cover image Fairest of Them All

Fairest of Them All

Teresa Medeiros. Fanfare, $7.5 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-553-56333-7

Medeiros (A Whisper of Roses) pens the ultimate romantic fantasy: a beautiful woman falls in love with a handsome man and they live happily ever after. The challenge is to give the old theme a new twist, and that Medeiros does with a bang. Holly de Chastel, the fairest woman in England, considers her beauty a curse. So far, Holly's trickery and deceit have scared off her suitors, but her father has come up with a foolproof plan to get her wed: a tournament in which the best man wins Holly. Medeiros's already humorous tone turns hilarious when Holly shows herself to the retinue of brave knights--but in disguise as an ugly hag. Only two accept the challenge, and her hand is won by Sir Austyn of Gavenmore, who needs Holly's dowry to restore his home and his honor. He learns to love Holly for her inner beauty, but love is forgotten when Holly's secret is revealed. ``Let beauty be your doom'' was the curse the faerie queen put upon one of Sir Austyn's ancestors, and every Gavenmore man since has been doomed by beauty. This ``happily ever after'' is a hard-won battle, but one romantics will relish. (June)