Palace intrigues, particularly those in the Tudor court, tend to be deliciously rich, and the basic plot of Navarre’s tale of star-crossed lovers is no exception. There’s a problem of pacing, however, and prose that has too many overly flowery turns, both of which make for long stretches of fairly dull reading. Still, Allegra is a captivating character and you’ll want to know more about her backstory.

Henry VIII has started his campaign to divorce Katherine of Aragon so that he may marry Anne Boleyn, but Spain wants to prevent that. Spanish officials at the court blackmail Allegra Grimaldi, Italian perfumer and apothecary (and suspected witch) into poisoning Boleyn. Though Allegra has sworn never to use her talents to kill, she agrees in order to save herself and her family, held captive in an undisclosed location. Secretly, she counterplots against the Spanish ambassador who would have her as his mistress. When Allegra meets Joscelin Boleyn, half-brother to the would-be queen, there’s an instant attraction that they both must fight against — not just because they are on opposing sides of Henry’s contentious divorce case, but because they are inextricably bound to others: the Spanish hold on Allegra is as strong as it is sinister, while Joscelin’s father has arranged for him to marry another. (, dl $5.50)
Reviewed by: 
Michelle Wiener