Throughout the courts of Europe, the belief in courtly love -- passion inspired not by desire but by intellect -- has taken hold just when impoverished nobleman Willem of Dole is called to the Emperor Konrad's court. His guide through the maze of court life is the lively, sharp-tongued minstrel Jouglet.

Willem gains recognition for his skills as a knight, and Jouglet sees him as a pawn in a game to be played out with Willem's sister, Lienor. Jouglet plans to help Willem reclaim his birthright and Lienor marry Konrad.

The plan gets under way with a rousing start. Konrad comes to admire Willem but runs amok as the balance of power in the court is thrown off. Konrad's brother, Paul, is a cardinal who seeks evidence of improprieties between Willem, Lienor and Jouglet. Soon Jouglet is caught in the game and may be forced to reveal a secret that will ruin everything the minstrel strives to achieve.

With a delightfully wry sense of humor, charming characters, a plot full of twists and the high wit of a finely wrought comedy, Galland's rich novel sparkles with the tenor of the lusty era and the author's deft storytelling. SENSUAL (Aug., 450 pp., $25.95)
Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin