jedalar, which appears from the book's opening to have been destroyed. Johansen ( The Magnificent Rogue ) makes some valiant attempts at feminist revision: Draken's cousin Dorothy Kinmar has penned a few tomes on ``the shameful lack of freedom given women in our society.'' On the negative side are Draken's smarmy and often raunchy sexual comments and Sanders's expressions of ecstasy in response to light and stained glass. (Feb.)