Escape from an arranged marriage is not an easy task, but Lady Elizabeth Hayward is bent on never marrying the pig-like brute who terrifies her-Sir Robert La Faye.
When Elizabeth's father suddenly dies, Sir Robert tries to force the wealthy young woman to marry him. Her only hope is to find her godmother, Queen Elizabeth.
Richard Tarleton, favorite jester to the Queen, travels the country entertaining, pleasing a variety of women and secretly gathering information. Elizabeth's story catches his sympathy and soon, shorn of her beautiful blonde hair and dressed in rags, she is masquerading as Tarleton's apprentice, Robin, while they hide in plain sight from Sir Robert's frenzied pursuit.
As they travel, Elizabeth realizes she wants more than Tarleton's sympathy and he prolongs the journey in the face of grave danger because his time with Elizabeth is as close as this fool has come to paradise.
Rich in historical doughtiness, FOOL'S PARADISE, Ms. Phillip's debut novel, displays the class distinction of the era as it builds swiftly to a frightening and satisfying conclusion. SENSUAL. (Mar., 386 pp., $4.50)