For those of us who remember Roberta Gellis' remarkably classic historical romances, Empress Matilda is not a forgotten woman; but to many readers and historians today she is brushed aside, and it is up to writers like Haley Elizabeth Garwood to bring women like Matilda back into our books and our hearts.

She is a real historical personage who inspires and encourages '90s women to "go for it." A formidable woman, she broke the mold in her era by striving to gain the love and respect of her people in order to take control of her country as her father, King Henry I, decreed.

As a young widow at 24, Matilda has already stood as a judge and her husband's advisor, evaded intrigues in the Holy Roman Empire and is ready to become her father's heir, if his knights will agree to a woman ascending the English throne. Usually clear-headed, Matilda is drawn into a liaison with her handsome cousin Stephen that nearly destroys her dreams of being queen.

When her lover tries to wrest the crown from her, Matilda enlists the aid of her illegitimate half-brother Robert of Gloucester to gain control of vital lands. She battles Stephen with weapons, wits and skill to save the throne for her son, Henry II.

Her life is the stuff historical romances are made of; she is a model for many fictional heroines and yet she lived, breathed, fought and loved (perhaps too much or in the wrong place). With writers of Ms. Garwood's abilities willing to do exhaustive research and create a highly readable novel, Matilda will be remembered for the great woman she was. Bravo to Ms. Garwood for dusting off the pages of history and putting THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN back into "herstory." SWEET (Feb., 416 pp., $10.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin