In this intriguing medieval romance, Marguerite of Alencon begins as an anti-heroine, as exasperating and interesting as Scarlett O'Hara and as vain as Becky Sharp. She's the latest mistress of randy King Henry II, a role for which her father educated and conditioned her. Her only error is assuming she might actually replace Eleanor of Aquitaine as queen.

After Marguerite gives the king a female heir and abandons the baby to her sister's care, she is forced to hastily marry Lord Orrick of Silloth. Orrick is a creative mix of alpha hero knight of the realm and beta hero raised by gentle monks. As a loyal and cautious subject to the king, he has no choice but to accept the marriage, but his interest in Marguerite becomes much more than just serving the king's whim.

Witnessing the skillful development of this impossible match into romance is a pleasure. Brisbin cleverly sets up an environment hostile to love that is a delight to see transformed by these true lovers. SENSUAL (Jan., 300 pp., $5.50)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger